For nearly free -- software world:

* How to Get Free Software by Alfred Glossbrenner (St. Martin's Press, $14.95): Encyclopedia of sources. Also covers intricacies of downloading software.

* The Free Software Handbook: 1984-85 CP/M Edition by T. Gregory Platt, Patricia Law Hatcher, Blake H. Van Meter (PeopleTalk, $17.95, plus $2 handling): Selects the 70 best public-domain CP/M programs. Disks containing tested software also available. PeopleTalk now sifting through programs for their DOS edition due out in April or May. For more information: PeopleTalk Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 863652, Plano, Tex. 75086.

* Freeloader Software Library: Distributes public-domain software at rates sometimes lower than user groups'. A catalogue, "Freeloaders Do It Cheaper," describes collections available for Apple, Atari, Commodore, IBM-PC and PC Jr., Texas Instruments and Vic computers. Soon to come: Timex/Sinclair, TRS 80 and CP/M collections. Each order accompanied by a machine-specific user guide. Contact: American Software Publishing Co., P.O. Box 57221, Washington D.C. 20037. (202) 887-5834.

A related organization, the National Software Lending Library, lets you borrow and copy public-domain software by mail for a yearly fee of $75. Contact: National Software Lending Library, P.O. Box 360, Damascus, Md. 20872. (301) 428-9694.