Thanks to COVID-19, are you spending more time reading now that you're stuck at home? There's nothing like escaping with a good ebook. But at prices averaging more than $10 for bestsellers and $5 for regular titles, a steady supply of ebooks can get real expensive real quick.
The good news: There are plenty of places to find great ebooks for free or at a significant discount. Here are our favorite places to go for reading on the cheap.
Borrow an ebook from your local library
The best place to start for free books is your local library, and the same holds true for ebooks. The vast majority of libraries now offer popular ebook titles to borrow, just like hardcovers and paperbacks. Borrowing an ebook is very easy with the Libby by Overdrive app (free for iOS, Android, Windows 10, MacOS and ChromeOS). Download the app, find your local library in the app, enter your library card number and you can start borrowing books immediately.
Free eBooks for Kindle, Kobo and Nook
Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble have selections of free ebooks designed to whet your appetite for more. You'll find new authors, first titles in a series and much more. All you need is the free Kobo, Kindle or Nook app.
If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can also choose one free Kindle book each month through Amazon First Reads ( non-Prime customers can purchase one book for the reduced price of $1.99). You also have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The service now contains over 800,000 e-books, including the entire Harry Potter series and a number of other New York Times bestsellers. They’re not all top-tier reads, but they are free for Kindle owners to download and try.
If you don't want to scroll through all of the new offerings, sites like Bookbub, will tailor lists to your book tastes. You'll also find book synopses and ratings.
Free books on Google Play Books and Apple Books
Google and Apple also make free books available for their devices through Google Play Books and Apple Books. When you head to Google Play Books, scroll down the page and you'll find a section called "Escape with a free ebook" and further down a section called "Free books for young readers." Click on the Audiobooks tab and you'll find a similar selection of free content.
You can only access Apple Books on iOS devices. When you open Apple Books, scroll down to "More to Explore" and you'll see a "Browse Free Books." There you'll books for everyone in the family, from parents to young kids, as well as audiobooks.
Free books on Project Gutenberg
Free is hands down my favorite price for books, and few places offer more free books without subscription or commitment than Project Gutenberg. The non-profit is full of approximate 53,000 public domain titles from authors like Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Austin and F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you’ve ever wanted to check out a classic novel, Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org) is a great place to start.
To load a book on your Kindle device or the Kindle app on your phone or tablet, you'll need to download the file in the Kindle format (.mobi file) and then email it to your Kindle's email account. To find your Kindle email address, go to More > Settings and you'll see your "SEND-TO-KINDLE EMAIL ADDRESS" listed. Compose an email using the email account that you use to log into Amazon, attach the downloaded ebook, send the email, and the ebook will show up in your Kindle library within a minute.
Free books on Open Library
The goal of the Internet Archive's Open Library is to create a web page for every book published, including titles that you can borrow for free. The site has indexed 20 million books and provides access to 1.7 million scanned books, including those titles available through Project Gutenberg. Like your public library, you'll be borrowing the books that you read, so you may need to join a waitlist to read more popular titles.
Reading books downloaded via Open Library on your Kindle work the same way as with Project Gutenberg or any other title you've downloaded. Choose the Kindle format to download (.mobi file) and email it to your device.
Kindle, Kobo and Nook Deals
Like most major bookstores, online bookstores have a sale section too. Before you pay full price for an ebook, check out Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals, Nook Books Under $2.99 and Kobo 200 eBooks Under $2, where you can find titles for teens and adults priced between 99 cents and $4.99. There’s a little bit of everything to discover from historical biographies to mystery novels to light romance fare. And if you don’t like what’s currently available, check back – the deals are updated every day.
eBook Subscription Services
If you’re the type of person who craves new reads rather than re-reading old favorites – or if you just blaze through a ton of books each month – then you’re a perfect candidate for Scribd, Bookmate or Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. These subscription services are akin to a Netflix for books.
Kindle Unlimited offers more than 1,000,000 title, Bookmate has 1,800,000 titles and Scribd offers "hundreds of thousands" from smaller and top-tier publishers alike. Plus, Scribd and Kindle Unlimited offer audiobooks, in addition to ebooks, and Scribd offers magazines, sheet music and documents, including academic papers and court documents. In short: Even the pickiest reader is guaranteed to find something worth their time.
New members get a free month of service on all three services, allowing you to get a sense of the libraries without spending a dime. After the free trial, Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, Bookmate costs $9.99 (or $8.33 per month when you buy a year up front) and Scribd is $8.99 (though they do say "Occasionally, we have to limit the titles that you’re able to access within a specific content library in a 30-day period").
Updated on 4/20/2020
[image credit: Amazon]