Where to download free eBooks for your digital device

When armed with a digital device, scoring a few free eBooks is easy when you know where to look and have the hunger to devour a good read. Yummy.

Since writing Use Zinio and your library card to read digital magazines for free, I’ve learned that you guys love words, eReaders, and free stuff.

free ebooks

Many of you have emailed asking about free eBooks — here’s one friendly ask:

Hi Kerry,

I read your article on Zinio with the Toronto library. I’m from Montreal, and it worked perfectly. Thank you. I’m super exited to read my magazines. I was wondering if there is a similar app to get free eBooks from the library as well?

Thanks,
Maria

Because we’re all basically a bunch of nerds on a budget, I’ve rounded up the best legal places to download your next digital tome for free. Getting lost in a good book is up to you.

Related Article: Start a community Book Tree to freecycle your used home library

Note: Given the huge number of devices available and the many places to source eBooks, I’ll leave the instructions for getting ‘The Goods’ onto your specific device to the free eBook download site. Ok? Ok!

What do you need to read an eBook?

You’ll need some sort of an eReader or tablet device, internet access to download your eBooks, and the time to read. If you’re in the market for an eReader, TIME.com shares their picks for the Top 5 e-Readers on the Market.

Related Article: 10 Awesome Gadgets Worth the Money

In the ‘House of Squawk’ I read magazines and books on both my Google Nexus 7 Android Tablet and my unlocked iPhone. Sometimes I pinch Carl’s iPad for the Apple ecosystem of apps. If you’re short on cash and own a computer, you can always curl up and read on your laptop or desktop machine. Making do with what you have is cool.

To satisfy your need for stories of fiction and non-fiction, here are three legal sites to download thousands of books for your eReader:

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers voracious readers access to over 45,000 free eBooks to download. The majority of these high quality titles are in the public domain, so you’ll find mostly classic or older titles written by a huge selection of authors. Project Gutenberg supports multiple devices, and gives instructions for loading books here.

Need a newer book still on shelves? Project Gutenberg isn’t for you.

Need a newer book still on shelves? Project Gutenberg isn’t for you.

Pros:

  • Truly Free. Project Gutenberg’s catalog of free books won’t expire on your device. You can reuse the texts in derivative works since the copyright for many of these books has expired.
  • Selection. If you can’t find at least ONE book from the 45,000 free eBooks available you’re seriously not browsing hard enough. Check out Project Gutenberg’s Top 100 Downloads.
  • Out of print. You have access to classics and older texts that may not be available in print anywhere else.

Cons:

  • Volunteer Project. The website is a bit clunky to navigate. Getting books onto your reader can be a little clunky too.
  • Forget current best sellers. If you’re looking for a newer book still on the shelves, this isn’t the download source for you.

Bottom Line: Project Gutenberg is worth a browse, especially if you’re in the mood for a classic.

Your favourite online eBookstore

Every now and then, your favourite online eBookstore will offer you free eBooks to download. To gain access to these free goodies, launch the store’s app on your device or point your web browser at the main store’s site. For example, Apple users with iBooks can start this app on their device or Mac, Kobo people can check out Kobo Books for both an app to download and for the online web store, and Google Play Books users can download and read with the Google Books app and site.

Newer releases may be available for free online at an eBookstore.

Newer releases may be available for free online at an eBookstore.

These online stores often have a section of books that are a free offer for a limited time. Free titles may be the first book in a series (to get you hooked), or an older book by an established author with a new tome fresh on the market to sell.

eBookstores with free eBooks:

Apple: Using your Apple device or Mac, launch the iBooks App and open the iBooks Store. Select the Top Charts, switch to the Free Books tab, and download away.

Google Books: Using your web browser, go to Top Free in Books. Grab the books you like and watch them automatically appear in the Google Books app on your Android or iOS device, or follow the store’s instructions to access books on other eReaders.

Amazon: Launch Amazon or Amazon Canada on your Kindle and search for “free eBooks” — a long list of Kindle titles costing $0.00 are now free to download.

Kobo: Using your browser, go to Kobo’s Free eBooks.

Pros:

  • New Releases: Access to newer books by current well-known authors.
  • Seamless Download: It’s often easiest to download books using your device’s supported app. Just open the store’s app, click the book, and start reading.

Cons:

  • Limited Selection: Not all books are free, just the ones on promotion.
  • Need an account: Even though you’re not being charged to download free eBooks, you’ll still need to create an account and provide a credit card number to use the bookstore.
  • Locked: Downloaded books tend to be locked to your device, so you can’t make a copy and share the title with a friend. The store may let you read it on multiple devices you’re logged in to though.
  • Beware of spending traps: Bookstores are businesses, period. They offer freebies to get you free-downloading (freeloading?) today and hopefully spending tomorrow.

Bottom Line: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but feel free to taste the samples.

Your Public Library

Most public libraries offer patrons a selection of eBooks and audiobooks for free through a company called OverDrive. All you need is your library card and a device to check out (or listen to) your downloads.

Visit your public library online to sign out eBooks for free.

Visit your public library online to sign out eBooks for free.

How to download eBooks through your library:

These are general steps only, so be sure to follow the instructions on your library’s help page.

  1. Sign in. Using your library card, log in to your library’s website.
  2. Find the eBooks section. Can’t find it? Librarians are awesome people and will help you if you ask nicely!
  3. Browse. Search until you find a title that interests you.
  4. Check it out. Click to check out your title and it will download to your device. The book will expire from your device after a due date of one to three weeks. If you didn’t complete the book, you’ll need to check it out again.

If you’re stuck, locate the big “Help” link on your library’s site. Libraries tend to offer detailed, simple instructions on how to download eBooks onto your particular device.

Pros:

  • Selection: So many books, so little time.
  • Listen: Audio books are awesome for the long commute into work.
  • Free: Libraries are free — you just need a library card to play without paying.
  • No late fees: Library eBooks automatically expire on your device, so you don’t have to return them or pay late fees.

Cons:

  • Checkout limits: Libraries often limit you to a few digital sign-outs at a time.
  • Limited copies: There are a limited number of virtual copies for each book, so you’ll likely be wait-listed for popular titles.
  • Locked: The eBooks are locked to your device — you can’t copy them for a friend.
  • Limited titles? Downloading eBooks is an expensive service to provide, so smaller libraries with even smaller budgets may have limited titles available.

Bottom Line: It’s almost like going to the real library, but from the comfort of your own home.

I’ve listed my three favourite places to download eBooks for free. Did I miss a great resource? Share your site in the comments and help others connect with something tasty to read today.

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. anexactinglife April 11th, 2014

    I work in a library, and we have some disappointed Kindle owners – they aren’t compatible with the library Overdrive e-books system in Canada, due to ongoing digital rights issues.

  2. frogylady4111 April 11th, 2014

    Bookbub is also a great site. It is an email subscription service that you can sign up for. Once you tell it which genres you like then it will send you an email everyday of free and reduced books in those areas.

    I love it!

  3. RW-in-DC April 11th, 2014

    Not an actual venue for books, still I recommend IFTTT (If This Then That) where you setup email alerts based on triggers; e.g., here is a “recipe” for Free Kindle books: https://ifttt.com/recipes/161394-free-amazon-com-kindle-books

  4. Ali G April 11th, 2014

    anexactinglife, that’s my chief complaint as well. I would love to get my kids, 7 and 5, eReaders for Xmas but not being able to get library books on them is part of what’s holding me back. They are both avid readers and quite advanced for their ages but I can see myself getting very tired of hunting for free, age appropriate eBooks for them.

    I download free books from Amazon all the time and have found some interesting authors that I don’t think I would have otherwise stumbled upon.

  5. Peter April 11th, 2014

    You can also try some free ebooks @ http://www.feedbooks.com

  6. Laura April 11th, 2014

    Ali G, Kindles are problematic, but you can put library ebooks on other devices (like Kobos) just fine.

  7. shipcarpenter305 April 11th, 2014

    Cool. This 21st Century Modern Man sadly lacks an understanding of some of these new technologies. Thx for getting me started, Kerry.

  8. Stacey April 12th, 2014

    Android app: vampire libraries
    Yes, lots of vampire books but plenty of other genres and all free, enjoy!

  9. MARK SCHULTZ April 12th, 2014

    Smashwords.com is my favorite for free and low cost e-books, freeebooks.net is another i like a lot.

  10. kking April 12th, 2014

    I love mobile reads online forum. They update genre’s daily for sci-fi, childrens, romance, etc. And even put in sub-genre’s and it’s free and reduced costs so if you are looking cheap books it’s great! They also update deals on devices that are comparable to black friday with codes and also give you discount codes to use to purchase!
    (The exact links to free books is under a Thread in the Forum : Deals, Freebies, and Resources (No Self-Promotion).
    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=4e73fc3b2404f3b7e254d6fb46440c80&f=26

  11. Bee Pollen April 12th, 2014

    I second a prior post recommending Bookbub. I get an email every day with about 5 books at a limited time reduced price or free for a limited time. I focus on the freebies and “buy” them for my kindle. I press on a link in the email that takes me to the “deal” I’ve selected. It takes me to Amazon for the Kindle free book. I guess I told Bookbub what device I have when I signed up, but I don’t recall. I love it!

  12. Ali G April 13th, 2014

    Thanks Laura! I will look into Kobos for the kids.

  13. Amber April 14th, 2014

    Just a note about Kindles, the new Kindle Fire does work with libraries. I have had a few now get set up and working through our library. It is Android based so you can download outside apps to it (look on the Overdrive help section and type in Kindle Fire for more information). You can also use Sony eReaders, iPads, iPhones, iTouch, and any Android based tablets and phones to access free books from the library!

    A site a friend shared with me recently for free and cheap science fiction titles is:

    https://www.baenebooks.com/c-1-free-library.aspx

  14. Kevin April 18th, 2014

    For more free book sites, there’s:

    the Internet Archive – https://archive.org/details/texts
    Feedbooks (free public domain and original books in addition to purchaseable ones) – http://feedbooks.com
    Ebooks libres et gratuits (mainly french) – http://www.ebooksgratuits.com/
    Revues.org (again, mainly french but many english social science titles, etc) – http://www.revues.org

  15. Max Dent April 18th, 2014

    Project Gutenberg is so far my favorite, paired with the free Kindle software for laptops and PCs, since I don’t own a Kindle yet.
    Great post

  16. Mar L. October 29th, 2014

    Great post! As a book lover and someone who appreciates anything that’s free, this post was a good read (pun intended). Nice to know that there are different alternatives for e-readers, where you aren’t always required to pay. The only downside to using some of these online book reading applications are persisting issues surrounding ownership. For some of these applications, the book collection you curate on an e-reader does not necessarily belong to the user, in which case, the books you download may at some point disappear from your library altogether. I much prefer to read in print. Frequenting the library and looking for bargain finds on Indigo Online (which is always less expensive than buying in-store) are my preferred methods of reading on a dime. While I was in university and studying English Literature, I always ordered my books from Indigo Online, as I was always sure to get classic reads like Shakespeare’s plays, or Melville’s Moby Dick for a fraction of what my bookstore sold them for used! Great, however, that a lot of classic literature is available for free through many of the applications you’ve listed. If nothing else, you can always enjoy a good classic.

  17. Rob @ MoneyNomad November 2nd, 2014

    Thanks for the great list! I’ve pondered several of the paid services that offer ebooks on a Netflix-like subscription basis. However, what I would like to find now are more places to find free audiobooks. These take a bit more work to compile, but it’s great to be able to listen to something in the car or while doing mundane tasks.

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