As points out, Apple is using the ePub format for its iPad iBookstore which should allow access to hundreds of thousands of free eBooks.  While Apple’s iBooks will be wrapped in FairPlay DRM which won’t work on other eReaders, and other eReaders use ePub wrapped in Adobe’s DRM, Project Gutenberg books, which are free of DRM but still in the ePub format, should work on the iPad.  Project Gutenberg are all of the classic books that are out of copyright.

Apple says:

And you can add free ePub titles to iTunes and sync them to the iBooks app on your iPad.

From Wikipedia:

Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.”Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of December 2009, Project Gutenberg claimed over 30,000 items in its collection. Project Gutenberg is affiliated with many projects that are independent organizations which share the same ideals, and have been given permission to use the Project Gutenberg trademark.

This could be a big iPad investing incentive for schools (once they pay the $500 cost of entry) because classics still cost money to print and store, yet once you’ve paid for an iPad, you have a virtually unlimited amount of text for children to download.

Project Gutenberg Website.

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