Books are great. For a relatively tiny fee you can learn fascinating new things, travel to distant lands or explore the lives of people (both real and fictional) from the comfort of your sofa. In these days of Covid, this has become even more of a boon for many people who are unable or simply prefer not to venture outside too much. But even inexpensive products can mount up over time, so here’s a few different ways to save the pennies while still enjoying some great stories.

Read free online books from the library

Traditionally, the first place you’d go if you want free books is the library. Well, the same is true with digital editions as most libraries now have apps that allow you to borrow titles for a set amount of time and read them on your iPad, smartphone or other device.

In the UK the majority of libraries we’ve encountered have offered their eBooks via the Borrowbox app that’s available for Android, iOS, iPadOS and FireOS. But check your local library to see which app you need to download, as they do vary across the country and in other parts of the world. The one thing that’s universal is that you’ll have to have an active library card, which you can always set up for free.

How to get free books online: Borrowbox

With the Borrowbox (or equivalent) app installed, you’ll just need to enter your library card number, select the books you want to borrow, then they will be download to the app for you to read. There are often audiobooks available too, so be sure to enquire about those.

Enjoy free classic books from the Project Guttenberg library

If classics are more your thing, then there is a wealth of free titles available from the Project Guttenberg library, over 60,000 in fact. There are no fees, accounts to create or special apps required. If you already have an eReader then you’ll be able to download the files and enjoy them without any time restrictions or tracking.

Project Guttenberg offers books in plain text or HTML files, alongside ePub and Mobi formats, so they will work on pretty much any PC, smartphone or tablet. The organisation has helpful guides to how to read the books on mobile devices, so if you fancy catching up on your Jules Verne, H.G.Well or Jane Austen then this is the site to visit.

Amazon Prime members get free books with Prime Reading

Those who already have an Amazon Prime account will be pleased to know that as part of the package they have access to many free books through the Prime Reading service. Over a thousand novels, magazines, comics and short stories are available, with the selection regularly updated with new additions.

To see which ones are on offer, either go to the Prime Reading page or look for ones marked as Kindle Edition Prime and costing £0.00/$0.00. Like with library books, you can keep the items on your Kindle until they leave the catalogue.

How to get free books online: Amazon Prime Reading

If you enjoy Prime Reading but want a much larger selection of title, you can always move up to a Kindle Unlimited subscription which offers over a million books, thousands of audiobooks and a selection of magazines for £7.99/$9.99 per month.

Look for free and cheap books on eBook stores

eBook sites like Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Google Play Books all run regular promotions that have titles heavily discounted titles (often to £0.99/$0.99) for a day or so, plus older titles can sometimes be grabbed for free. The best thing to do is sign up for the newletters they provide, as these often contain links to the books on sale, so you’ll never miss the best deals.

Get free audiobooks

It’s not just eBooks that have promotions and free titles available. If you like audiobooks (we’re huge fans) then you can take the one-month trials offered by Audible or Kobo which allow you to choose one title for free. The best part is you can cancel at any time in the trial period and still get to keep the audiobook. Then, should you find you’re partial to the spoken word, you can always continue your monthly subscription for £7.99/$14.95 (Audible) or £6.99/$9.99 (Kobo).

How to get free books online: Kobo Audiobooks

Alternatively, you can make use of the excellent Librivox service that provides free audiobooks of public domain titles.

Of course, to enjoy digital books properly, you’ll want to ditch your smartphone and move onto a more specialist device. So, be sure to read our guide to the best eBook readers to ensure you get the most from your literary adventures.