Where can you find things to read for free (or cheap)?

Linda’s been looking for places to get electronic books.  And she got lots of great ideas in the comments.  This post sparked a question– where can you get things to read if you don’t have a whole lot of money.

By Foot

First, of course, is your local library, obviously.  Similarly, if you live near a university, you may be able to use their library as well (university libraries also have fiction!), though rules may vary.  And there may be libraries outside your community that allow outsiders library access (apparently the SF library does this!).  If your library belongs to a consortium, it may be free for them to get books from other libraries in the consortium delivered to you, sort of like a small interlibrary loan.  Interlibrary loan itself is, of course, an option as well.

You can also look for find little free libraries in your area– these usually look like little birdhouses on sticks, but they’re filled with books.  They’re super-cute and usually full of a combination of best-sellers and genre stuff from like the 70s (at least that’s what it seems like in my experience, YMMV). (here’s a map!)

Similarly, you could like, make friends and borrow stuff from them.

On the Internets

    Free (if you have internet access, which you can generally get at your local library because libraries are AWESOME)

Project Gutenberg has all sorts of electronic stuff whose copyright has expired.  If you have a kindle, you can download these titles via amazon by searching for free stuff via kindle.  Also amazon has free stuff of varying quality that isn’t from Project Gutenberg.  Bookbub can also hook you up with free books.

If you have a kindle, your friends with kindles can (for free) loan you many of titles that they have purchased.

You can read unpublished YA romance novels for free on swoonreads.com

here’s some fiction from Tor  ooh, look at this one

the internet is full of fanfic to read for free, some of it better than others

longform.org is a podcast with good recommendations

Here’s more sites where you can read stuff for free online

     Not quite free

Amazon Prime lets you borrow a book for free each month, if you have amazon prime

kindle unlimited is a for pay subscription service, as is scribd.

Audible has a free trial for audio books, but you can also pay for their service on a regular basis.

Grumpy Nation, what did we miss?  Where do you get reading material for free or almost free?

24 Responses to “Where can you find things to read for free (or cheap)?”

  1. Leah Says:

    ibooks (on the iphone, appropriately) also has Project Gutenberg books. I’ve got a few downloaded on my phone for those times when I get stuck in inordinately long lines or, say, my toddler falls asleep on me but I have my phone. I downloaded books I love so that it’s okay if I start and stop (My Antonia, Alice in Wonderland, etc). Anyway, just another plug for them — I’ve gotten a lot of quality reads on there.

  2. Katherine Says:

    I get a lot of books from my local public library and my university library (which is my first choice, since I’m on campus every day and I can keep them as long as I want). I also borrow ebooks on my kindle from my local public library and the public library in the town where I grew up. Once I had the local public library borrow a book from me from another public library on the other side of the state, and that worked pretty well, although the loan period was only 2 weeks and I couldn’t renew it.

    Thanks for the little free libraries link! I saw one of those in my father’s neighborhood when I was visiting him over Christmas, and it looked very cool. According to the link, there is one in my neighborhood, too!

  3. mimi Says:

    There is also a blog/daily update called “Free Book Shifter” – they go through several major sites and look for free books, including Amazon.

  4. middle_class Says:

    You can pretty much get anything through your local library. I belong to two because it gives me a wider variety of books, movies, etc.. The great thing is that many libraries allow you to do inter-library loans where they send a book within their library network to your branch. I take advantage of this all the time.

  5. notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

    I get reading-for-fun books through the local library & put them in a different reader (Bluefire, which works great) so that I won’t confuse them with books for work I’ve downloaded to Kindle. Thanks for the Little Free Libraries link! There is one that I pass every day while walking.

  6. Cheyanne Says:

    I use Overdrive to download ebooks through my library

    • ivy Says:

      I love this facility so much! Finish one book and barely even have to move to get something else!

      (what’s even worse – I’m using a library in a city I moved away from three and a half years ago. Their selection is so much better than the library in the city I live now…)

      • Linda Says:

        That’s the rub about library e-book apps. If they have poor selections or long waiting lists, then the convenience factor is very low.

  7. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I buy books at the local used bookstore and at the Friends of the Library public sales. There are lots of little free libraries in my town (most not on the maps), but I’ve never borrowed anything from one of them—not much I’m interested in.

    There are a lot of self-publishing companies like LeanPub that have fairly low prices (and almost all of it goes to the author, unlike Amazon).

    Disclaimer: I’m working on a textbook through LeanPub: https://leanpub.com/applied_electronics_for_bioengineers

  8. Jenna L at Hello Suckers Says:

    A great masterpost!
    I love reading free eBooks on my Kindle – there’s some real hidden gems that don’t cost a thing.

  9. J Liedl Says:

    I belong to Netgalley which makes advance reader copies of books in various genres. Because I review frequently on Goodreads, I’m offered a chance to read prepublication copies of all sorts of titles of interest.

  10. Solitary Diner Says:

    Thrift stores can also have a great selection of inexpensive books.

  11. Linda Says:

    I need to add some updates about those options I explored in response to comments. Getting my San Francisco Public Library card has really expanded my options. Now I not only have two public libraries I can access through Overdrive, SFPL also uses an e-lending service called Axis360.

    Within minutes of getting my SFPL card I was checking the Overdrive catalog for a book I wanted. Unfortunately my local library didn’t license it, and while SFPL did, there were no copies available through Overdrive. BUT I checked Axis360 and the book was available through that service. Woot! I don’t like the reading features of the app as much as downloading the book through Overdrive and reading it in my Kindle app, but it’s acceptable.

    BTW, the Amazon Prime free lending only works on Kindle reading devices. Those of us who use other the Kindle app on other devices can’t borrow anything for free. http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/forums/kindleqna%3FcdForum%3DFx1GLDPZMNR1X53%26cdThread%3DTx17NMCEBV31H5P

  12. fizzchick Says:

    grumble grumble hpmor is soaking up my free time. But thanks!

  13. Steph Says:

    I’m a day late, but if you’re looking for audiobooks, then Libri Vox (https://librivox.org) is a good source for public domain books. They’re all read by volunteers, so it’s kind of hit or miss (look for “solo” readers, rather than “collaborative”) but any reasonably popular book will probably have a good version or two on there. They also have an app (which I haven’t tried) and the books are available in iTunes as podcasts, in addition to direct downloads.

  14. Revanche Says:

    I dug into a bunch of books at the Baen Free Library: http://www.baen.com, select “Read Baen” from the top menu and then pick “Free Library.”

  15. Meaghan Says:

    My library system just started using the Axis 360 app and it is pretty convenient, though the selection is more limited.

    I also just started checking out BookBub and they do some sort of deal with publishers to offer books at $1.99 or under, even free. Some of them are big name authors too, Augusten Burroughs had a book up recently. You can browse or get a daily email tailored to your reading preferences. Not free, but inexpensive.

  16. Listening to books – Windycitygal Says:

    […] asking for ideas on reading sources. (Also see the related posts from Grumpy Rumblings here and here, which provided some more valuable […]


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