How-To

How to Enjoy Free eBooks Online and Through Your Mobile Devices

Great books don’t necessarily mean making a purchase. Here’s a look at free services to get your fix of novels and more.

E-Books are accessible on multiple devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets. Great books don’t necessarily mean making a purchase. Today, you can find free books online, the ability to borrow books, and subscription services where you can gain access to hundreds of titles for a low monthly fee. Here’s a look at some of the best options available in 2020.

Free and Discounted Books

There are a lot of places online where you can download free or discounted books. No two services are alike, nor will they satisfy everyone in terms of content. When you can’t find the title you want on one service, check out another. You’re most likely to find your free or discounted titles elsewhere.

Public Library

Free Library

Most physical libraries in the United States have partnerships with digital lending services. In doing so, you can borrow e-books just like you can physical ones. To get started, you’ll need a free library card, which you can also apply online.

No two libraries online are the same in terms of the content they provide. However, most now use one of the two primary lending services, OverDrive and Hoopla Digital. At Libby, you’ll find e-books and audiobooks, while Hoopla Digital also provides comics, music, TV shows, and films.

Your local library’s website is the best place to start for borrowing. In many states, you can also access content from more extensive city libraries. For example, the aptly named New York Public Library is assessable to anyone in the Empire State, just as the Free Library of Philadelphia is open to anyone in Pennsylvania, not only the City of Brotherly Love.

If you won’t have a local library or aren’t sure where to begin, visit the OverDrive and Hoopla Digital websites. Both sites include a library search and directions on getting your free card.

Once you have an account, you can begin searching for a book on the library website or through an app, when applicable. Books are available now, or you can place a hold. Just like physical books, the library only has so many digital copies of each title. You can borrow books for a limited time and, in most cases, extending that time if needed.

Project Gutenberg

To date, Project Gutenberg provides access to over 60,000 free books with a focus on older works where the U.S copyright has expired. Instead of borrowing, the books offered here are downloadable permanently. Books on the website are available in various formats, including ePub and Kindle. You can also easily download the files to your Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive.

Project Gutenberg is the work of volunteers and a great place to go for classic content. If you’re looking for newer titles, there are other places to go.

BookBub

BookBub

Prices for e-books fluctuate often, and this is where BookBub comes in. On its website and app, you can find discounted and free books that match your preferences. Books are available to read across multiple platforms, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Kobo, and more. BookBub’s biggest strength is that integration, so you always know where to get the best deal(s) on the books that you want.

Better still, when you find the title you want, BookBub automatically takes you to the website (or app) where you can complete your download or discounted purchase.

Subscriptions

With Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and similar services, you get unlimited access to video content for one monthly price. Similar plans are available for books, including Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Plan and Scribd.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon Kindle Unlimited

With Kindle Unlimited, you gain instant access to over 1 million books, plus select magazine and audiobooks titles. Best of all, you don’t need to own a Kindle device to take advantage of the program. Instead, you can also use your smartphone, tablet, or web browser.

Many, but certainly not all, of the books available through Kindle Unlimited are by self-published authors. Increasingly, however, you’ll also find older best sellers or classics.

Kindle Unlimited, which is priced at $10 per month, has an ever-growing library and is highly recommended. Like with similar plans, when you stop your subscription, the Unlimited books you’ve downloaded will no longer be accessible across your devices.

Scribd

A newer service, the Scribd premium plan (also $10 per month), offers unlimited professionally published, popular books across multiple genres. There are also short stories and essays, some newspapers and magazines, and select sheet music for musicians.

You can access Scribd content across all the familiar platforms, including Android, Apple iOS/iPadOS, Fire tablet, and the web. You can’t, however, use e-ink readers like Kindle Paperwhite with the Scribd service.

Other Options

There are other monthly subscription plans available online, with most of the others focused on specific genres or age groups. Epic, for example, offers more than 25,000 titles for those under the age of 12. Amazon’s Comixology, by contrast, includes graphic novels, comics, and more. For those looking for some romance, consider starting a subscription to Harlequin.

Final Thoughts

You’re not going to find a singular perfect or best place to find free or heavily discounted e-books simply because of the sheer volume of content that’s available online. Instead, you may want to use a combination of services such as a free library card to access new best sellers and a subscription to access older content. If you grow tired of one combination, try another since most subscription plans come with a free 30-day trial for new users. Use the freebies to see how well they match your needs.

Whatever you decide, happy reading!

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