Sunday, May 26, 2024

10 best apps and websites for downloading free books in 2024

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TCL NXTPAPER 11 showing reading an e-book.Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Reading is a pastime that has only benefited from the expansion of smart devices like phones, tablets, and e-book readers. No longer chained to the confines of flimsy paperbacks and weighty hardcovers, you can carry your favorite reads on any number of your devices without worrying about weighing yourself down, damaging the fragile paper, or just losing them.

There’s also no shortage of e-books to read, with nearly every bestseller and classic now available in a digital format for your perusing pleasure. But free e-books? That’s a different ballgame altogether. finding them can be on the tougher side. Thankfully, there are a number of apps and websites that either specialize in providing free e-books or have sections where you can find them.

While you’re unlikely to find the latest bestsellers for free, you are likely to find some public domain classics and some newer, but less well-known titles. Go find your next read with the help of one of these services.

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Amazon

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The king of the e-book reader is, unsurprisingly, one of the most solid ways to get a hold of free books. It’s also one of the best ways to get free e-books for a Kindle since they’ll be delivered straight to your device, unlike with a number of these other apps and websites.

Finding free books on Amazon isn’t the easiest process in the world, but it’s also far from the most difficult. If you’re using the website, then you can head to a category of books, then select Best sellers, then Top 100 free to see a breakdown of the most popular titles in that particular category. You can also search for “free books” to find a list you can look through or narrow down to a certain category. It’s also possible to do this on the Amazon app, but keep in mind you can’t currently purchase e-books through the app due to disputes with Google and Apple.

It’s also worth mentioning there are Amazon services that furnish you with free books. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that gives you access to a vast range of e-books, as does Prime Reading as part of the Amazon Prime subscription. While neither is technically free, Prime Reading is a good bonus if you’re already subscribed to Amazon Prime, while Kindle Unlimited may be worth it for people who can read through multiple books a month or even a week.

Amazon is a solid way to get hold of free books, but it has some downsides. As you’d expect, it only really works for Kindle devices and the Kindle app, and you won’t be able to easily download these book files to send them to another device. It also requires an Amazon account and a checkout process of sorts, even if you’re not paying anything. Oddly, it’s also not particularly easy to find free books on the Kindle itself, as the storefront doesn’t really have the best browsing options.

Kindle Unlimited Prime Reading Free Books on Amazon

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is the place the go for free downloadable classics. The website, which stretches back to 1971, is the world’s oldest digital library and hosts over 70,000 titles. It’s the best place to look for titles in the public domain, and it’s here you’ll find a bunch of downloads for older classics, like Moby Dick, the collected works of Shakespeare, and even a lot of Agatha Christie’s books. The downloads are available in a number of formats, including simple EPUB files, as well as files tweaked to work on Amazon Kindles.

The sheer amount of file types on 0ffer can be a little confusing, though. Do you want the EPUB3, EPUB, or Kindle formats? Or is reading online better? And while you can find books in other languages here, most are in English. Some titles may also not be free to download outside of the U.S., so it’s sometimes not that straightforward. Finally, if you want an app, there’s no app here, as it only works as a website.

However, if you’re looking for an older classic, then this is where you should go first.

Project Gutenberg

Google Play Books

Google Play Books is often seen as the poor cousin of Amazon’s Kindle service, but it’s nothing of the sort. If you’re looking to pivot away from Amazon’s seemingly all-encompassing monolith, then Google Play Books is a good alternative. It has a massive selection of e-books in general, but you can also find some great free options if you know where to look.

The first and principal place to find free books is the app’s home page. Scroll down to the eBook charts to can find a category marked Free. Here, you’ll find the top 100 e-books that have been added to other people’s libraries, giving you a useful barometer of popularity. If none of these tickle your fancy, or if you’re looking for something in another genre, your options are unfortunately a little more limited. You can search for “free [genre]” to find books, or just search for your desired genre and then select Free from the price filter. There’s no dedicated “free” section to browse, unfortunately.

However, there’s another big plus here, and it’s the selection of free audiobooks on offer. Yes, free audiobooks. They’re “auto-generated”, so not read by people, and are limited to just classics in the public domain. But that includes books you may have always wanted to read, like Dracula and Frankenstein, or nonfiction like The Prince. Since they’re not read by a human, but a computer-generated voice, there’s a touch of uncanny valley about it, but if you can stomach that, this is a great option.

Downsides for Google Play Books include the aforementioned difficulty in finding free titles, but also keep in mind that it can be tough to get these titles onto e-book readers. Unless your e-book reader allows for third-party apps, you’re going to have to find a way to download the files and send them to your e-book reader of choice. Also, you’ll need a Google account to use and access the app.

Google Play Books website Google Play Books Android app Google Play Books iOS app Free audiobooks

Libby

The best way to get free books is from your local library — but it’s not like you can just walk in and take out a digital e-book. But what you can do is use Libby to borrow e-books from your local library using your library card.

Libby is replacing the service previously known as OverDrive and functions much the same way. Get a library card from your local library and then sign up for Libby. Enter your library card details, and presto — it will let you know which books are available for loan. It’s simple and free, and if you’re in the U.S., it links up to Amazon Kindles, making it even easier to read them.

There are some problems with Libby, of course. If you’re not in the U.S. or don’t have a Kindle, then you’re restricted to reading your books using the Libby app, which may not be to your tastes or as easy as using an e-book reader. As it’s a library copy, there’s also a restricted number of licenses, meaning you may have to wait to get hold of a book, especially if it’s in demand.

Libby has some shortcomings that can make it a bit of a tougher sell, but if it’s free books you’re after, and you already have a compatible library card, then it costs you nothing to sign up and check out what you can get.

Libby website Libby Android app Libby iOS app

ManyBooks

ManyBooks offers exactly what the name implies: It has many books, and they come from a wide variety of genres and times. ManyBooks offers over 50,000 titles on its website, and while there’s the usual selection of public domain classics to pick from, you’ll also find a whole heap of books from newer authors. You can download each book in multiple formats, so you can transfer them to your e-book reader, or you can read them using ManyBook’s online reader instead.

You’ll need a free account to download, or you’ll be sent over to Amazon instead, in which case you’ll need an Amazon account. Also, contrary to what the website states, not all of the books are available for free. However, those books are clearly marked and often available at a low price anyway, so it’s easy to forgive.

ManyBooks website ManyBooks Android app ManyBooks iOS app

Open Library

The Internet Archive holds a lot of great e-books, but it lacks an easy way of browsing those titles — and that’s why we have Open Library. Open Library pulls from the Internet Archive and presents it in a way that’s a lot more user-friendly and easy to browse. There are tons of titles here to pick from, including all the usual public domain classics, as well as some seriously famous books up for grabs — including A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and Deep Six by Clive Cussler. Granted, these more famous titles will only be available on a borrowing basis, but they are there and available if you want them.

Multiple download formats are available, and you can also search by language, which is a nice addition. However, it can be hard to find books available in your language, as sometimes a book will be listed as available, but only be borrowable in Spanish. This is fine if you speak Spanish, but not great if you don’t. Still, it’s definitely worth having on your radar. There are apps available for Android and iOS.

Open Library website Open Library Android app Open Library iOS app

LibriVox

Books aren’t the only way to read, and audiobooks are rapidly gaining interest for those who want a way to keep reading their favorite books while driving, walking, or doing chores. Getting free audiobooks can be a bit of a challenge, though, which is why it’s nice that LibriVox exists. LibriVox offers free audiobooks in a range of genres and languages. It’s especially good for children’s books, and while you’re again relying on public domain titles, it’s nice to have such a massive number of titles available for free.

It’s volunteer-run, which is why audiobooks can be offered for free. However, that’s a double-edged sword as quality can vary from book to book, with much depending on the individual skill of the volunteer who read that specific book. This can make it a bit of a tougher sell than you might originally think, but if you find the right audiobook, then all is forgiven. There’s a website and an app for Android and iOS.

Librivox website LibriVox Android app LibriVox iOS app

Free-ebooks.net

Another website that does exactly what it says on the tin, Free-ebooks.net offers, well, free e-books. There’s a massive selection to choose from here, with options ranging from classics to a whole bunch of newer titles you’ve probably never heard of. This wide variety also comes with some audiobooks as well, really boosting the options available to you.

The catch? You’ll need to register for free, and you can only download five books per month. That’ll be fine if you’re a slower reader, but if you devour books, then you’ll need to get more of your fix from elsewhere, too.

Free-ebooks.net website Free-ebooks.net Android app Free-ebooks.net iOS app

eBooks.com

While eBooks.com is technically a marketplace, it doesn’t shy away from offering a bunch of books for free. Four hundred of them, to be exact, which is enough to keep even the most avid and active reader busy for a little while. They’re available to download or read online, though it’s worth keeping in mind that all of these free e-books come as an ACSM file, which means they’re locked down pretty tight with DRM and can only be read using Adobe’s software on a Mac or PC, or by using one of eBooks.com’s recommended reading apps on mobile. That’s a disappointment, but since you’re getting some solid free e-books, it’s hard to complain that they require a few small hoops to jump through.

eBooks.com website eBooks.com Android reader app eBooks.com iOS reader app

Authorama

There’s something to be said for the benefits of quick and dirty, and Authorama is both of those. It’s stocked with pretty much just public domain books, but they’re well reproduced and high quality. The website itself is extremely simple and bare-bones to the extreme — it’s just a white space with an alphabetical list of titles. As a result, it’s very easy to use; just scroll down the list and find what you want.

The downsides? There aren’t very many options to pick from, and it lacks many books from languages other than English. It’s also not much to look at, and there are no advanced search features to be found here. It’s also largely restricted to just reading from the website, which can be a chore. But even with these downsides, it’s a good catalog of free books.

Authorama website

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