Bookworms, celebrate! You casual readers, too! Technology makes many things in our modern world easier and more accessible – including the ability to read anywhere at any time, even if we don’t want to carry around a physical book. Thanks to the Internet and apps like Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, and OverDrive, you can read books online from your computer or mobile devices – some traditionally purchased, some totally free books, and some even borrowed from your local library.
Let’s look at some great websites and apps that let you read entire books online — for less than what you’d spend buying paper copies.
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1. Amazon Kindle
I bet that when many of us think of ebooks today, the first word to come to mind is “Kindle.” Amazon has dominated the eReader market since they debuted the Kindle in 2007. Twelve years later, they’re still the best on the market – and now they’re even waterproof.
Here’s something that’s even better: you don’t need a Kindle device to read ebooks purchased from Amazon! You can simply download the free Kindle app on your mobile device, tablet, laptop, or desktop and read anything you purchase via their app. It comes with features that let you tweak the appearance of the book you’re reading from font size and type to screen color.
Once you have access to the Kindle reading app, the number of books available to you might as well be endless. You can take advantage of Amazon’s frequent deep discounts on ebooks (often between $0.99-$2.99, even on popular titles), free ebooks when authors are doing promotions, or join Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 a month (after a 30-day free trial). Kindle Unlimited gives you access to the Kindle Unlimited Library, which features over one million ebooks and thousands of audiobooks.
Speaking of audiobooks, Audible is one of the biggest names in audiobooks – they’ve been around since 1995 and were acquired by Amazon in 2008 – and have been extensively integrated with Amazon’s book sales system. If you’ve purchased an ebook from Amazon recently, you’ll notice an Audible audiobook link included under the purchase button and on the purchased screen, inviting you to pick up the audiobook as an add-on at a discount. If you enjoy both reading and listening, it can be a great deal to grab both at the same time.
When you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you’ll get access to thousands of audiobooks as well – but you can also subscribe directly to Audible for $14.95 per month. Each month, you get one credit to spend on any book. You also get a members-only 30% discount on additional audiobooks. They have a generous exchange policy, and you keep the audiobooks you’ve picked up if you cancel your membership. They also tend to give away a free book to start along with their 30-day free trial, so it’s an easy decision to check them out.
Did you know that you can support your local library and get access to ebooks from home? Thanks to OverDrive, you can. OverDrive is a free service and app – you can download it to your mobile device, and sign in using directions from your local library to access both ebooks and audiobooks. Then you check those books out, just like when you go into the library – which means there might also be waits due to the book being checked out already.
Once you check an ebook out in OverDrive, you can read it in your browser directly from OverDrive or you can download it as an EPUB file, which can be read by various programs – your mobile phone can probably open EPUB files, as can the Barnes & Noble Nook eReader or Apple’s iBooks. If you live in the United States, you can have OverDrive send you a Kindle file – you read your book as normal on your Kindle, and then they’ll remove access to the book once it’s time for you to “return” the eBook to your library.
For audioBooks, you can listen to them through your browser on OverDrive or you can download them in MP3 format on your OverDrive app.
4. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library in existence – it’s been around since 1971, which makes it nearly 50 years old! It also offers visitors access to over 57,000 free ebooks in a variety of formats – you can read directly through your browser or download EPUB and Kindle versions to read on your eReader or mobile devices. Since they are digitally preserving books, you can even get versions of these ebooks with or without any original illustrations included in the books.
This library is a great resource if you’re interested in reading any of the classics of English literature. All of the books they preserve are out of copyright, so you’ll find everything from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to The Picture of Dorian Gray to Moby Dick available there. They’re adding new titles all the time as they continue to grow their collection and more books enter the public domain.
If you like independent publishing, you’ve probably heard of Smashwords. They’ve been around for 10 years (since 2008), providing independent authors with convenient tools to distribute their books to various retailers. If you’re an author, Smashwords is free to use and can help you get your ebook on Barnes and Noble, Apple’s iBooks, OverDrive, and more.
If you’re a reader, Smashwords is a great place to find independently published ebooks in any genre and on any topic, from “Adventure” to “Young Adult” in Fiction and “Antiques & Collectibles” to “Weddings” in Nonfiction. They also have categories for essays, plays, screenplays, and poetry. You’ll find books available at every price point as well, with many being very affordably priced under $5. Most books are offered in a number of formats, letting you read online or empowering you to download your ebook to your chosen app or device. They even have tens of thousands of free titles available as well!
6. Google Books
Google is good at everything else – why not in helping you read books online, too? The centerpiece of Google Books is their search feature – just like with regular Google search, you can enter any search term that you might be interested in reading about. Google Books will then search the full text of millions of books and magazines that it has scanned into its digital library. (Within the last few years, the number of books in their digital library numbered over 25 million titles.) When it finds matches, it’ll give you a list of books that relate to your search.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to read the book for free, however. If the book is copyrighted, you’ll instead be given links to look through a preview (if Google has permission to share a preview) and to purchase the book through Google Play. If you have Google’s Play Books app on your mobile device, you’ll be able to access any purchased books in your library from there. You may also be given a link to borrow it from OverDrive by Google Books. If the book is in the public domain, you’ll have the opportunity to download the full text as a PDF.
Scribd is a subscription service for books and audiobooks that also provides a platform for people to publish their work. You’ll find traditionally published book titles here alongside self-published ebooks and documents. There are also audiobooks, news, and magazines available as well.
You can only access Scribd’s content through Scribd – that means that you must read or listen through their site, or through their app for iPad, iPhone, Android, or Kindle Fire. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can still read or listen to items that you previously downloaded through the Scribd app.
Since introducing their unlimited reading model (meaning you can read anything on Scribd with your paid membership), they’ve basically become a Netflix-type site. They even have rotating content. Access to their library is currently $8.99 per month, and they offer a 30-day read free trial so you can check out their library before your paid membership starts.
If you love being social about the stories you read, Wattpad offers a vibrant community that’s free to join! They’re an independent publishing platform that’s been around since 2006, and any of their registered users – whether professional writer or amateur – can publish their stories there in any genre. You’ll find work from authors as varied as popular young adult author Marissa Meyer to literary great Margaret Atwood.
You can read for free on Wattpad through your browser or by using their app on your mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). The social fun comes in through their inline commenting system – you can type your thoughts and reactions into their platform as you read, and see what other people are saying about the same books and moments. You can interact with the author this way, as well! Both Wattpad and the writers who publish their work on the Wattpad platform can make money from ads, sponsored content, and referral links – the service is always free for readers.
9. Open Library
The Internet Archive’s vision for the world is for “universal access to all knowledge,” and one component of that vision is their Open Library – a robust website continuously growing toward having a page for every book ever published. You can discover all sorts of details about millions of books here, from where they were originally published to where you can purchase copies today. As a database of bibliographical information, it’s great, but it gets even better when you factor in public domain books and digital lending.
Besides providing links for you to easily purchase any given book or find it at your local library, they also offer ebooks for out-of-print and out-of-copyright books right on their website. You can read scanned-in books via their in-browser reading tool or by download for the visually impaired and others who cannot read regular printed media. These downloads are in DAISY format, which is an audiobook format with embedded navigation commands.
When an ebook is being ready by someone, it’s marked as “on loan” on its Open Library page and can only be checked out once that person chooses to return the book (or until their loan period is up after two weeks). You can join a waitlist if you’ve registered and the book is currently checked out.
10. Internet Archive
The utility of the Internet Archive as a place to read books online isn’t limited to their Open Library – you can also access books from an incredible number of university libraries and read them right through your browser from the Internet Archive’s website.
In addition to 17 million books, you’ll also have access to 4.4 million video files, 4.5 million audio files, and more besides – including television, software, and images. You don’t even have to sign up for access to these ebooks and other files! You’ll virtually never run out of free content when exploring the Internet Archive.
Now that you know where to read books online, do you know what you’re going to read next? I have some great suggestions for my readers looking to begin their work-from-home journey or level up their remote careers!
- Make Money As A Freelance Writer: 7 Simple Steps to Start Your Freelance Writing Business and Earn Your First $1000 is a well-reviewed manual for how to turn your casual writing into a part- or full-time career. This book by Gina Horkey and Sally Miller can be read quickly and is included in your Kindle Unlimited subscription.
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber is a worthwhile read for anyone starting their own business who needs some guidance – you can purchase it from most major ebook retailers or borrow it for free from the Internet Archive.
- From Mopping Floors to Making Millions on Instagram: 5 Steps to Building an Online Brand by Ronne Brown gives a real-world narrative in support of its guide on how to successfully build your brand online – you can pick this ebook up on Smashwords and all other major retailers.
- Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom by Tricia Goyer is for those of you stay-at-home moms struggling to balance your career with family responsibilities. It appears to be exclusive to Amazon Kindle, but it’s also a part of Kindle Unlimited.
- Jump-Start Your Work at Home General Transcription Career: The Fast and Easy Way to Get Started! by Lisa Mills is also exclusive to Amazon Kindle, but it’s moderately priced at $5.99 and well-reviewed as a general guide to getting set up for a career in transcription.
These recommendations should get you started.