Want to read fiction without ever paying a cent? Want to do so legally? Then you’re in luck! In the past decade, a lot of websites have popped up that offer you, the reader, a chance to read a wide selection of fiction without putting your wallet on the line.
Will you be able to read the latest and most hyped books on Goodreads for free? Probably not unless the author explicitly releases a limited time free version for marketing purposes. Otherwise, the only way to read an author’s work for free is illegally. However, you can still find good fiction that was intended to be free as long as you look in the right places.
Smashwords is a fiction distribution service that allows authors to upload their own works and sell them in a variety of formats, including HTML, PDF, EPUB, MOBI, RTF, and more – formats that can be enjoyed without needing an Amazon Kindle. None of these formats are locked behind DRM, so you won’t be stuck with limitations after downloading content from here.
The best part of Smashwords is that a lot of authors put up stories for free. These stories range in length from poems to short stories to full blown novels, and you can choose which format to download them in. Yet even for the paid stories, most authors allow you to read a preview of the story (usually the first 10%) before you have to commit to a purchase.
If you want to find free stories to read in a variety of formats, Smashwords is the place.
Classic Reader is a website dedicated to the classics. There are hundreds of titles on the site and each story is available in its entirety for free. Want to read stories like Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, Jane Eyre, and Count of Monte Cristo? Just hop on over to Classic Reader and you can get started right away, no downloads necessary.
This site is a gold mine for lovers of classic literature as well as school students who want to read without having to purchase their own copies. All of the books here can be sorted by title or by category: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Young Readers, Poetry, Short Stories, Drama, and Classical.
Fanfiction is a strange thing. Think about it for a minute: someone, somewhere, has created a fictional story so compelling that readers felt inspired to continue the story. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for the power of fiction, I don’t know what is.
Want to see your favorite fictional worlds expanded beyond canon? FanFiction.Net is where you want to be.
Let’s not get into all the legal mumbo jumbo surrounding fanfiction and copyrights and whether or not people are allowed to write fiction using another author’s intellectual property. (Hint: they’re not). Despite the legalities, there is some good fanfiction out there — in fact, some of today’s popular authors had their start as fanfictionists.
Fictionpress is the sister site to FanFiction.Net in that they run on the same website system and paradigm: user-submitted stories that are freely available to consume. The only difference between Fictionpress and FanFiction.Net is that Fictionpress is entirely comprised of original fiction.
You’ll find all sorts of stories here, ranging from fantasy to romance to science fiction to literary. The site is so popular that there are over a million original writings, all of which can be rated and commented on by readers. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, there are more poems on the site than narrative fiction. Take from that what you will.
And hey, if you’re a budding writer yourself, why not post a few of your pieces on there for others to read? Fictionpress only thrives because it’s a community of both writers and readers together.
Over the past few years, web fiction has skyrocketed in popularity. What is web fiction? Fiction that’s posted to the web for free. It usually occurs in the form of blog posts where authors will post chunks of a story at a time, maybe by chapter, maybe by scene, or maybe by some other delineation mark. For this reason, you’ll sometimes hear it being called a “serial novel.”
Web Fiction Guide is a website that tries to catalogue as much of the web fiction world as possible so that readers can consume all of that serial content in one place. As a reader, you can review stories to help vet the web fiction, ultimately allowing the site to differentiate between good and bad stories.
The best stories earn the Editor’s Pick, so if you’re only interested in reading the best of what web fiction offers, you’ll probably want to start there. Otherwise, there are hundreds of stories for you to explore.
Good fiction doesn’t have to cost money. There are talented writers out there who will write and share their stories for free. Are they hard to find? Yes. Are they like a needle in a haystack? Yes. But do they exist? Yes! The sites above will help you find quality fiction online without requiring any money from you.
What other sites do you use to read free fiction online? Share them with us in the comments!
Image Credits: Ryan Raffa Via Flickr