Book lovers all over the world are starting to wake up and smell the coffee: ebooks are way better than paper books. The benefits are many, like not having to lug around a 10-pound doorstop, being able to bring your whole library with you everywhere, and backing up your entire library to the cloud.
But if you’re a voracious reader, buying ebook after ebook can burn a huge hole in your wallet. One option is to subscribe to an ebook subscription service that grants access to an entire library of ebooks for a monthly membership of just a few dollars.
The other option is to save your money and switch to freely available ebooks instead. You’d be surprised how many ebooks you can get without paying a cent, and that applies to both fiction and non-fiction. Where can you find these free ebooks? Well, we’re glad you asked…
When BookZZ claims to be “the world’s largest ebook library,” it’s not kidding. It currently plays host to over 2.7 million ebooks as well as 52.4 million scientific articles from publications all over the world — it would take several lifetimes to consume everything on offer.
BookZZ has both fiction and non-fiction, spanning different genres (e.g. science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, romance) and types (e.g. novels, comics, essays, textbooks). It’s nothing short of impressive.
The books can be browsed in two ways: by category (of which there are 27 major categories and hundreds of minor categories) or by recently added (which isn’t terribly useful in my experience). The browsing interface is a bit messy, but it gets the job done.
Or you can use the search option, which lets you search by title, author, description, and more. The Advanced Search lets you narrow the results by year, language, and format (e.g. PDF, EPUB, MOBI, DOC). You’ll never run out of things to read here.
BookZZ is actually a mirror for LibGen, or Library Genesis, but we prefer BookZZ because its interface is less clunky and a bit easier to navigate.
Project Gutenberg is a charity endeavor, sustained through volunteers and fundraisers, that aims to collect and provide as many high-quality ebooks as possible. Most of its library consists of public domain titles, but it has other stuff too if you’re willing to look around.
As of this writing, Gutenberg has over 53,000 free ebooks on offer. They are available for download in EPUB and MOBI formats (some are only available in one of the two) or they can be read online in HTML format.
You can browse the library by category (of which there are hundreds), by most popular (which means total download count), by latest (which means date of upload), or by random (which is a great way to find new material to read).
Because it’s a charity, Gutenberg subsists on donations. If you appreciate what they’re doing, please consider making a tax-deductible donation by PayPal, Flattr, check, or money order.
Feedbooks is a massive collection of downloadable ebooks, both fiction and non-fiction, both public domain and copyrighted, both free and paid. As of this writing, over 1 million titles are available, but only a portion of them are free.
The split between “free public domain ebooks” and “free original ebooks” is surprisingly even. A big chunk of the public domain titles are short stories whereas a big chunk of the original titles are fanfiction, but don’t let that turn you away — you can find some great stuff here otherwise.
Most of the ebooks are available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats. They even come with word counts and reading time estimates, in case you take that into consideration when choosing what to read.
ManyBooks is a nifty little site that’s been around for over a decade. Its purpose is to curate and provide a library of free and discounted fiction ebooks for people to download and enjoy.
Much of its collection was seeded by Project Gutenberg back in the mid-2000s, but has since taken on an identity of its own with the addition of thousands of self-published works that have been made available at no charge.
The browsing interface has a lot of room to improve, but it’s simple enough to use. Downloads are available in dozens of formats, including EPUB, MOBI, and PDF, and each story has a Flesch-Kincaid score to show how easy or difficult it is to read (perfect for improving your English).
Unlike the other sites on this list, Centsless Books is a curator-aggregator of Kindle books available on Amazon. Its mission is to make it easy for you to stay on top of all the free ebooks available from the online retailer.
Note that some of the “free” ebooks listed on Centsless Books are only free if you’re part of the Kindle Unlimited program, which may or may not be worth it for you.
Consider signing up to the free Centsless Books email newsletter to receive update notices for newly free ebooks and giveaways. The newsletter is only sent out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so it won’t spam you up too much.
Centsless Books also has a separate U.K. version of the site, which you may prefer if you’re from across the pond and tend to use Amazon UK instead.
Please bear in mind that as Centsless Books tracks free ebooks available on Amazon, there may be times when there is nothing listed. The only option is to try again in a few days.
Between the three major ebook formats — EPUB, MOBI, and PDF — it’s quite possible that you prefer the latter. You wouldn’t be the first, and you won’t be the last. PDFs have a lot going for them, including near universal support across platforms and several awesome PDF reader apps.
If you want to stick to PDFs only, then you’ll want to check out PDFBooksWorld. It’s far from the largest ebook collection out there (a little over 1,000 titles at the time of writing) but they’re all free and all guaranteed to be PDF-optimized.
Note that you’ll need to create an account to use this site.
How Else Do You Get Free Ebooks?
In addition to the above, don’t forget about Amazon Prime! It now comes with something called Prime Reading, which grants access to thousands of contemporary ebooks in addition to all of the other benefits of Prime.
If you’re already paying for a Prime membership, then these ebooks are essentially free. But if you don’t have Prime and don’t care about the other benefits, it may be hard to justify.
Which sites do you find the most useful? Are there any other ways to get free ebooks that we overlooked? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments!
Image Credit: Tim RT via Flickr
Originally written by Aibek Esengulov on October 5th, 2008