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Stock Up on Summer Reads with 1000s of Free E-books

Indulge in a whodunit or curl up with the classics: Browse our best resources for free e-books.

Curling up with a good book is a great way to relax, and many people have traded in their hardcovers for e-book readers—digital tablets that store books as text files. It’s a convenient way to read your favorite classics or the latest gripping whodunit novel, and one of the great things about e-books is that there are plenty to be found for little to no cost.

E-book devices

You’ll need an e-book reader or software that can open an e-book before you can read it, of course. You could use your computer or laptop to read an e-book, but most bookworms buy dedicated e-book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle (starting at $79.99 with ads) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook GlowLight ($119.99). Or, head to the beach with a waterproof and dustproof Kobo Aura H2O (179.99).

If you have an Android device, or an Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you already have a mini e-book reader. Both and Barnes & Noble have free e-book apps available for Android phones and tablets as well as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iTouch can find more than 2 million e-books through Apple’s iBook section in the iTunes store.

Free books from a familiar source

One of the best places to find free e-books is the same place you’ve been getting free books for years—your local library. Many libraries offer e-books and audiobooks that you can borrow. You’ll probably need a membership to your local library to check out an e-book, but the checkout process is pretty simple. First, download the PC or Mac software your library uses to manage the e-books you borrow, such as OverDrive Media Console or Adobe’s Digital Editions. After that, simply find an e-book you’d like to borrow from the library’s website and download the file.

Michelle Jeffers, Chief of Community Programs & Partnerships at the San Francisco Public Library, says that members can check out e-books from the library for up to 21 days, the same as physical library books. Members of the library can use either OverDrive or a similar program called Axis 360 to access and download e-books. Axis 360 also has its own e-reader program that’s compatible with iOS and Android devices. The San Francisco library, like nearly all libraries, supports the popular ePub format. The library also supports the Kindle format and Adobe PDFs, as well as the Blio reader, according to Jeffers. Jeffers says that the San Francisco library will circulate as many as half a million e-books this fiscal year, and notes that the library has added a new service called Hoopla that lets members stream movies and TV shows for free.

Build your digital library

Libraries that let you borrow e-books are great, but free e-books that you can keep are even better. Not surprisingly, familiar online booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and have a sizeable selection of free and discounted e-books. Barnes & Noble has more than 1.5 million free e-books at its e-bookstore, according to Kashif Zafar, VP of U.S. e-books at Barnes & Noble. Just enter “Free” in the search field on the Nook store home page. Also, Barnes & Noble offers Free Friday, which provides free weekend readings of newer e-book titles.

Most e-books on Barnes & Noble’s site also offer a free preview, says Zafar. Just look for a “Get a Free Sample” link when you’re browsing the bookstore. Most Nook Books use the ePub format, but some specialty items, such as children’s books and comic books, use alternative formats developed by Barnes & Noble, such as Nook Comics and Nook Kids. Such alternative formats let Barnes & Noble preserve the different reading experience that those kinds of books offer, according to Zafar. Finally, check out the “101 Nook Books Under $2.99” page to find great books for a song. Google offers free e-books in the Books section of its Google Play store. Here you can find free classics as well as new books at pretty reasonable prices. Google also has a large searchable database called Google Books, where you can search and preview millions of books.

There are plenty of other sources of free e-books that aren’t necessarily household names. Websites such as Project Gutenberg, Kobo and Planet E-book have hundreds of free books you can save to your e-reader, including many classics such as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “Treasure Island” and “Pride and Prejudice.” If you use a Kindle, you’ll want to check out EReaderIQ. This web site will let you track specific books or books from your favorite authors and let you know when such books are on sale. FreeBooksy finds new free e-books every day for the Nook, Kindle and other e-readers, and will even send free e-books to your email, if you like.

As you’d expect, you can do more with e-book readers than read e-books. You can also read digital versions of magazines and newspapers. Sites like and Barnes & Noble sell subscriptions to popular publications such as “The New York Times,” “Newsweek” and “The New Yorker,” that you can download to your computer and e-reader. Prices will vary from one publication to the next. Note that some publications will let you access a digital version of the publication for free if you already subscribe to the print version.

Turn your e-book into a reference library

Aside from having access to the information in all the books you’ve downloaded, you have other research options built in. If you’re reading through an e-book and stumble across a word you’re not familiar with, e-book readers such as the Kindle and Nook include built-in dictionaries. The Kindle uses The New Oxford American Dictionary and the Nook includes Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. If you need a good thesaurus, Barnes & Noble offers the New American Roget’s Thesaurus for $4.99. And with the Kindle, you have access to Wikipedia.

The next time you’re ready to hit the beach or your backyard with a bundle of books, leave the tote bag behind and grab your e-book reader. You can load it up with dozens of your favorite books and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.


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