Where to get e-books for free

With summer in full swing, my daughter and I have started devouring novels in our spare time. And while e-books, at $5 to $12 a pop, aren’t as expensive as hard covers, they quickly add up. I sometimes have luck trading my e-books with friends or even strangers on eBook Fling. But more often than not, I go straight to a handful of websites that offer free books, covering everything from the classics to the latest bestsellers. Here are the places I always check, before I buy.

Project Gutenberg

If you’re looking for the classics, those books that are out-of-copyright, head over to Project Gutenberg. It offers more than 33,000 free books in a variety of formats, so they’re compatible with computers, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android and other portable devices. What’s more, they have download instructions for each device available right on the home page.

Google eBookstore

Google’s eBookstore also has a huge collection of free books for download, 2.8 million all told. Many titles are scanned, instead of plain text, so you can see the illustrations and read the text in the original font. This works well on tablets and computers, but is not such a great experience on a smartphone. So be sure to follow Google’s recommendations on which devices it’s appropriate for. You can quickly check by hovering your cursor over listings.

Note that if you go to the main eBookstore page, you’ll just see titles for purchase, so go to the ““Best of the free” page, or search for a title or genre and then narrow your choice to “free only.”


Amazon also has a large collection of free classics (16,003 when I last checked) plus limited-time promotional offers, many of which are free or only a penny. These are an odd grab-bag of copyrighted books made available free by their publishers (often to entice you into reading a series), so be sure to note the reader ratings as you browse the list. Amazon’s titles are available for any device that runs the Kindle reader app.

Barnes & Noble

While many of the classics are the same across all the sites, it pays to check out Barnes & Noble free NOOKBooks. For instance, James Patterson’s “The Postcard Killers” is $14.99 on Amazon and free on barnesandnoble.com. And since the Nook app runs on an assortment of devices, you have a choice.


Finally, a company called OverDrive operates a kind of digital branch for 9,000 local libraries worldwide — you can type in your ZIP code and see if you’re eligible. The available collection will depend on your library’s purchases, including current bestsellers and backlist titles.  And like physical books, your library will have to a purchase a number of copies to lend out. If all the copies are “checked out,” you have to wait, but there’s an easy-to-use reserve system, which emails you when a title you’ve requested becomes available.

The OverDrive Media Console software works with e-book readers including Nook, Sony Reader and a few others (Kindle support is notably absent), computers and Android and Apple devices.

More stories on Techlicious:

  • Barnes & Noble All-New Nook: a Smaller, Lighter Touchscreen eReader
  • Trade eBooks for Free on eBook Fling
  • Online Book Rental Services

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