Just like how you can get food and products for free in real life, you can read books online for free too. Reading books digitally or online means that you’re reading your book in the internet browser on your tablet, phone, or computer, or you can download the books and read them on your Kindle or other digital reading device. Here are the best legal ways to read books online (free)!
A lot of people might say to just go to your library, but not all libraries have access to free eBooks. Don’t worry, we still included your personal library if you have that access!
Wattpad is a site where normal people write stories and books. People rank the books and vote on their popularity. You can also join communities on Wattpad centered around an author or book.
Stories are free and if you write a popular enough book, you might be able to get your story turned into a movie or TV deal. It’s like crowdsourcing for the next story!
Pros: You’ll get crowdsourced opinions on the best stories. One of the best modern interfaces as well. Read books online free here if you love this kind of community!
Cons: Some parts of the site have more teenage books, and it’s generally thought that wattpad has more drama-filled books. If that’s your thing, go for it!
If you have a library card somewhere, you can use Hoopla to access eBooks for free.
You can also read comics, listen to audiobooks, and watch movies and TV shows on your electronic device through Hoopla.
You can only access a select number of books per month, but most people probably won’t get there considering the limit is 10+ books. Hoopla also doesn’t allow waitlists for eBooks, but allows you to check out books immediately.
Check out Overdrive (below) as both Hoopla and Overdrive allow you access to read books online free through your library. Both sites have different books, so check both!
Pros: You can get new, popular books for free via your library card. You can also get access to other forms of recent media.
Cons: You can’t get waitlisted for books, so you might have to check back frequently to read books online free.
OverDrive is very similar to Hoopla in concept. You use your library card to borrow books and other forms of media.
OverDrive allows you to get on a waitlist, though you need to return the book in 21 days once you check it out.
Pros: Easy to use to read books online free, right through your library.
Cons: You can only download eBook onto one device at a time, so it’ll disappear from another device if you proceed to download it onto something else.
Scribd isn’t free anymore, but for $8.99 a month you can get access to unlimited audiobooks, magazines, and documents. If you’re a student, you can get access to 4 months of Scribd and digital access to the New York Times for $29.99 with a student email (.edu).
Pros: Amazing selection of modern and classical books. If you’re a voracious reader, this is much cheaper than going on Amazon and buying eBooks.
Cons: Not a place to read books online free anymore. A few years ago they changed their model and started charging monthly fees. The fees aren’t super high if you love to read though!
I’ve used Blurb to design and create a physical book for my anniversary before and was really pleased.
At the time, I didn’t realize people made their designs public in order to sell beautiful books. The books on the website feel like coffee table books. They’re printed fresh when you order so that people don’t have to print thousands to publish.
You can view the books for free, but if you want to print them out, they are pricier than normal books because they’re printing books to order.
Pros: Best website to read books online for free, well-designed graphic books.
Cons: It’s like reading a coffee table book. Sometimes you enjoy the physical paper of the book for coffee table books. Might be a better to read on your desktop than on a Kindle or small device.
Read Any Book has more modern books you can read online than most other free sites.
They have Stephen King books, the Harry Potter series, the Crazy Rich Asians series, and a lot of other popular modern titles.
You can also download the books if you sign in through the website and sign up for a subscription, but it’s pretty pricey at $39.95 per month. If you’re considering that, you should look to Scribd’s $8.99 program instead.
Pros: You can read some of the bestsellers for free, which you might not be able to find for free on another site.
Cons: It’s hit or miss on the bestsellers. It has some of them, but not all.
7. Your Library
Part of your tax dollars go to the library, so you can’t technically read books online for free via the library since your tax dollars go there, but if you’re going to pay for it, you might as well use it!
Some libraries offer free checkout of digital books, directly to your Kindle or other digital reader. If you’re on a phone, you can also just use an app for that.
You won’t be able to keep the book, and the checkout system will work the same as if you had checked out a physical copy of a book.
Pros: A lot of free books if you live in a large city with a well-funded library. You can also request a book via your library system online or through an app. Usually, if enough people request a book and there is funding available, your librarian might buy it.
Cons: Someone else might be reading a book you want to read and you’ll have to be waitlisted for it.
Named after the famed Gutenberg printing press that allowed common people access to books, Project Gutenberg does the same thing with classic books. Project Gutenberg started in 1971 and is a non-profit.
Project Gutenberg’s mission is to digitize books that aren’t under copyright anymore and fall under the Public Domain, which is just when a copyright expires on a book.
In the US, books are under public domain if they were written prior to 1923. If they were written between 1923 and 1977 and the copyright was renewed, the book enters public domain after 95 years. Books published after 1977 enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. As you can see, you’re not going to get new books from this website.
Pros: Books your english professor or teacher assign will probably be free on this website.
Cons: A lot of books are still not under public domain, so you won’t be able to get modern books.
The Internet Archive has a similar mission to Project Gutenberg. However, the Internet Archive also has images, audio files, and videos. It was founded in 1996 and currently holds 6 Million books and files in its public domain databases.
Some books are scanned copies, but due to OCR technology, you can search for specific words in the text.
You can also turn books into an audiobook by clicking on the speaker icon. Listen to books you can find on Internet Archive for free! The sound is a bit robotic, but remember, it’s not an audiobook, just a computer reading the text.
Lastly, the Internet Archive allows you to see how webpages looked throughout time. Not relevant to read books online free, but simply very cool.
Pros: You can read books online for free, with the original text for some of these classics and even search words via the scanned text.
Cons: You might prefer just the text instead of seeing the first edition of an old book.
10. Your College Library
Some college libraries allow you access to read free eBooks after you graduate.
Check it out with your college library by signing up through the alumni portal. It’s free, even if you don’t donate.
Pros: Maybe you can get some extra perks out of the college tuition you’ve already paid.
Cons: This perk depends on which college you went to. Some colleges don’t have a digital library for alumni.
Smashwords hosts the largest compilation of independent books.
Normally, books are published by a publishing group: HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, Random House, etc. It’s hard to get a publishing contract with a publishing house, and you don’t earn as much as if you self-publish. The hard part about self-publishing is that these books usually do not gain mainstream fame. This is because publishing houses have experienced media arms that allow books to gain more publicity and garner more sales.
Pros: That being said, if you know of an independently published book you’d like to read online for free, this is a good place to check it out.
Cons: Smashwords might have free independently published books, but you probably have not heard of many of them. There are just too many books to go through.
BookRix offers free book distribution for independent authors and it sorts by most popular and new independently distributed books. They give you 55 percent if the book is sold through their platform and 43 percent if it’s sold through a third party platform like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
It includes all kinds of genres and has communities to join and discuss your favorite books or topics.
Pros: You can sort by new and most read books online.
Cons: Similar to Smashwords, you’ll only be able to read independent author’s books, which you might not be as familiar with.
13. Good Reads
Good reads has a few thousand free books listed on its site.
The main reason I use Good Reads is because I want to track the books I’ve been reading so I don’t forget. You can also see the rating other people give books and get a better idea of whether it’s a good read or not.
It’s a social site, where you can friend people and see what books they’re reading, who they’re friending, and their comments on books and other threads.
Pros: Good website to socialize with other people who love books.
Cons: Only a few thousand free books on the site, so not the best place to read books online for free.
14. Open Library
Open Library’s mission is to build a library that gives access to everyone.
You can borrow digital books online for free and the selection is quite extensive.
Since it’s modeled after a library structure, you can borrow books, but if too many people have checked out a digital book, you’ll have to be placed on the waitlist and wait until the books become available.
Pros: Has some titles not on other sites.
Cons: Since Open Library works like an library, you need to check out your book (still free!), so you might not get to read your book right away if there are a lot of people waiting to read it.
15. Google Books
With Google Books, there are full-text and preview titles. Make sure to toggle the full text option in the menu bar so you only get books that you can read online completely free.
Google Books also has access to a large amount of textbooks, so if you ever get those expensive reading lists at college, you can check them out.
Pros: Google Books has virtual bookshelves on which you can place your books. It makes it easy to organize your reading.
Cons: You can’t really search by genre, but only by keyword. So if you search the word “Mystery”, you’re going to get books with the word “Mystery” in the title.
16. Amazon Used Books
If you can’t find your book anywhere for free, and you can’t find it at the library either, you can also see if Amazon has a used copy. If a book has been in print for around 5-10 years, you might be able to find it for a penny or 99 cents. Shipping is $3.99 at least, so you’d pay $4-$5 for a great copy of a book. It’s not digital, but it might save you a pretty penny as you can’t exactly buy used copies of eBooks, right?
Some other websites to check out with free books that are organized and curated are ManyBooks, FeedBooks, Free-eBooks, PDF Books World, and Bookyards. Hathi Trust and WikiBooks are also good places to check if you want to find textbooks and Non-Fiction books.
Any other methods you guys use to read books online for free?
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