“I don’t like free books,” said no bookworm ever.
And sure, at the library you can get your hands on as many free books as your little heart desires, but lovers of literature take a special sort of pride in, and a source of bragging rights from, the number of titles they actually own.
So, if you want to up your book ownership game without drying up your wallet, read on. You’ll likely end up curating a collection you’ll never actually finish, but hey. Go big or go home.
And go free.
First, The eBook Formatting “Lingo”
Not all ebooks are created equal, and by that I mean they’re not all in the same format. Because that would be far too easy, and the books are already free, remember? You wouldn’t want to waste your time visiting sites that host files you can’t open on your device, so here’s what you need to know:
EPub: works on all devices except the Kindle.
Mobi: works exclusively on Kindle.
PDF: works on Kindle, iPad, and iPhone.
Okay. Got it? Let’s go.
eBook Subscription Services Serving Multiple Platforms
These three sites are pots of gold at the end of the bookworm’s rainbow. They’re treasure troves of words, titles, and books. They do all the hard work of scavenging the web for free and discounted titles so we don’t have to. And then each morning they send fresh lists of free ebooks to your inbox, along with the links to download them. Sounds like something dreams are made of, right? It’s downright overnight magic, like the tooth fairy but, you know, for books. The book fairy. That’s a thing, right?
Sites That Serve Multiple Devices
Project Gutenberg (available file formats: ePub and Kindle)
Named after the inventor of the printing press and the father of the mass-produced written word, Johannes Gutenberg, this site appropriately seeks to deliver as many free ebooks as possible. Many of the titles found here are in the public domain, which means the rights have expired and they can be widely distributed for free (Think classic literature). So if timeless tales are your thing, or you feel guilty that your English curriculum never covered the books that everyone “should” read, this is the place to be. Click here to begin browsing.
Open Library (available file formats: web, PDF, ePub)
Another source of the web’s best classic literature collection, Open Library hosts almost two million classics in free eBook form for instant reading access in-browser, and over a quarter of a million twentieth-century titles available to borrow for a two-week period.
OverDrive (files available for: iPad, iPhone, Android)
OverDrive is an app that partners with the public library system to put thousands of eBooks and audiobooks at your fingertips. You just need a library card with your local library district and an e-reader to create an account. Then you’ll be able to browse selections and download directly onto your device. It’s a visit to your local library without having to leave home, and it’s perfect for those travels erfect for travels or those lazy days.
Feedbooks (compatible with all devices except Kindle)
Because the files you’ll find here are ideally suited for tablets and smartphones, it’s perfect for those of us who’d rather spend the time we use checking Facebook in all of life’s idle moments doing something productive (hint hint, knocking items off that “to be read” pile). On the home page, under “Browse,” simply click “Free Public Domain” or “Free Original Books” and feast your eyes on the selection that awaits.
Smashwords (available file format: ePub, MOBI, PDF)
Here you can find a fantastic collection of independently published books and self-published works that will download to any device. Click one of the genres listed under “Categories” in the column to the left, filter the results to show only “free” books, and voila! Go to town. Have a smashing good time.
Device-Specific Free eBook Hacks
This might come as a surprise, but the easiest way to find wide selections of free ebooks that are specific to each device is to go straight to the source. Below, I’ll share links for doing just that, and some other strategies that might come in handy during your quest.
Start your hunt for free Kindle ebooks at Amazon. Many of the websites and subscription services listed above will route you back to Amazon to download the books they promote, but you can also use the website as a starting point for your search.
Here are a few ways to do this:
Run a search for “free ebooks.” As this is completely unfiltered, however, you’ll turn up a huge list of results that could prove daunting for even the most ardent bookworm. It’s far better to either:
Browse Departments > Kindle eReaders and Books > Kindle store > Kindle Books > Best sellers > Top 100 Free; or
Browse Departments > Kindle eReaders and Books > Kindle store > Kindle Books > Kindle eBooks (in the left side bar), filter by category > Bestsellers > Top 100 free.
The first suggestion will take you to a general list of the current 100 bestselling free ebooks available on Amazon across all genres. If you’re really only interested in a few genres, you’ll want to narrow your search by specifying a category in the second suggestion. Happy searching!
Through BookLending, you can also loan Kindle ebooks to others, and borrow books that are currently being loaned through the system.
If you own a Nook (Barnes & Noble Device) you can search their bestsellers, new releases and coming soon books here
The Kobo has an almost “cult” like following. They are one of the smallest devices but are the most helpful to Indie authors. If you would like to search the Kobo store and devices you can do so here.
Open up Google Play, and browse under Books > Top Charts > Top Free. You can also use this link to head straight there: https://play.google.com/store/books/collection/topselling_free. However, since merely doing that will again lead you to an unfiltered collection, you can also try searching within Google Play Books by genre and then filtering the results by “free.”
You can also try typing the following search terms in a regular Google search bar to lead you to direct links for downloading free titles: “site:play.google.com inurl:store/books/details free –sample”. The results will be much more difficult to filter, but my job here is to provide you with exhaustive strategies. Your job is to be smart about them.
Search the iTunes store for free books, then either download them to your computer to sync to your device, or download them straight to your device.
As the saying goes, “You can lead a person to free ebooks, but you can’t make them download any.” (That’s how the saying goes, right?) True, I can’t make you download any. But I can strongly encourage you to do so. Because we’re talking free books here, people! So get to it. Here’s hoping you find your next great read for free!