There is a very useful resource of books and publications at the Internet Archive that offers the text of hundreds of thousands of books. They’re in the challenging situation now of finding themselves being sued by four publishers, the Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House. The aim of the Internet Archive is to make older books available on-line, and for those books still in copyright, they restrict the number of copies that can be lent out in a similar set-up to traditional libraries.
It would perhaps be a great shame if the publishers are able to bring down this project at the Internet Archive, but a real problem remains that libraries are failing to service the need of many readers. The stock of titles on the shelves of Norfolk libraries is, to be honest, erratic and users have to pay per book to access the vast majority of useful stock which is at the “County Reserve Store”. The library service does an excellent job of supplying modern fiction titles, but their selection of non-fiction misses out some key texts that I’m not sure any library should be without, not helped by the problem mentioned to me by the library staff member at Dereham that they lost many books to thieves.
Many of the books at the Internet Archive are out of print, so can only be obtained at some cost from second-hand book dealers. The publishers will probably win their campaign against the Internet Archive, but I’m hoping there is some compromise available. Anyway, the text of their case (in .PDF) is here.