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Although ebooks are becoming more and more popular (and will eventually overtake print books as the default standard publishing format - sorry, ebook-haters, facts is facts), ebook discussions often center on the expense of ebooks and ereaders.

In my opinion, these complaints are largely inaccurate and/or short-sighted. It's true that today, ereaders are still fairly expensive toys. However, prices have been dropping over the last few years the way most consumer electronics gadgets do, and it won't be long before they are cheap commodities like MP3 players and wristwatches, and/or integrated into the other gadgets that are also becoming standard consumer gadgets. Reading an ebook on a smartphone or iPad is still not quite an ideal reading experience, but the technology is only getting better.

For someone who normally buys a lot of books, an ereader even today rapidly pays for itself if you are thrifty.

"But," I hear you cry, "ebooks aren't cheap! Sometimes they are even more expensive than the print edition!"

This is actually only true in a small number of cases. Most ebooks I've seen released over the past few years are published at or below the cost of the new hardcover, and when the book is released in paperback, the ebook drops in price accordingly. Now, you can argue that they should still be a lot cheaper, but the ebook market is still in flux. With publisher mergers and the growth of small, independent ebook publishers, I believe new price points will stabilize in the next few years. There is of course a lot of discussion about this in the industry, with a great deal of fear over what higher or lower price points will mean for authors and publishers. The rise of $0.99 Kindle books has meant good things for some folks, bad things for others.

How to fill up your ereader for free

But anyway, let's talk about where to get your free ebooks. I am going to post some resources I have collected here, but feel free to add more in comments.

I will edit this post to add more links that I deem worthwhile.

Now, will this get you new releases that are still in hardcover? For the most part, no. If you want new books, you usually have to pay for them. But there is a lifetime of reading available to you that's already been published.

No pirating sites!

I am talking about legal free ebooks here. I will nuke any comments that point towards "book sharing" sites. This isn't the SBD for debating ebook piracy.

No self-published books

I am also, for the most part, not interested in self-published books or sites like FictionPress and Scribd. Yeah, you can find some stuff that is worth reading there, just like you can on fan fiction sites, but this post is for people who want to find real, edited, professionally published books.

Sign up with publishers

Many publishers send out monthly emails with book deals for people who sign up for their email lists. Sometimes they offer free ebooks, sometimes they will put the first book in a series up for sale for $0.99, sometimes they bundle several books together for a low price, but if there is a particular publisher you like, it's worthwhile to join their mailing list. I've picked up quite a few cheap reads this way.

Likewise, many smaller ebook retailers, for example: Kobo Books, Fictionwise, diesel eBook store, and Book View Cafe, frequently send their customers special offers, coupons, etc.

Project Gutenberg

Everyone has heard of Project Gutenberg, I assume. Yes, it's limited to works in the public domain. It's a good source for all the old classics, but there are fair number of relatively recent works that have fallen out of copyright. For example, H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy

Project Gutenberg Australia has some titles that the main Gutenberg site does not, because of different copyright laws in Australia. Gone with the Wind and the collected stories of H.P. Lovecraft, for example, are still protected by copyright in the U.S., thanks to the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka The Mickey Mouse Protection Act), but have entered the public domain in Australia.

(Yes, this means that technically, if you download these from the U.S., you are violating U.S. copyright law. Fuck you, Sonny Bono.)

It should be noted regarding works translated into English from other languages that while the original (for example, Notre-Dame de Paris) may be in the public domain, a given translation may not be. So translated literary works available on Gutenberg are usually much older translations.

Other public domain sources



The Internet Archive.

Open Library.

Your friendly neighborhood local library

More and more libraries are making loaned ebooks available (including eAudio downloads). Usually this works by giving the downloaded ebook an "expiration date" after which it is no longer readable, in order to simulate the limited check-out of a physical book.

The technology is still a little emergent here, as are accommodations between libraries and publishers. I expect the system of ebook "loans" will be quite different in the future, but anyone who is a member of library that has ebook downloads has this option available to them as well.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Baen Free Library makes available many of Baen's science fiction and fantasy novels for free download. Mostly they are first books in a series, and somewhat older titles, but all of Baen's big-name authors can be found here.

Arc Manor's Phoenix Pick. Arc Manor is a small SF publisher with a lot of new and reprinted SF books available for low prices. If you sign up for their email list, you get the free monthly ebook (usually a lesser-known but still worthy title).

Night Shade Books Ebook Giveaway. This was announced as a Thanksgiving giveaway, so I don't know if it will remain up permanently, but you can get Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Folio, The Emperor's Knife, by Mazarkis Williams, and Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht for free while they're available.

Authors who have made their books available for free

Cory Doctorow is one of the most zealous advocates for free downloads, and you can find all of his novels (and most of his non-fiction) available for free at his site. You can also find his books on ManyBooks.net.

John Scalzi's first novel, Agent to the Stars, has always been a free ebook.

Charles Stross has also put several of his SF novels up for free at ManyBooks.net.


Free Harlequin books.

Free Kindle books. Mostly romance, and many are self-published, but not all.

Free Nook books. Mostly romance, but not self-published.


614 Places for Free eBooks Online

Amazon Best Sellers. Again, most of the Top 100 Free list are romance and/or self-published, but there are some exceptions.

Comment below to tell me about links you think I should add to this post.

Previous Saturday Book Discussions.



( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
This might be off-topic, but would you consider e-books to be a threat to libraries?
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
Possibly - not as much as they are a threat to bookstores, but as ebooks gain wider adoption, the resources needed to maintain ebook libraries are less than those needed for physical libraries. I suspect libraries will shrink in size as print publishing grows smaller.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
You don't think that a strictly e-book library would restrict reading to people that can afford it? Meaning afford an e-reader, even if the prize drops to a reasonable amount it might not be something that people with a limited budget will prioritize.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
As someone who has just graduated from my masters in library science, I have to say that as long as there is information, there will be libraries. As long as there are patrons who need access to that information, there will be libraries.They're a way for the community to access information.

Also, there will never be a strictly e-book library for the very reason you suggested. If ever a library were to become fully digital, it'd be because the world itself had become fully digital. Libraries provide a variety of services - you have your print books, yes, but also audio books, newspapers, toys and puzzles, dvds, cds, access to the internet, and workshops for the community. So I highly doubt libraries will shrink in size or become irrelevant. They'll just adapt and grow as technology changes and the people in it adopt that technology.

Edited at 2012-11-24 11:48 pm (UTC)
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm studying to become a librarian so I hope you are right.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
It's actually something they mention when you're doing the degree - I just finished last friday and now have to undertake the scary task of finding a proper job and actually being the librarian :p

And yeah, there are loads of services that libraries provide to the community that will mean that they'll remain a stable part of the community for years to come. Like my local public library for example has a service where they provide scanners to visually impaired people so that they can read books that might not have come out in braille. Pretty impossible to get an e-book that has braille, so visually impaired people would only be left with audio books in that case. You also get elderly people who can't really leave their house/facility/hospital who love to read, and the library provides a service where a staff member takes a trolley over and they can choose some books to borrow for a while.

If the e-book thing becomes a problem, libraries will adapt. Maybe they'll have e-readers available for people to borrow, or they'll be able to download them to read on computers. Shrugs. I know my local library is so far away from e-books being a problem. They only support e-books for certain types of e-readers - if you have a kindle, you can't borrow any.
Nov. 25th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Another thing is - at least here in Sweden - is that it is just to expensive for libraries to have e-books.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
There will be a need for (print) libraries as long as there is a need for print books, which I think will still persist for quite a long time.

But I do think that, especially in developed nations with high digital penetration, libraries are going to shrink. Not just because of ebooks, but they'll play a factor.

Edited at 2012-11-24 11:50 pm (UTC)
Nov. 25th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
Yeah but my point is that libraries are there for more than just print books. If you mean that the actual physical size of the library may shrink with the introduction of e-book only fiction and non fiction books, then yeah, maybe. I could possibly concede that point. But the relevance and the use of libraries won't shrink.

Edited at 2012-11-25 02:11 am (UTC)
Nov. 25th, 2012 07:08 pm (UTC)
Seeing as all the libraries in our area have closed up shop or are preposterously far away I'd say no.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
...uh, self-published books are real books. Quality is hit and miss (but given the "editing" I've seen in published-by-a-publisher books....), but they are still real.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
In the sense that they contain words - okay.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
Publisher approval doesn't equal quality (Fifty Shades of Grey, Eragon), it's just a bit of validation and a publishing house doing the work.

But then I don't call books 'not real' because I dislike the quality, I guess.
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Professional editing and passing a gatekeeper (and anyone who's ever seen a slush pile knows that gatekeepers are not a bad thing) is more than just "a bit of validation."

Publisher approval doesn't equal quality, but it does equal meeting a minimum standard. And the number of self-published books that meet that minimum standard is vanishingly small.
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)
Publishing houses are cutting corners to make the dollar, editing is often something they no longer offer to their writer's.
Someone with pull may say yes to a book but if the number crunchers say no that pull is of no weight.

What is published and how many now is decided by number crunchers. The bandwagon for now multi book series.
Nov. 25th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Thank you!!
Nov. 25th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
:) Thanks for the GWtW link. That's a better format than the ebook I was using before. I've found that the PG Australia site has the Anne of Green Gables books that aren't available on PG American site.
Nov. 25th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
I really appreciate the purpose of this post, as a person with a hand disability who much prefers e-reading and e-readers to holding heavy, awkward paper books.

There are many free ebooks (mostly short stories) in a variety of romance genres (from heterosexual to queer - as a queer person I appreciate having a large selection of non-het books to browse through) in most major formats on All Romance e-books (ARe) - although I suspect that given your bias you probably wouldn't consider some of them 'real', but readers who have a broader notion of what is and isn't real may be interested in having a look, and quite a number are from actual publishers.

(Or, given that they're often from smaller, specialised e-publishing houses, do they also not count as 'real'?)

I feel obligated to mention, OP - I'm a professional writing and editing student training to work as an editor, and as part of my two-year editing course, we actually create, edit, design and send-to-printer our own books (e-formats and print), and student-produce our own anthologies. Am I to believe that the amazing books created by the second-years this year aren't real? If my course is all about self-publishing in this way, and showcasing to students that while self-gatekeeping (finding your own editors, proofreaders, manuscript assessors and listening to them, learning how to self-edit, that editing is far more than SPaG) is important, there are so many opportunities (especially for people of difference - say, queer, people of colour, people with disabilities, refugees, women, transgender, genderqueer/neutrois* writers) for self-publishing we need to take advantage of in a changing publishing environment - what, am I actually not learning how to make a real book? I think my teachers - professional, published writers all - would be highly amused.

Quality has nothing to do with realness, and attiudes that gatekeepers = 'a real book' make it harder for writers of difference to have their works acknowledged and validated, because it's that much harder for a writer like me to make it past the gatekeepers.

* I mention this because I've had too-long conversations trying to get my editor to accept singular 'they' instead of 'it' to refer to a person of unknown gender (and he's one of the more open-minded sort!). Finding editors who don't mind working with stories that use gender-neutral pronouns and possessive adjectives isn't always easy - never mind writers who write off-beat/non-mainstream content. I guess 'not being real' is the price we pay for not writing 'what is popular and likely to be picked up by a publishing house', hey? Not like we don't get enough of that in real life!
Nov. 25th, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Thank you for being far more eloquent than I could be, particularly regarding differences in both authors and subjects. As a queer woman who is working on a fantasy world where - among other things - the elves are tri-gendered and poly, mainstream publishing houses with all of their biases shouldn't dictate what is 'real' or not.

Do you have have any recs for non-het romance sites/sources for books at all?
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:30 am (UTC)
Reading your comment inspired me to post, so, thank you. :D

Oh, wow! Tri-gendered elves! That's AWESOME! How far are you along in it? Because I would so read the hell out of it and go to a raptuous happy place.

I have a number of links, although they're e-books rather than paper, as I try to avoid paper (not being in the US also makes paper awkward). I buy direct from the publisher a lot, so I can give you a whole heap of publishers - many are available through ARe. Keeping in mind that you're a queer woman, I'm going to include my most-loved les lit publishers - because finding great les fic is pretty challenging at times in a sea of m/m everything - at least in my experience.

So, here's the flood:

Start with Rainbow eBooks - basically a one-stop queer e-book store. I like them because they stock several publishers ARe don't, although I've had a few issues downloading epub files from them. PDFs have always been fine, though.

Bedazzled Ink are available through Rainbow eBooks - women's lit, lesbian lit, women-focused everything, really. They publish Barbara Davies, who writes sweet lesbian regency romances. They also do paper books. They're more about plot and sweet romance than erotica.

Bold Strokes Books publish queer fiction, but unlike most other publishers, they mostly publish lesbian romance and genre books. There's lots and lots here, although they're more expensive than most publishers - but on the whole, generally better in quality as well. I'd say their books are worth the mark-up. They're also available in paper. Also more plot/sweet romance based.

Torquere Books is a friend's publisher. They tend to the more erotic side and have far more m/m works, but they have produced some lesbian and transgender stories. Some novels are available in paper. I don't buy a lot from here because I tend to favour more plotty stories, but they do offer a lot of shorter fiction, which other publishers don't.

Dreamspinner Press is solely m/m. I personally don't think too much of their editing, but they have a wide range of m/m novel-length works.

Less Than Three Press has more m/m, but is branching out into lesbian fic. They tend to cover a range from short to long fiction, and generally sweeter romance - a lot of it is a tad too sweet for my taste, but I know a lot of people who love many of the authors published with them.

And last, Lethe Press does a vast range of often more literary-bent gay, lesbian, bi and transgender fiction (they've published most of the transgender books I own, which sadly isn't many) that's often more expensive but higher quality in terms of editing. They're the only press I know of - so far - that have published works that actually use gender-neutral pronouns/poss. adjectives, but they also require an agent.

If you like fantasy, my favourite lesbian fantasy authors are L-J Baker (everything I've read from her is intelligent and wonderful) and Jane Fletcher. I've also loved Sandra McDonald's fantasy short story collection Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories - it contains gay, lesbian, POC, transgender short stories in a fantastic alternate world, and is pretty woman-focused most of the time.

Nov. 27th, 2012 04:26 am (UTC)
If I can self-promote, The Lesbrary (lesbrary.com) is a lesbian book review blog that you might be interested in, and I post weekly link posts to other relevant news and reviews. The sidebar also lists lesbian book blogs, queer book blogs, queer book lists, and queer book publishers.
Nov. 25th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Sigh. Some of you are taking my flippant use of the word "real" too literally.

Look, I make no apologies for having little regard for self-publishing and believing that 99% of them are deluded as to the quality of their writing.

And I say that as a fan fiction writer. And if I can't get my non-fan-fiction novel published, I'll probably self-publish it. But I won't claim it's just the Man keeping me from being the next J.K. Rowling.

I sympathize with your issues, while acknowledging that publishers are in it to make money, not just to publish more diverse fiction for the feelgoods. So I wish you luck with your work, and I think the growth of small, independent epublishers will ultimately be a good thing, even if most of them so far have not impressed me with their quality control.

Edited at 2012-11-25 03:54 am (UTC)
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
Perhaps in a serious conversation directed at a range of people from a range of different backgrounds and life experiences, flippancy is not such a good thing?

I'll agree with you: some people see self-publishing as a shortcut, and this is to the detriment of readers and writers. However, and it's a pretty big however, there's a growing number of writers who for reasons outside their control don't have the same kind of publishing opportunities as many others and look into other opportunities. Why shouldn't they? There's no need to be closed-minded about it and tar everyone with the same brush, is there? Why not take the opposite approach and seek out and celebrate and promote the writers and small publishers who are doing it well? It's not like the gatekeepers are doing a good job of it themselves these days, given the amount of editing time editors and proofreaders now have and the ability of big-name authors to reject changes - among other things like audience expectation and knowledge.

Thank you. Those sorts of presses have already made a difference to readers and writers; I hope they can keep on doing so.
Nov. 25th, 2012 05:10 am (UTC)
I'll cop to being flippant, but I won't concede that being flippant about self-published books means I'm marginalizing anyone.

I'm pretty comfortable calling 99% of self-published books crap. Including even the ones by marginalized writers, who, while they may have the best of intentions, are still no more likely than anyone else to write non-crap. I do hope the genuinely good writers find an audience. But seriously, have you ever trawled through Smashwords?
Nov. 25th, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
pixelofink.com sends out a daily newsletter with free kindle books on Amazon - they're US Centric but a lot of the books they link to are free on the UK site ime (sorry I don't know about other countries!)
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program does include ebooks. There's no guarantee you'll actually get a book, much less a specific book, but they are free.
Nov. 25th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Saturday Book Discussion: Where to get free ebooks (legally!)
User teshara referenced to your post from Saturday Book Discussion: Where to get free ebooks (legally!) saying: [...] Originally posted by at Saturday Book Discussion: Where to get free ebooks (legally!) [...]
Nov. 27th, 2012 04:21 am (UTC)
This may be obvious, but if you want a flood of free ebooks, start a book blog. Once you're a little established, publishers and authors come to you. You can also request review copies of books from them. I've gotten over a hundred free ebooks from running The Lesbrary (lesbrary.com).
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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