• ARTICLES
SEARCH

How-To Geek

How to Find Thousands of Free Ebooks Online

digitalbookimage

You’ve got an ebook reader (or a laptop or netbook with ebook reading software) now you just need some free books to put it to good use. Read on as we show you the best places to score free books online.

There are quite a few places where you can pay for books online such as Amazon’s Kindle bookstore, Barnes and Nobles’ Nook bookstore, and the Google eBookstore—among many other options—but what about scoring free books? Let’s take a look at some of the more popular free book destinations online.  Each entry includes information about the site and what kind of ebook formats the site natively supports.

A few note worthy things before we continue. First things first, you’re going to need an ebook reader. This could be a physical ebook device like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, or a Sony eBook Reader. It could also be your laptop, smart phone, or computer running ebook software—such as the Kindle or Nook software for PCs or a third party ebook reading software. Chances are that if you’re reading this article you’ve already got that part figured out; we just didn’t want anything to stand between you and your free books.

Second, If you’re going to be converting between ebook formats (such as converting ePUB books to MOBI books for use on your Kindle) we highly recommend the robust and powerful open-source ebook management software Calibre—we can’t stress enough how awesome Calibre is for managing and converting your ebook collection.

Finally, the following methods for finding free ebooks are all legal. We know as well as the next geek that anybody and their brother can fire up a BitTorrent client and download entire ebook libraries or simply hunt and peck in Google search results for PDF files; this roundup, however,  is focused on legitimate channels for acquiring new reading material. Downloading these free books might make book publishers sad over their lost profits but they won’t send an armada of lawyers after you.

Project Gutenberg

2011-04-12_004156

Project Gutenberg is the grand daddy of free ebook web sites. Started by Michael Hart in the 1970s the original collection was a small assortment of books that Hart hand typed in order to digitize classic works of literature. Since then the project has grown enormously and now contains 33,000 books and documents in the public domain. You won’t find a larger or better organized collection of classics anywhere on the internet.

All the books at Project Gutenberg are free, legal, and available as ePub, Kindle, HTML, and basic text documents.

ManyBooks.net

2011-04-11_235708

If you like the idea of Project Gutenberg—a massive index of public domain books—but you’re not a fan of their Spartan interface and text-only listings, then ManyBooks is for you. ManyBooks is essentially a Project Gutenberg mirror with some extras layered on top. Those extras include detailed entries for each book with summaries, cover art, book reviews, and books formatted in over 20 digital formats.

If you’re looking for the Project Gutenberg experience with more of a modern digital bookstore feel and flair, ManyBooks.net is it. All the books are free and formats include LIT, LRF, ePUB, MOBI, PDF, and more.

DailyLit

2011-04-12_000653

DailyLit takes a novel approach to ebooks. Rather than offer an entire book for instant download, they’ve essentially modernized the idea of the serialized novel. In decades past magazines and newspapers would print books, almost always popular fiction, in serial form breaking the book up into small segments. The publication’s readers were able to enjoy the book and the author was paid a lump sum by the publication. DailyLit takes that model and applies it to email and RSS. You pick out a book, they send you a chunk every day, and you read and enjoy it with a small bit of advertising attached.

They solve two dilemmas which this arrangement: how to get commercial books in front of people for free and how to fit reading into a busy schedule. It’s not a perfect solution for everyone but the books are free and the topics diverse. DailyLit currently features a selection of around a thousand books.

FeedBooks

2011-04-12_001613

FeedBooks has a regular ebook storefront, but the part we’re interested in is their public domain and original books sections. Between the two they have thousands of novels, short stories, and poetry collections. It is one of the smaller collections in our roundup but we’re not going to complain—free but small is still free.

All FeedBooks ebooks are in ePUB format.

Amazon’s Free and Discounted Section

2011-04-12_004525

You may be wondering why Amazon, given its size, wasn’t at the top of the list. The hassle factor of using Amazon’s services—unless you’re a Kindle owner or Kindle software user—is quite high. None the less you can score some free books of both the public domain and 100%-off-promotion variety. Amazon’s store has over 15,000 public domain books and hundreds of promotional books at any given time.

To use the free books from Amazon you’ll need to send them either to your Kindle or to your Kindle software on your computer, Android phone, or other device. If you’re trying to rip them to another format you’ll need to use the software on a computer so you can easily access the files. Send the books to your Kindle for PC account, open the folder with your books, and dump them into Calibre.

Public domain and completely free books are not encrypted and you can easily use Calibre to convert them to other formats. Books which are not public domain but are temporarily free as a promotion are still encrypted and cannot be converted in Calibre. Still, if you really want to read a book that’s temporarily free in the Amazon Kindle bookstore, it might be worth loading the Kindle software on your computer or phone—this is one of the few methods for legally getting non-public-domain books for free-as-in-beer.

Note: The Nook ebook store and the Sony Reader ebook store both have similar free section, though not as large as Amazon’s.


Armed with the above links and tips you’ll never be short on reading material again. Have a source for free and legal books to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/12/11

Comments (23)

  1. Jerry Walker

    Baen Books (http://baen.com/library/) also has a smallish (125 or so) library of science fiction/fantasy books (some by ‘big name’ authors) legally available for free as well.

  2. zarnaik

    I love reading books but.. I don’t have any advice for eBooks :( (yet?)

  3. Hermann

    Mobipocket.com has free books and ebook reader software (except for Droid devices).

  4. Asian Angel

    Books! ^_^

  5. Terry

    Thank you Thank you and Mr. Walker, thank you also for the Baen site. it is hard to find science fiction and fantasy e-books :)

  6. Asian Angel

    Aaaannnnddddd 273 downloaded books later I think I am done for the moment…um, maybe… >_>

  7. mahashakti

    This is very helpful, thank you x 100. I’ve been searching around some of these sites for a few years, and have watched big daddy, Project Gutenberg, grow over time. I’ve been wanting an eReader, or any kind of device for reading downloaded books, for a long time, but, I’m living on a very frugal sum of rupees at present and have to wait. I was charmed to read how Michael Hart started the Project in the 1970s and how the original collection was a small assortment of books that he hand-typed in. He is obviously a very dedicated soul with a nice vision. Thanks Geeks.

  8. tehSmoogs

    Baen sometimes include promotional CD’s with their hardbacks. These contain ebooks of the associated hardback and a whole bunch of other Baen titles in the major ebook formats.

    The CD’s are LEGALLY available to browse/download from http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ but be warned, you’ll probably find yourself visiting webscriptions.net to purchase the back catalogue of your new found favorite authors, just like I did :)

  9. AbbaDabba

    It’s hard, from a consumer’s point of view, to understand the pricing models of the current ebook providers. They have no physical paper/printing costs. They have books that have been in print 2 to 20 years so they’re not creating new content for these devices. They have a brick/mortarless distribution system (for the most part).

    But, they charge two to three times more than what you could buy the same book in paper. You can’t loan most of what you purchase. You can’t borrow them from a library. You’re at their whim on what they can reach into your ebook reader and take away (reference Amazon and the 1984 book scandal). I know there’s a capital investment cost and a paydown of a subsidized reading machine, but come on people… am I the only one feeling ripped off by the providers?

    And don’t get me started on magazine subscription prices from the likes of Barnes and Noble… some are TRIPLE what you can get the paper edition. Until they can get ahead of the curve on their perceived value from the public, people will continue to seek ‘alternative’ sources to fill their reading machines.

  10. Hatryst

    Great, really great !! ;)

  11. Jeff

    @Jerry Walker: The Baen library is great! Baen also provides ebooks in CDs bound with the 1st edition hardcovers of some of their big series (or standalone books from big name authors). They’re explicitly licensed for free sharing, including electronically.

    You can find an archive of these books at http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/

  12. Lisa

    Thanks for all of the Kindle/ebook posts recently. They have made my ereading life better! :)

  13. Author

    Another place to look is Smashwords.com. Some books are free, others are not, but almost all are less than $5.

  14. Steven Torrey

    I have several free ebooks downloaded. Out of print books, rare books, scholarly books. A godsend to those who are of a scholarly bent.

  15. phil hurley

    another place to look are
    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/6061975/Kindle_Books_Collection
    but you need to down load “kindle for pc” from amazon its free as wel

  16. Ushindi

    Thanks from me, too. I’ve been using Project Gutenberg for some time, but didn’t know about the others. You might mention public libraries for free ebooks also. All that’s needed is a free library card, and the whole system is open to you. I download a library ebook, it sits on my reader for the basic normal book check-out period, and then just disappears – there are no overdue fines, etc. (you don’t get to keep the book permanently but it’s still a free read).

    I am also a big fan of Calibre – I’ve used it many times to convert an ebook to EPUB for my Nook. Sigil is also good, but Calibre is quicker and simpler, IMO (and BOTH are free downloads, BTW).

  17. gerri frederick

    try your local library, in las vegas our library has e books on loan for 21 days and its free.

  18. JimBedford

    Hi Is there a way to get a book reader on a desktop PC? Thanks

  19. Matt

    @JimBedford, Kindle for PC is free. You can then use Calibre (mentioned in the Geek article) to convert epub type books to Kindle format

  20. Gill

    mobileread.com is another great source of free ebooks, along with lots of information about different types of readers, how to use them, latest deals etc.

    I’m also a fan of library ebooks too – I’m a member of three different libraries in the UK, a great source of free contemporary books.

  21. Kerry McKenzie

    Hi all Kindle users
    Search the web as there are now “Jail Breaks” available for your Kindle ereader. They turn your kindle into something far more user friendly …
    Thanks Geeks just a fantasic site for us like minded individuals.

  22. Alswitha

    Thanks for the brilliant article.Librivox – free audio downloads – is good for MP3s.

  23. joni

    how about free ebooks for engineering codes like astm, aci, etc? :)

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!