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Browse millions of e-books, for free

From classics to comic books, billions of words and images are yours for the reading.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 29, 2012 5:14PM

Image: young woman reading from Kindle (© Reggie Casagrande/Photographer)These days it doesn't matter how close you live to a library or bookstore. If you've got an e-reader, laptop, tablet or smartphone, millions of e-books are as portable as paperbacks.

The choices are no longer limited to fusty old classics you were forced to read in high school. From autobiographies to westerns, the Internet's virtual bookshelves are crammed with new and recently published reads.

Where to start?

More than 1 million classic titles (now in the public domain) are available at sites such as:

Interested in more recent publications? Sharon Vaknin, an editor at the tech media site, advises going to the Kindle or Barnes & Noble online bookstores and typing "0.00" in the search bar. Up will pop free mysteries, children's stories, Christian fiction, romance, erotica and other genres.

Vaknin also spotlights a couple of other ways to borrow (and lend):

  • Public libraries: "Ancient as they may seem, libraries are on trend and offer e-books using a service called Overdrive. Here's how to use the service (although the tutorial is intended for Nook owners, the same process applies to Kindle)."
  • Any "lending-enabled" Kindle book can be loaned one time for up to 14 days. This site matches borrowers and lenders.
  • Another sharing site.

Search by subject

A superb resource is the Gizmo's Freeware site, which recently updated its "471 places for free e-books online." It has both an alphabetized list of providers and available e-books sorted by genres like autobiography, horror, romance, travel, young adult/teen and math.

The article also includes a list of 100 places for free audio books online. Wow. (Post continues after video.)

I'd like to re-emphasize public libraries. According to a Pew Research Center report, 58% of all U.S. library-card holders don't know whether their libraries have e-books. More than 75% of libraries do, according to, and 39% lend out e-readers for free.

Myself, I love turning actual pages instead of virtual ones. Yet I can't deny the brilliance of the e-reader. You can carry multiple books without weighing down a bag or suitcase. E-books provide library access to shut-ins and those who live in remote areas. They let us indulge in "disposable" reads (kids’ chapter books, light romance, et al) without feeling guilty about all the paper that's being used.

I admit that I've never read an e-book. However, my daughter recently gave me her old tablet -- and it came with a "Pride and Prejudice" download. I'll get the hang of this newfangled idea yet.

Do you use e-books? Got a favorite site for free (and legal) downloads?

More from MSN Money:

Jun 29, 2012 8:20PM
I love free books! I grew up reading mostly library books, so it feels weird to pay more than $10 for something I might read once. I get the free books either from my public library (overdrive) or Amazon by doing as you suggested (search for "free kindle books"). I mix reading classics (right now I'm reading "Last of the Mohicans") with light novels I might be embarrassed to be seen with otherwise.

My mom hasn't been feeling well lately, and she is so happy to checkout books from the library from her couch. Likewise, my library's location isn't the most convenient. I never bothered to get a library card in the 5 years I've lived here until they got Overdrive.

I do still like turning pages too, but when I'm traveling my e-reader is a wonderful space-saver. I also have the kindle reader on my phone, so when I'm waiting at the doctor's office I can read something other than those old magazines.

Jul 3, 2012 6:05AM
avatar has a free online library.  They also have a place where you can read sample chapters of ebooks before deciding to buy them.  The books are DRM free, so that you can can download in a variety of formats and as many times as you want. They also sell e-arc so that if you can't wait for a book to come out you can buy the advance reader copy.  Baen is a Science Fiction/Fantasy publisher but they have a few books that are not.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.