I met a good friend for coffee at a book store not too long ago. As we were waiting for our drinks, my friend saw a display for an e-reader and said to me, “I don’t understand what the deal is with all these book reading things.” I nearly died laughing because of the way she said it, but at the time, I completely agreed with her. Why would I pay at least a hundred dollars for an electronic contraption, that I then have to purchase books for, when I could get an actual book from the library for free?
My husband has an Amazon Kindle 3 book reader. Until recently, I had never really taken the time to ask him about it. In talking to him, I found that there are many great reasons to own a Kindle. First off, he loves it because he can basically take his entire collection of books everywhere he goes and reference them as needed. He has any book he is reading available when he has some down time. The second, and most surprising, thing he told me was that there are many cheap or even completely free ways to get eBooks.
So how can you get free or cheap books for your e-reader?
Free eBooks Online
1. Internet Archive
This is the library of the future. Based in California, it is a digital storage site of books, music, video, and other digital media. There are currently about 2.6 million texts in the archive available for you to read, including fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, and even children’s books. The public is able to upload and download digital media at no charge to them. Keep Internet Archive in mind if you’re looking to save money on college textbooks.
2. Project Gutenberg
Another of the more popular eBook sites, this is the oldest digital library. The mission of Project Gutenberg is to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.” There are currently over 33,000 eBooks in their collection. They are available in a wide variety of texts which can be read on your PC, Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone and various other mobile devices.
3. Google Books
If it’s Google, it is bound to be successful. On Google Books, you can search for books that have been scanned and converted to a digital format. If a book is public domain, you are able to download or view it in it’s entirety. Otherwise, you will be able to view a limited portion of a book before choosing if you want to purchase it.
The Kindle has a great feature that allows you to lend and borrow books. BookLending is a new and exciting program that takes advantage of Amazon’s new loaning option by matching lenders and borrowers. The lending lasts for 14 days and, just like lending a traditional book, you will not have access to a text while someone is borrowing it. The Kindle Store also carries a good number of free titles that you can instantly download to your Kindle.
This site has about 30,000 eBooks available to download for free. It takes texts from other digital libraries and converts them into e-reader formats, such as ePub and PDF. It is especially useful if you need an eBook to be in a particular format.
6. Library Books
Some libraries are beginning to hop on the eBook train as well. The eBooks they lend are typically in ePub format, which is becoming the universal format for eBooks. However, if you do need a different format, you can convert ePub for free using eBook conversion software like Calibre.
7. Share Accounts
If you know someone who enjoys reading the same types of books you do, try sharing an e-reader account. Nooks, Sony Readers, and Kindles all have this capability. One book can be purchased and read using any e-reader listed on an account. My mom and aunt share a Kindle account, so they pay half price for all the books that they download.
Free Audio Books
This is an amazing site where you can use your e-reader to listen to audio books, or create your own audio books for others to listen to. Everything is public domain on this site so when you record a book, you are giving a gift to those who either cannot read or would simply prefer to listen to audio books.
You may not be able to get the latest best sellers for free, but you can definitely get any classic, as well as many hidden gems. You can even purchase any eBook, including those best sellers, fairly cheaply if you find someone to share an account with.
Hopefully, with programs like the Kindle Lending Club, book lending will become a more popular practice, increasing the number of ways you can spend less on books and magazines. After doing this research and talking to my husband about the availability of eBooks, I definitely think that a “book reading thing” can be worth the money invested after all.
Do you read eBooks online? What are some of your favorites sites to get free or cheap books?