As much as we all love books, something we definitely don’t all love is how expensive they can be. Luckily, the internet is full of sites where you can read free books. So many sites, in fact, that choosing one can get a little overwhelming. And even once you do pick a site, it’s not always clear how to find the book you’re looking for—or where to get ideas if you’re not sure which book you want.
Never fear! I’ve put together a list of great sites where you can read books without breaking the bank. I also included step-by-step instructions to help you find exactly the book you’re looking for on each site, as well as a few helpful tips. By the end, you should be an expert on how to read books online for free.
Even if you aren’t terribly familiar with free reading online, you’ve probably heard of Project Gutenberg. With an e-library of over 60,000 books, it’s one of the largest collections of free ebooks available. You’re not likely to find anything not in the public domain, though, so this is more of a site for older novels.
Here’s how you can track down a particular classic book:
1) Click “Menu” on the upper left and select “Search and Browse” from the dropdown menu
2) You can simply type the title into the Quick Search, or use the Advanced Search to help narrow down your results
3) The search results are sorted by popularity, so the book you want will likely be the first or second result
4) On the book’s page, you’ll have the option to read the book right there in your browser or download it
If you’re not sure what you want to read, the site’s Best Books Ever Listings (including books like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) may be able to help you decide.
- This is a better site to go in knowing what you want—otherwise the number of options available can be overwhelming
- The browser text can be tough to see, so I’d recommend downloading an EPUB or Kindle file instead
Fictionate.Me is a self-publishing platform for up-and-coming authors. This one does come with a caveat—it’s not completely free. Though you can read the first few chapters of each book for free, you will have to buy the book to read the whole thing. But the books cost very little (they are mostly priced at around $0.99), and you can enjoy knowing that any money you spend will go right in the author’s pocket.
Here’s how you can get started:
1) At the top of the screen, click “Genres”
3) Click on whichever genre or tag that strikes your fancy
4) You’ll be able to view a list of all the fantasy titles on the site, with “Trending” and “Consistent Writers” lists at the top
5) Click the covers to visit each book’s page, where you can see its description, how many likes it has received, and how many chapters you can read for free
This is definitely a place where you’ll get exposed to new and exciting stories that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, Assassin’s Choice by Al Nelson was one of the winners of the site’s May Writer Competition.
- You don’t have to create an account on Fictionate.Me to read, but if you do the site will save your place in each book
- The site’s blog includes plenty of articles for book-lovers, and some writing advice as well
Open Library has all the perks of your friendly neighborhood library, only with a much bigger selection and without having to actually go to a library. You can read some of Open Library’s books right in your browser, but with other ebooks, you borrow them the same way you would from any other library.
Here’s how you can track down a particular book:
1) Search for the title you’re looking for in the search bar on the upper right
2) Look for the book you want in the list of results to see if it’s available—if it is, there will be a blue button with the word “Borrow” next to it
3) Click “Borrow”
4) Now you’ll see a virtual version of the book that you can flip through
5) If you want to borrow the book for longer than an hour, click “Borrow for 14 days” at the top
You can borrow a wide range of books from Open Library, including more contemporary fantasy works like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling and Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
- You need to create an account to borrow books from Open Library
- Use the filters on the right-hand side to make sure the search results are in the format and language you’re looking for
Though you may have utilized Google Books as a research tool for school papers in the past, you may not have realized that you can use the tool to read entire novels for free. Like Project Gutenberg, Google Books is generally only able to make books in the public domain fully available.
Here’s how you can track down a particular book:
1) Search for the title of the book you want
2) At the top of the search results, click on “Any view” and select “Full view” from the dropdown menu
3) Click the title of the book you’re searching for (which will likely be the first one) and the pages of the book will show up right in your browser
While you won’t be able to read the entirety of any contemporary novels on Google Books, you will often be able to read a preview. Just switch your search settings from “Full view” to “Preview and Full view” and search for the contemporary book you want to see if there’s a preview. Then you’ll be able to read a sizable sample which should help you decide if it’s worth shelling out the money to buy it.
- Once you’ve found a book to read, click “Clear Search” on the upper right so every word in your original search query won’t be highlighted throughout the entire book
- If you read a preview but don’t want to buy the book, each book’s page has a list of nearby libraries where the ebook is available to borrow
Author’s Bio: Jillian Karger was born in Ohio but has lived in and around New York City for over a decade. Since graduating from NYU in 2009, Jill has had a long string of jobs doing things like scouting books to be adapted for film and researching trivia questions for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
She has done freelance writing as well for sites like Cracked.com, and had her Twitter jokes featured on BuzzFeed and funnyordie.com. Jill has also self-published two novels on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jillian-Karger/e/B07B894DNW).
Follow her blog posts about books and writing advice, read books and publish them for free at: https://www.fictionate.me.