With World Book Day almost here, you might be looking for a new book to sink your literary teeth into. But even digital books can be expensive and you may not have the money to splash out on a new title. Never fear! Here are six ideas for legally downloading great ebooks, and a few more suggestions if free books of any kind are what you want.
Many books, from those by Bram Stoker to the Brontes and beyond, are now out of copyright. As such, they can be legally downloaded for free. Finding good, readable copies can be difficult though. That’s where Project Gutenberg comes in. This free to use website has hundred of books which the community is proofing and typesetting so that readers get the best experience. You can download the books in a variety of formats that will cater to most eReaders and the books can be read in your browser too.
Almost everyone will be aware of the information powerhouse that is Wikipedia, and that in itself is a strong challenger for most entry to middle grade text books (at the very least as an introduction to a topic), but did you know that under the Wiki umbrella there is also Wikibooks?
The site houses a number of free tutorials that have in depth textbook like guides to a variety of topics and can be downloaded, including computer language learning, anatomy and physiology, and more. Wikibooks also offers guides to literature, breaking down their components by plot and theme and offering insight into what the writers were really trying to get at by including certain details or characters.
If this inspires you to want to contribute, you can. Just like with Wikipedia, you can become a Wikibooks contributor and editor, helping to broaden the project and make it even more useful.
Here’s something a little different. WattPad is a great social community for readers and writers. The idea is that writers on the site publish their work for free and readers give their feedback. There are a number of high-profiled writers on the site from literary stalwarts like Margaret Atwood, to relative newcomers like Sally Green. As you’d expect from a platform that lets anyone write, the quality of writing varies quite dramatically (there’s an awful lot of One Direction fanfiction). Using WattPad’s voting recommendations and searching through the site’s genre breakdowns and spotlighted works, I’m sure you can find something you’ll enjoy though. And with the WattPad app (available for Android and ios) you’ll be able to read on the go as well. I’m a WattPad user so please feel free to add me and say hello!
4. Free Audiobooks to Get You Through Your Day
Audiobooks can be great for when you’re at the gym or on the go. LibriVox is a site that houses hundred of public domain works that members of the community have recorded to create free audiobooks. The quality of reading is generally very good and there’s a wide selection across many genres, meaning you’ll likely have a lot to choose from no matter your reading taste.
If you want even more free legal audiobooks, here’s a handy list of the top audiobook sites.
5. Libraries and Ebook Swap Sites
I couldn’t write a list like this without also mentioning your local libraries. Putting aside the digital v. physical books debate, libraries offer a wonderfully egalitarian service, meaning that anyone from any background can access almost any kind of literature or textbook without having to pay. Growing up without much money, libraries helped to get me hooked on literature and I owe them a great debt.
But what if we could translate that service into the digital world? Amazon has already tried with its Prime service, but that does require a fee. Other sites have, however, been a bit more forward thinking.
Ebook swapping sites like ebookfling offer a means to lend ebooks and borrow them for a very small fee (literally dollars), while other sites like Lendle.com and booklending.com offer a means to (legally) exploit Amazon.com’s facility to lend to your friends to enable users to lend to anyone in the site’s community. It’s fun, it can save you money and, best of all, you get to talk to other book lovers.
6. Trade Books!
If you love your paperback and can’t give it up, I don’t blame you. If you still want free books but find your library’s selection a little lacking, why not try sites like BookMooch that allow you to trade books with someone who is seeking something you have in your collection. This allows you to effectively crowdsource your next book and offers a fun way to begin what could be very meaningful relationships with other readers.
Bonus Tips: Online Book Sites and Auction Sites
Book publishers like Tor.com regularly offer free novellas and even sometimes full length books. Amazon and other ebook retailers also offer promotional free downloads, while publishers will sometimes make their books free for a limited time. This is especially true in the self-published market, so check retail stores regularly if you want to grab a bargain.
If you have a limited budget but would like to get a variety of different books, check out the latest StoryBundle, which offers digital books by well known authors for a fraction of the cost. Even if you can’t afford to pay much now, you can always pay more later when you have the means and the best part is, a portion of what you pay can go to charity!
If, again, you can’t give up your physical books, you can use auction sites to get your hands on some great books, particularly if you’re looking for collectibles at a fraction of the cost. Being a fan of W.H. Auden, I recently went searching on several sites like eBay and Preloved to find old copies of Auden’s poetry collections to add to my personal library. You might be surprised, but for under $10, you could walk away with a book or even two. While certainly you’re unlikely to get a rare book for that price, there’s something truly special about reading books that have been read before and the sensory experience their musty history brings.
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