Blog – Posted on Monday, Apr 20
The 21 Best Places to Find Free Books Online
If you’re anything like us, you go through books fast. Sometimes it seems like an addiction you can’t keep up with — and if there’s one thing any bookworm can tell you, it’s that this habit can quickly get expensive.
Luckily, the savvy reader knows there are plenty of places online to legally download books without spending a single penny. In this post, we’re giving you 21 of the best places to find free books online, so that you can satisfy even the most debilitating of book addictions, guilt-free.
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1. Project Gutenberg
Named after the original printing press from the 15th century (and not the beloved star of the Police Academy films), Project Gutenberg is a volunteer-run effort to digitize and preserve books. Most of the titles available on the platform are in the public domain, meaning that they are no longer subject to copyright and can be freely distributed.
2. The Online Books Page
If that’s not enough books for you, The Online Books Page, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, boasts a staggering list of over three million free ebooks! Unlike Project Gutenberg, they don’t actually host any of the books themselves, instead providing links to where you can download them. And their website does look like something straight out of 1996. Still, when we’re talking about this many ebooks at our fingertips, can we really complain? This is a great source for classics and obscure titles that offer deep dives into arcane topics, though some newer books can also appear.
3. Kindle Store
Giving away free books has proven to be one of publishing’s most effective ways of building up an audience. And as the world’s #1 retailer of books, Amazon has become the place where many authors choose to make their titles available at no cost. If you search for “Free Books” on the Kindle store, you’ll see over 80,000 results. Instead of plodding your way through all of them, start by looking at their bestseller list for the top 100 Free eBooks.
Like Amazon, Smashwords has a page where you can easily see all the books authors have chosen to give away for free. With the ability to browse by categories such as “newest,” “bestseller,” and “highest-rated,” as well as filtering by the book’s length and genre, this is an easy way to instantly find free books. (Just remember to re-select the “free” category at the top if you choose to browse by genre!) The best part? Most stories are available in a wide range of file formats, and you don’t even need an account to download them.
Browsing the Kindle Store for great free books can sometimes be hit-or-miss. Amazon’s algorithms are sophisticated, but they won’t always deliver you the sorts of books you’re looking for — especially if you limit yourself to their free store. That’s where Bookbub and similar promotion services come into play. When you sign up for a free account, you get an email each day with links to free and newly discounted books that have been curated according to your preferences. How easy is that?
6. Robin Reads
A book promotion service in the vein of BookBub, Robin Reads is another great way to stay in-the-know on all the hottest new titles and discounts. With everything from romance to horror to nonfiction, there’s sure to be something interesting in nearly all of their daily emails.
7. eReader News Today
Like Robin Reads and BookBub, eReader News Today is one of the more reliable promotion services. Founded in 2010, they’ve been serving up deals longer than anybody, so they’re sure to know where to find all the goods. Their Daily Book Deals span 20 genres and almost always feature at least one free book.
Most of the other book promotion services focus on both free and discounted books, but FreeBooksy is the biggest site that’s dedicated solely to ebooks you don’t have to pay for. Unlike some of its competitors, it seeks out deals from all the major retailers, so even if you’re totally loyal to Kobo or Nook, you’re bound to find some great books gratis. (Can you tell we’re desperately trying not to use the word “free” too much?)
Combining an extensive database of free books with a daily deals newsletter, Manybooks is a great way to stay up to date on new books without missing out on the many centuries worth of books already at your fingertips. The site is comfortable and easy to use, and their selection includes a wide range of languages to choose from.
10. Goodreads Free Shelves
Sometimes the easiest way to find free books is to crowdsource for them, and Goodreads shelves make this process easy. Browsing by shelf collects all the books that users put in shelves of the same name, and you can easily find shelves marked as “free-ebooks,” “free-ebook,” “free” and more. Now, because this is dependent on users marking ebooks themselves, it is possible that some of the books were shelved during a period when a book was once being given away free and now comes with a heavier sticker price. They may also shelve books in the public domain that you can find through sites such as Project Gutenberg, but it’s not a guarantee that you’ll find these for free if you follow the link to them on Amazon. Still, it’s a rich resource that may easily give you titles you don’t find on other sites, so it’s definitely worth a look.
11. Reedsy Discovery
Love indie books and want to read them for free, before anyone else does? That's exactly what you get if you sign up to become a Reedsy Discovery reviewer, as indie authors provide free ebooks in exchange for an honest review. Simply take notes of your thoughts as you read, and use them to write up a coherent review when you've finished reading. You'll be helping out the author as well as would-be readers, while getting a free read! Writing book reviews can also be an excellent way to break into the publishing industry if you're at the start of your career, but most of all they're great fun to write and read alike.
12. Riveted by Simon Teen
Riveted by Simon Teen is the online Young Adult community created by Simon & Schuster’s teen fiction arm (though, are we the only ones who think of that Steve Buscemi meme when we hear the name “Simon Teen”?). Each month, Riveted offers a new range of Free Reads. Most of these titles are “extended excerpts” of YA novels, but they will also throw in a few full short stories from up-and-coming authors. And as a kicker, they offer a full free ebook to all new subscribers.
13. Harlequin Online Reads
The leading publisher of romance novels, Harlequin’s website also offers a huge collection of serialized stories from some of their best authors — for free. New chapters are posted every week, or you can browse a massive back catalogue of completed works. With filters such as “Fall in Love,” “Walk on the Dark Side,” and “Take a Trip Down the Aisle,” plus the ability to show titles based on how much time you have to read at the moment (yes, really!), this collection is sure let you zero in on the exact romance fix you’re craving.
In addition to regularly publishing reams of freely available short fiction, Tor.com also hosts an eBook of the Month Club. To participate, all you need to do is sign up (for free, of course), and then once a month, they’ll email you a link where you can download their selection in either epub or mobi format. You do need to act fast when these emails come in — the titles are only available for a few days — but this is an excellent way to regularly get a sci-fi or fantasy hit from one of the biggest publishers in the genre. Their selections are always satisfying and feature some of Tor’s biggest titles, such as works from the likes of John Scalzi, V.E. Schwab, and more.
15. Libby / OverDrive
In the wise words of Arthur the Aardvark, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!” So it is with Libby, the new app by OverDrive. OverDrive allows libraries to purchase ebooks for lending out to their patrons. Each “copy” of the ebook can only be checked out by one patron at a time. Loan lengths and the total number of titles you can have at once varies by library. Books may be checked out and downloaded directly through Libby, or downloaded for reading via Kindle. Because only one person can check out each copy at a time, though, there are often hold lists on popular titles — sometimes significant ones — so be sure to keep an eye on that when you’re picking your next read. However, the catalogue available to each library is quite extensive, and if there’s ever a title your library hasn’t purchased yet, there’s an easy button to request it right in the app.
Another option for many library users, hoopla offers a wide range of ebooks, audiobooks, and comic books all from one handy interface. Unlike OverDrive, patrons are limited to a set number of total checkouts per calendar month, as determined for by your library. However, because there are no limits on how many people can read a book at once, this makes hoopla a great way to read new and high-demand titles — no hold lists required!
Lovers of fanfic have long been familiar with sites where users can upload stories one chapter at a time, but Wattpad brings that idea to life in the original fiction world — with a few additional benefits as well. Started in 2006, Wattpad is perfect if you’re looking for a wide range of diverse voices and unconventional stories that might get overlooked by big publishers. Chock-full of talented writers and enthusiastic readers, it’s a community unlike anything else in the reading landscape. Leave comments, follow your favorite authors, and upvote the stories you love. With the free app, you can even keep up with all the best stories right from your phone.
18. PaperBack Swap
If you prefer good ol’ fashioned paperback over reading ebooks, then you’ll want to take advantage of the many online book swap communities. PaperBack Swap is foremost among them. The idea is pretty simple: you list all the books you don’t want to keep anymore, and when someone requests it, you mail it to them. After that, all you have to do is pick one of the million-plus books listed by other readers… and wait for it to arrive in the mail. It’s kind of like having thousands of book-loving friends!
19. Open Culture
In Open Culture’s own words, they scour the internet for the “audio books you need, the language lessons and educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.” As a curator of free online learning resources, this sounds great to us! Their audiobook selection is top-notch as well, including some surprisingly high-profile narrators. (The Wizard of Oz as read by Tituss Burgess? Where do they even find these treasures?)
Let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t feel like staring at a screen one second longer than you have to. When that mood strikes, or you need something to keep you busy while you’re doing chores, audiobooks are a welcome addition to any reading routine. LibriVox makes it easy to get into the habit by offering up public domain books across dozens of different languages.
Lastly, in all the rush to find free books, let’s not forget about the littlest readers among us! Storynory offers free audiobooks for kids, featuring everything from classics to brand-new originals exclusive to the Storynory site. While not as extensive a collection as some of the sites on our list, the stories are charming and offer a welcome distraction when someone just won’t settle down.
Still can't get enough books? Check out our list of the 115 Best Books of All Time. Or why not get paid to read, by applying to some of the legitimate sites that pay reviewers?