I just started learning how to be an eBook reader! I am someone who is negatively impacted by reading on a screen versus a physical book, but eBooks are so much easier to get (and you can adjust the text size, which is helpful for accessibility!). There are several ways to get free eBooks, which–as someone who is poor–is very appealing to me! I have gone on a mission to find reputable, non-pirated, and easy ways to get eBooks that you can read on the Kindle app! Keep reading to learn more about these methods as well as suggestions on how to consume these eBooks ethically, especially when they are self-published or published by smaller companies.
As Jocelyn has already created a beginner’s guide to getting Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs), this article will only touch on already-released books. I will also be leaving out the ways to borrow eBooks, but let me know if that is something you want an article on in the future!
Project Gutenberg is an online archive of (mostly) classics, which you can download in a multitude of formats (if you are reading on the Kindle app, use epub3!). Classics are in the public domain, so there are no ethical conflicts of downloading, and you don’t have to clog your bookshelf!
What kind of reader this is good for: Readers who want to read classics but don’t want to shell out money for physical copies!
FreeBooksy highlights books (typically less popular ones) that are free on Kindle on the particular day you visit the site. This is a great way to expand your book bubble! You can find the occasional popular title, but if you are looking to read more self-published or indie authors, this site is perfect for you!
What kind of reader this is good for: There are a lot of smut-filled romances, so if that is your jam, this is the service for you! They also have lesser known, indie mysteries and young adult fantasies.
Lots of publishers, big and small, give you a free eBook when you sign up for their newsletter! Some let you pick a book off a list, while others have a predetermined book they give you. I am someone who hates having my email inbox flooded with newsletters, so I recommend making an email account just for these emails that won’t notify you on your mobile device! As an aside, Simon and Shuster does this, but keep in mind they will only give eBooks to you via Glose, and you cannot read them on Kindle so skip this one if you don’t want to download another app.
What kind of reader this is good for: This is great for reader’s who are open to most genres. Most of the books available in these newsletters are lesser known, so keep an open mind!
Similar to Project Gutenberg, this site offers different formats of classics and other public domain content. The database is much bigger, so if there are books you cannot find on Project Gutenberg, I recommend searching on the Internet Archive!
What kind of reader this is good for: Classics readers, or readers who want to read more academic or political texts!
If you have Amazon Prime, you are eligible for the Amazon FirstReads program, which gives you the ability to select one new or upcoming release eBook (out of a select batch of books!) every month. This model is similar to Book of the Month, but it is not a standalone membership and the books are eBooks, obviously. April’s picks looked great and one of my most anticipated reads, Out of the Ashes by Kara Thomas, was on the list. But since I had already ordered a print copy, I ended up picking a different book.
What kind of reader this is good for: Folks who are more into popular fiction! Also from what I have heard, Amazon FirstReads is awesome for thriller fans, as it almost always features one (or more) thrillers a month.
BookBub is very similar to FreeBooksy, but they have books that are currently free as well as highly discounted. This website is particularly handy if you have Kindle points, which can get you $3 or $4 titles for free! Bookbub features small and large authors alike, and it has a great free collection of thrillers, fantasy, and YA books!
What kind of reader this is good for: Thriller and mystery readers, or folks who enjoy indie fantasy!
Ethical Consumption of Content
If you are consuming classics, I do not think reviewing and recommending is necessary. However, if you read any of the other books, I recommend leaving a review to show support for the authors (on Amazon, and on GoodReads or Storygraph if you use them!) You aren’t required to do this, but it is best practice! Often, smaller authors will make these books free to get reviews and for people to recommend them to their friends, so I encourage you to do so! Folks need to make a living.
The recommendations I share in this post do not pirate content, and I urge you not to do so. Pirating hurts authors, especially those who aren’t household names. If you’re not a fan of eBooks but want free books, check if you have access to a local library and give that a go. Happy reading!
Let me know in the comments if you use any of these methods, and drop some indie and self-published book recs to show some love to lesser-known authors!
Your public library! And it’s free!
Overdrive is a service libraries use to handle their ebook collection. (Example site: https://grpl.overdrive.com/). 99% of public libraries keep their Overdrive account 1:1 with their print collection which means if it’s in print there is most likely an ebook equivalent. This includes new releases as well as backlist. Overdrive books are read through Kindle. How many books you can check out varies per library as well as for how long (7 days, 14 days, 21 days, etc).
Overdrive also handles audiobooks.
And all you need is a library card to access!
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For the purpose of this article, I stuck to ways to own free ebooks and not borrowing, hence the lack of library rep! I am someone who is a serious mood reader and so I need to own books in order to actually read! But I loooove public libraries!
I might end up doing a second follow up article on all the ways to borrow ebooks eventually!