The internet has many places to download free ebooks, but only a few get attention. Broaden your scope and you’ll find some great downloads at these little-known places.
You probably already know about Project Gutenberg, Overdrive, Centsless Books, and some of the other best free ebook download sites. In this article, we’ll look beyond them to find free ebooks from sources you haven’t heard of before. This includes one of the best forums to get books, a place to dig up old-school pulp fiction, and some better ways to get the classics.
1. Standard Ebooks (Web): Reformatted and Beautified Classics
Places like Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive already stock a vast collection of books in the public domain. But these are generally old titles whose copyright has expired. Thus, the formatting and font often look outdated, especially on modern ebook readers.
Standard Ebooks is a non-profit, community-driven project to reproduce these classics to make for better reading on today’s tools. The biggest difference you’ll notice is that the font and typeset look cleaner and more inviting, like a lot of made-for-Kindle books.
They even re-edit the books to adhere to a modern style guide and clean up leftovers of old styles that are no longer relevant. The community also redesigns and updates the book cover to make it more like a modern book.
The collection currently includes over 400 titles from authors like William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. You’ll find multiple file formats for different types of ereaders, or to read in your browser. Anyone can join Standard Ebooks and contribute to restoring these classics.
Another way to consume these classics in a modern format is through audiobooks. You can download fantastic free audiobooks at Loyal Books and Librivox.
2. Pulp Mags (Web): Digital Archive of Pulp Fiction Magazines
Some of the most entertaining stories in history were never published in reputed novels. They found their home in inexpensive pulp magazines from the late 1800s to about 1950, aimed more at mass market appeal. Pump Mags is a free digital archive of these magazines for anyone to download and read.
Currently, it includes over 400 books from the USA, England, and Australia, which has titles like Adventure Magazine, Astounding Stories, Exciting Western, Mammoth Mystery, Thrills Incorporated, etc. Each issue typically has multiple stories by various authors on the same theme.
All the books are available in PDF format and can be read online in the browser too. You can also search the full text archive. It might seem like an issue that the site doesn’t have a “most popular” or “best of” section, but that’s actually the fun of pulp fiction. Download a magazine whose title and cover image catches your fancy, and start reading. It’s all about discovering fun and entertaining stories, just like people did back then.
3. r/FreeEbooks (Web): Forum to Share Free Ebook Downloads
If you’re agnostic about the source of where to get a book from, Reddit’s r/FreeEbooks is a treasure trove. People from around the world share multiple links every day to free ebooks, all of which are completely legal to download.
The collection is more varied than other places because it doesn’t restrict itself to Kindle or Kobo. You’ll find authors sharing links to their personal or publisher’s websites where they have made a few ebooks available for free download. Most “ebook deals of the day” sites will miss such offerings.
You can quickly sort books by genre using Reddit flairs. Since this is a forum, you can also create posts asking for sources for specific books or recommendations. It’s a nice way to discover a new author or a classic novel when you don’t know what to read next.
4. Unglue (Web): Start Making Books Free
Let’s say you buy a book, finish reading it, and then donate it to your local library. Now anyone can read that book for free, right? Unglue wants to bring that system to a ton of books waiting to become free.
Its unique mission is to help currently paid books to also become free forever. Unglue also wants it to be available in every license and format, stripping off all DRM. Each book has a Kickstarter-like goal. As a lay user, you can either donate or buy to hit that target, or spread the word and get others to donate so that the book becomes free.
To download titles, visit the collection of ebooks that are already free because of Unglue’s efforts. The Unglue library also includes several classics, as well as a few surprises like Little Brother by Cory Doctrow. Go through the popular lists or successful campaigns to find free ebooks you won’t come across elsewhere. You’ll also get more titles on pages where authors have made their books free.
5. UPenn’s Online Books Page (Web): Free Banned Books and Nobel Prize Winners
The University of Pennsylvania has put together a comprehensive listing of free ebooks available at different sources on the internet. Not only that, it categorized them into helpful lists for your reading pleasure.
For instance, there’s a whole page dedicated to prize-winning books from three prestigious literary awards: Newbery, Pulitzer, and the Nobel Prize for Literature. There’s another wonderful article on banned books and where you can read them, to counteract the perils of overzealous censorship. And the celebration of women’s writers sub-section has a variety of ways to discover the voice of women.
But perhaps the best section is the Specialty Archives. The team at UPenn has painstakingly collected the best ebook resources that specialize in different subjects. It varies from black writers and subjects to folklore to politics. And there are several regional and non-English resources too.
6. Freebook Sifter (Web): Daily Updated List of Free Ebooks
Online book retailers often run deals where you can download great books for free. Freebook Sifter is a daily updated list of which books are currently free on Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and Project Gutenberg.
Made by the team behind film review site Criticker, Freebook Sifter’s list is easy to browse because it clearly shows the information you need to know. In one glance, you’ll see the book title, author, its Amazon rating, and when it was last checked. You can sort books by title, rating, or date added, and browse them by several categories.
Subscribe for Free New Ebooks
Free ebooks become a necessity for voracious readers. Unlike a library where you can keep taking books without paying, ebooks usually need you to buy them outright. This is especially true of new releases and can cause a dent in your wallet.
A viable alternative for unlimited ebooks is to get an ebook subscription service like Bookmate or Scribd. These are Netflix-like, all-you-can-read subscriptions where you’ll get to download a wide variety of quality ebooks. It’s the closest thing to a library experience with the help of an ereader.
Here’s everything you need to know to decide whether to buy an Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook ebook reader.
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