Let’s all take a big deep breath and, for one minute, talk about the elephant in the room: buying new books can be expensive. Especially if you’re a book nerd balling on a budget. It doesn’t help that every week, brand new books come out that everyone is yelling about, telling you that you need to read them right now! What’s even harder is that most new releases come out as a hardcover first—so, please, can we stop and talk about how expensive hardcover books are?
They might look beautiful on the bookcase, but that price tag isn’t so pretty.
So what’s a book nerd to do? We did some research and discovered some awesome ways you can legally read for free online while still supporting the authors you love so very much (which is super important because writing books doesn’t always translate to the big bucks, but that’s a topic for another time). Keep on scrolling to check out our favorite resources for reading books for free online while still supporting authors so they can continue writing stories worth obsessing over!
How to Read Free Books Online
1. Join the Epic Reads Insiders
Let’s start out by looking at what we do to bring you free books online! First off, if you’re a super passionate YA reader, consider joining our panel of Epic Reads Insiders. If you want to shape the community and publishing sphere as a whole, this is the spot for you. We send out surveys and newsletters every now and then, and members have swayed decisions on everything from cover designs to the types of books being published.
If that wasn’t an amazing perk all by itself, when you’re a member, you also have a chance to get free e-books! When you join the Epic Reads Insiders, you’ll be invited to participate in some of those surveys based on your interests. Afterwards, you can download some of the best YA straight to your device!
2. Sign up for the Epic Reads First5
If Epic Reads Insider isn’t enough, or you’re just looking to get a taste of the newest books on the market, you can also take advantage of the Epic Reads FIRST5. FIRST5 is an e-mail newsletter sent every weekday that gives you something new to read! You get the first five chapters(-ish) of a new book every week, with the choice to continue reading or buy directly once the week is done. Selections are usually made around anticipated new releases, Team Epic Reads’ favorites, or reader picks! Each week features a new book and five free chapters delivered directly to your inbox. With this awesome service, you get a chance to check out something new every week.
3. Google Books
Google has already conquered the search engine world. Now it’s taking on the online book universe with a huge collection of books scanned into digital files. Searching for selections on Google Books is much like searching for cat videos online. Once you’re on the Google Books website, use the search box to discover books by author name or title. Just remember that not every book is available for free. If you only want free content, you need to make sure you change your search parameters from “Any Books” to “Free Google eBooks.”
4. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg was founded in 1971, which makes it the absolute classic of online e-book collections. The goal of Project Gutenberg is to make it even easier to create and distribute e-books for people to read. Right now you can find over 57,000 titles online that are free and legal to access! Project Gutenberg also offers a great selection of e-book formats, including different e-readers and an HTML file. With so many options available, you’re sure to find one that works for you.
Obviously you know you can head to your local library for books, but did you know your library also has thousands of e-books available? That’s awesome, but what if we told you it’s possible to borrow these e-books for free, right this second, and using the device that’s probably in your hand as we speak? It’s all possible thanks to your library card and an amazing book app called Libby. All you have to do is sign in with your library card, and then find the book you want in just a few taps.
6. Open Library
The goal of Open Library is to create a web page for every book published. The site says that it currently has a massive 6 million authors and 20 million books available in digital format. When you’re on Open Library, you can browse by subject, such as young adult, recipes, children, fantasy, and history. You can also search by title, author, subject, or text. Once you find what you’re looking for, you can immediately know whether you’re able to read it for free online by looking for the “Read” icon next to the title.
7. Internet Archive
Founded in 1996, Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization that offers free access to e-books and other digital files, including videos, images, and audio files. The catalog currently has over 6 million free e-books and other text files. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can use the search box and then sort the results by date added to the catalog, rating, relevance, or download count. Internet Archive also categorizes its content into genres, which makes it easy to find a new book even if you’re sure what you want to read next.
If you’re not ready to settle down and commit to one genre, Smashwords is the resource for you. Not only does Smashwords have an impressive selection of e-books from independent authors and publishers, but it also offers an excellent number of titles from different genres, including fiction, young adult, classics, biographies, romance, poetry, and more. While the website currently has over 500,000 books available, it’s important to note that not all titles are free. To only view the free books, you have to click the “Free” tab before you search for books.
Just like Libby above, all you need is a library card to link your account up to OverDrive! This app is a way for you to download e-books and audiobooks directly from your local library, and it includes automatic checkouts for holds and time limits that you can always request to extend. And even if you can’t make it to the library to sign up for a card yet, most libraries will offer you a free temporary one that you can activate online!
While Blurb focuses more on helping self-publishers get their pieces out there, you can still find a good selection of e-books available to read for free on its website. To find these books, you need to enter Blurb’s bookstore. From there, you can find titles that were just published, best sellers, or staff picks. You can also browse books by category or use the search feature. Once you find a book, click on the cover to see if you can preview it. Often, authors will allow the book’s entire content to go up on preview, which means you just scored an entire book you can read for free.
Wattpad is a resource that connects writers and readers on one platform. If you’re simply interested in reading some free stories online, you can head to the Discover section of the website to browse by category. You can also get recommendations using Wattpad Picks or using the search feature to browse by keyword. Once you find a story, you can take it with you wherever you go thanks to the app, which is available for mobile phones and tablets. Be ready to find some gems—bestsellers like After by Anna Todd started on Wattpad!
Oh, and bonus? If the great books you find on Wattpad inspire your creativity, you can even start writing your own story!
If a clean and streamlined interface is important to you, you’ll appreciate everything about Bookish! Once you sign up, you can read excerpts of upcoming releases and enter to win the full book later. All you have to do is leave a review, and you’re in the running!
ManyBooks lives up to its name with over 50,000 free e-books available for download. Although the site tends to focus on classic titles, you’ll still find a great selection of contemporary YA titles waiting for you to discover. All the books on ManyBooks are free, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with the disappointment of finding a great book only to learn it’s one you have to pay to read.
When you’re ready to find your next book to read, you can use one of these excellent resources to discover great e-books to read online. Not only can you find some fresh picks, but they’re also completely legal to use. Which resource is your favorite to use? Let us know in the comments below!