Free Lunches? No. Free e-books? Yes.


ZenScribe says:

There may be no such a thing as a free lunch, but you do get free e-books. Let me show you.

Three meanings of Free

Free is one word with different meanings when it comes to books (or any content, for that matter).

  1. Some of the free books fall under the public domain. (In a previous post, we have already explained what copyright and public domain means.) People are free to create, copy, distribute and even sell digital versions. Remember, each country has its own variation of copyright laws. Even if a book is freely available on Internet because it was out of copyright in some country from where someone uploaded it legally, make sure you do not violate the law of the land. You should not download these books if they are still under copyright in your country. Illegal book copiers don’t do that well in prison!
  2. Another variation of free has to do with the Creative Commons License. A work licensed under Creative Commons would be free to read and share. But there might be some restrictions. For example, you may or may not be allowed commercial use of the work; you may or may not have the right to modify and build on the content. You might have to give attribution wherever you use the content.
  3. Then lastly, there are free books that aren’t really free! Sometimes for promotional purposes a publisher or author might distribute a book for free.

All of these kinds of free would, however, let you read for free! If you want to put the books to further user of any kind, or distirbute them, that’s when you have to check what is the extent of freedom you are granted with them.

O, free e-book, where art thou?

There are many sites that offer free or discounted e-books. Many of them are illegal. Many others are not worth your time.

We have sifted through the Internet, the Dark-web, the Milky way and your local folders, and compiled a list of grade A free e-book sites.

Public Domain

Listed here you will find sites that dedicate themselves to providing the highest quality, both with regards to the literary value and the electronic formatting, of books that are in the public domain.

  • Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg (PG) is described as: “a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works”, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”, and as such is a treasure trove of public domain books.
  • Project Gutenberg Australia: PG Australia is a sister site of PG. (Copyright in the US and Australia are not the same. This means that some books are available in Australia as public domain while still copyrighted in the US and vice-versa. Make sure you do not break your own country’s laws while downloading from either of them.)
  • Kindle Free Classics Here you will find a compilation of great literary classics from giants such as Dostoyevsky and Jane Austen. Perfectly free and perfectly formatted for your Kindle.
  • The Internet Archive and Open Library offer more than 6 million e-books. The Internet Archive also offers public domain videos, live music and audio.
  • Thousands of free e-books, neatly catalogued for easy searching.
  • FeedBooks:  Feedbooks is an ebook retailer that distributes millions of e-books to readers. (All books are not free here)
  • eBooks @ Adellaide: The University of Adelaide’s collection of public domain e-books (according to Australian copyright laws. Many books, including the recently releases George Orwell ones, may not be in pubic domain in US)

Creative Commons licensed e-books

  • Creative Commons Wiki’s Book Listing: Looking for contemporary fiction, poetry, computer science, you will probably find it here!
  • Pratham Books for Children  Pratham Books took the revolutionary step to publish books for children under a CC license. Have a look!

Promotional books

There are loads of promotional sites that will keep you updated about free or highly discounted e-books.

  • Bookbub: They offer you a free, daily email which features books that are free or discounted by at least 50%. You can customize the email by indicating what books, genres, etc. you are interested in.
  • Ereader News Today (ENT): They offer bargain and free books, especially for Kindle. They also offer a customizable daily email service.
  • Pixel of Ink: The section “Free Kindle Books” on Pixel of Ink includes limited time offers and often forgotten but popular classics.
  • The eReader Cafe: Authors and publishers list their books for free here for promotional purposes. This site also offers bargain e-books at $0.99.
  • Kindle top 100 free e-books list: Needs no explanation!
  • Kobo’s Free First in Series Collection: Here you get the first book of some series for free.
  • Early Review and Member Giveaways on Librarything is a social network around books and readers. They have an early reviewer program where publishers give away a few copies of new releases for publicity. Other times members, usually the author of the book, give their books away for the same reason. If you participate in these programmes and win a free book, the expectation is that you will write a review for them – on librarything website, as well as on other online retailers sites (e.g. Amazon). By the way, Goodreads, which is another social network around books and readers, also has a similar programme, but it is only for physical books. If you win, however, we don’t think you will complain

There is one more way to find free contemporary books. They are listed in all e-book stores. But remember, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all the others want to make money. This means they will not use a BIG BANNER to show you where the free books are. You will have to find them yourself. One trick that works well is to ask Amazon (or the people of Nook-land) to search for some term and then list the books according to price, from cheapest to most expensive.

Another thing you have to know is that the free e-books on Amazon and other sites are sometimes limited to the US for many different reasons. So, don’t be surprised if books listed on the sites above are not available to you. And don’t despair either. With so many sources around, you are not going to lack the free e-books to read. So, start looking for one right away!

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