Book lovers all over the world are waking up and smelling the coffee: ebooks are better than paper books. The benefits are many: not having to lug around massive tomes, being able to bring your entire library with you anywhere, and backing up your books to the cloud.
But if you’re a voracious reader, buying ebooks one after another can burn holes in your wallet. To save money, one option is to sign up for an ebook subscription service that grants unlimited reading of ebooks for a modest monthly fee.
The other option is to pay nothing and switch to freely available ebooks instead. You’d be surprised how many ebooks you can get—both fiction and non-fiction—without paying a cent. Where can you find these free ebooks? Well, we’re glad you asked.
Overdrive is the cleanest, fastest, and most legal way to access millions of ebooks—not just ones in the public domain, but even recently released mainstream titles.
There is one hitch though: you’ll need a valid and active public library card. Overdrive works with over 30,000 public libraries in over 40 different countries worldwide.
In addition to free ebook checkouts, you’ll also be able to listen to audiobooks for free.
Note that a public library card also grants free access to Lynda online courses, so if you don’t have a library card yet, what are you waiting for? Get one as soon as possible!
If you used to use BookZZ for free ebooks and have felt lost ever since BookZZ shut down, then Library Genesis (also called LibGen) is the site for you.
Library Genesis is a search engine for free reading material, including ebooks, articles, magazines, and more. As of this writing, Library Genesis indexes close to 3 million ebooks and 60 million articles. It would take several lifetimes to consume everything on offer here.
Both fiction and non-fiction are covered, spanning different genres (e.g. science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, romance) and types (e.g. novels, comics, essays, textbooks).
Since it’s a search engine. browsing for books is almost impossible. The closest thing you can do is use the Authors dropdown in the navigation bar to browse by authors—and even then, you’ll have to get used to the terrible user interface of the site overall.
Better to search instead for a particular book title, author, or synopsis. The Advanced Search lets you narrow the results by language and file extension (e.g. PDF, EPUB, MOBI, DOC, etc).
The legality of Library Genesis has been in question since 2015 because it allegedly grants access to pirated copies of books and paywalled articles, but the site remains standing and open to the public.
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 Kindle Unlimited, which may not be worth the money.
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 too much.
Note: Since Centsless Books tracks free ebooks available on Amazon, there may be times when there is nothing listed. If that happens, try again in a few days.
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 57,000 free ebooks on offer. They are available for download in EPUB and MOBI formats (some are only available in one of the two), and 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.
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.
Feedbooks is a massive collection of downloadable ebooks: fiction and non-fiction, public domain and copyrighted, free and paid. While over 1 million titles are available, only about half 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 and a lot of the original titles are fanfiction. Still, if you do a bit of digging around, you’ll find some interesting stories.
Most of the ebooks are available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats. They even come with word counts and reading time estimates, if you take that into consideration when choosing what to read.
Between the three major ebook formats—EPUB, MOBI, and PDF—what if you prefer to read in the latter format? While EPUBs and MOBIs have basically taken over, reading PDF ebooks hasn’t quite gone out of style yet, and for good reason: universal support across platforms and devices.
If you want to stick to PDFs only, then you’ll want to check out PDFBooksWorld. While the collection is small at only a few thousand titles, they’re all free and guaranteed to be PDF-optimized. Most of them are literary classics, like The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, etc.
For other formatting issues, we’ve covered everything you need to convert ebooks.
More Ways You Can Get Free Ebooks
Don’t forget about Amazon Prime! It now comes with a feature called Prime Reading, which grants access to thousands of free ebooks in addition to all the other amazing benefits of Amazon Prime. And if you don’t want to bother with that, why not try some free audiobooks that don’t require downloading?
Start a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime and start reading today!
Now that you have a bunch of ebooks waiting to be read, you’ll want to build your own ebook library in the cloud. Or if you’re ready to purchase a dedicated ebook reader, check out our comparison of Nook versus Kindle before you decide.
Image Credit: Tim RT/Flickr