How to Find Free E-books for Your E-reader Online

Is your e-reader running on empty? You may love your new Nook or Kindle, but building an e-book library can be costly. The good news is there’s plenty of free e-reading online, but you have to know where to look. Though libraries are becoming the best sources of free, newer e-books from major publishers (learn more), you can also find lots of new, classic, and unusual titles for the taking at a variety of sites.

The following list of e-book sites was compiled by the Library’s e-reading expert Ann Dreiling. These sites offer downloadable e-books that do not violate copyright laws and, in most cases, are free.

Free Downloadable E-books Sites

Digital Book Index
One of the most comprehensive sources for free, downloadable and web-based e-books, DBI acts as an e-book-site search engine, dredging up links to more than 165,000 full-text e-books. Rather than downloading directly from this site, you’ll be directed to another site where you can get the e-book. Tip: After searching for the title you want, click on the “Format” link to get the file or online text.

Project Gutenberg
If you’ve ever looked for a free classic online, you’ve probably encountered Project Gutenberg. Founded in 1971 by a computer programmer named Michael Hart, this volunteer-supported site is the largest single source of downloadable e-books. Many of the titles are works of Western Literature in the public domain. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, has been downloaded 27,510 times.

The Kansas City Public Library also offers direct access to 15,000+ Gutenberg titles in EPUB format – no checkout limits, no expiration. They’re yours to keep.

Open Library
A project of those dogged archivists behind and the Wayback Machine, this site aims to create “a web page for every book.” In simple terms, it’s the Wikipedia of books, a catalog of informational entries about books created by users, with links to places where you can download the e-books for free, usually through a public library or Tip: Check the “only show ebooks” box when searching.

Google Books & Ebookstore
Launched late last year, Google’s online e-bookstore lets you preview books for sale and download lots of free public domain e-books. Search for any book in the Google Books database (which also lets you search within the text of millions of books) and refine by selecting “Free Google eBooks” in the left-hand menu. Or search the eBookstore and select “Price: Free only.” You’ll have to get a Google account, but you’ll be able to save your downloaded e-books on Google’s server and access them from any computer.
This clean, easy-to-navigate site contains more than 29,000 free downloadable e-books in multiple formats. Most of the books are public-domain texts culled from Project Gutenberg, but’s proprietor, Matthew McClintock, is adding more all the time (follow his updates on Twitter). For more recent e-books, browse the Post-1930 category. The site also features user ratings and recommendations.
In this eye-catching, user-friendly repository of current and older books, you’ll find self-published e-books on modern subjects -- like How to Make Money on eBay and 21st Century Time Management for Busy Managers – rubbing virtual covers with classic works by the likes of Darwin, Twain, and Rousseau. Users of this site may also publish reviews and “like” and “dislike” books.

The good doctor who runs this site provides a massive list of free e-book libraries. You can’t download from here, and it’s not search-friendly, but it’s a good jumping-off point for browsing the world of free e-books.

Publisher Sites Featuring Free E-books

Harlequin – Romance
Baen – Science Fiction

Pay Sites Worth Checking Out

Powell’s Books
– Portland’s famed bookseller now offers e-books.
Munsey’s -- A great source for rare and hard-to-find items, particularly pulp fiction, with many items for free and some for as cheap as $1.
FictionWise – Owned by Barnes & Noble.
EbookMall – One of the largest e-book retailers.
Wowio – A pay site that offers some free graphic novels.
FeedBooks – A pay site with links to some free books by new authors as well as some high-quality public domain e-books.

Do you know of any great free or pay e-book sites? What did we leave off the list? Tell us in the comments!

Further reading: How to Download E-books from the Library for Your Home Computer and E-reader

-- Jason Harper