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