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The three best places to get great free e-books

Borrow ’em, keep ’em, send ’em to your Kindle—here are the only places you’ll need to visit to find the best in free readables.

The three best places to get great free e-books
[Photo: Go to James Tarbotton’s profile James Tarbotton/Unsplash]
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Look: It’s cold. The news is depressing. New movies and TV shows have ground to a halt. It won’t stop snowing. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so tack on six more weeks of winter.

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Time to curl up with a good book.

And luckily there has never—and I mean never—been a better time to score free e-books. From library books to old classics, audiobooks to new releases, there’s a virtually endless selection out there. Here are the best places to find it.

Borrow virtually from your neighborhood library

If you have a library card, you’re in prime position to borrow digitally available books right from your own home.

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Many libraries use the OverDrive platform to lend out e-books and audiobooks, so check your local library’s website to see if it’s lending directly or just head to Overdrive.com, create an account with your library card number, and see what’s available.

(If you don’t have a library card, get one—there’s a good chance that your local library will issue you a virtual card through an online sign-up process.)

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Hint: As you’re perusing a certain OverDrive category, say Technology, use the Filter section in the right-hand sidebar and under “Saved Libraries” click your local library to show only titles that are actually available to you. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of time browsing for titles you’re not able to get. It’s not a free-for-all in: your library must digitally stock the book as a subset of OverDrive’s 2 million-plus catalog.

Once you’ve found a book and borrowed it, you’ll be presented with a list of options about where to read it. Some titles can be sent right to your Kindle, read right in your browser, or downloaded.

OverDrive also has a great mobile app called Libby that streamlines the process somewhat and lets you read books and listen to audiobooks right on your phone, so check that out if you’re going to be doing the majority of your consumption from your phone.

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Read classic books—no library card required

No library card? Don’t want to set up an account? No problem. Project Gutenberg has you covered.

It’s a great spot with a collection of around 65,000 classic books in a variety of formats, and though the interface is a bit clunky, it’s still about as quick as it gets when it comes to jumping into an old favorite.

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You can download books in Kindle format, but you’ll then need to get them onto your Kindle reader somehow. The easiest way is to send them to your Kindle as an email attachment.

Yes, your Kindle has an email address. You can find it in your Amazon account here. You can send all sorts of stuff to your Kindle.

A little bit of both

Looking for a collection of free-to-read classics and borrowable books? Check out Open Library, from the same folks that bring you the Internet Archive.

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You can jump right into classic books with a click—no account necessary—or create an account to borrow more recent titles.

There are lots to choose from here: the site aims “to make all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world”—everything from regular books to textbooks to medical guides and plenty more. Best of all, Open Library has partnered with the aforementioned OverDrive service to make some 70,000 titles available for borrowing without requiring a library card.

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Like Project Gutenberg, the Open Library site is a bit clunky to navigate, but there’s a fun, optional bookshelf-inspired interface that lets you browse books by category as though you were at your library or bookstore. That way, you can literally judge a book by its cover.

Other sources

Depending on your various retail alignments, you may have access to a rotating selection of free e-books. If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, the Amazon First Reads program grants you access to one free Kindle book every month from a small handful of titles. Now, this is “free” in the sense that it’s a perk for shelling out $119 per year for Prime, so if you’re already a member, great. No need to join Prime just for First Reads, though.

Users of Barnes and Noble’s free Nook app enjoy a hundreds-large catalog of no-cost e-books spanning various subjects. Similar story if you’re a Kobo user.

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And BookBub is an interesting service that matches your reading interests with deals on best-sellers and sends you free e-books daily.

Finally, check your device’s app store: Google Play has a freebie section, as does Apple Books under the “More to Explore” section.