Enjoy free e-books, no e-reader required

You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy the wealth of free e-book downloads available online.

Brian Snyder/Reuters/File
A commuter reads on his Kindle e-reader as a subway train arrives in Cambridge, Mass. in this 2011 file photo. You don't need an e-reader like the Kindle to take advantage of the glut of free e-books available online.

Every week I round up freebies for our deals posts. In the process, I’ve noticed there seems to be an almost endless supply of free e-books available online.

It’s almost enough to make me wish I had an e-reader. That is, until I learned I didn’t need to spend a couple hundred bucks to enjoy the Internet’s wealth of free e-book downloads.

E-reader manufacturers, as well as independent software companies, offer free reading apps that you can download onto your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. In other words, you could turn your phone or computer into an e-reader without spending a dime. Plus, that means one less electronic device to carry around and risk losing.

Of course, e-readers still have their advantages. Their screens are bigger than most phones, and they’re more portable than most computers. But what’s free is free. And even if you already own an e-reader, you can still add a free reading app to your phone and computer. The free reading apps for Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader will sync your e-book collection so you can access it from multiple devices…

E-reader alternatives

Kindle offers free downloadable reading apps for smartphones (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry); tablets (iPad, Android); laptops, desktops, and netbooks (Mac, PC); and MP3 players (iPod touch). Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has criticized Kindle because it’s not compatible with library books, but I find Kindle offers a bigger selection of free e-books than the other brands of e-readers. And since most reading apps are free, there’s nothing stopping you from downloading Kindle’s reading app and one of the others.

Nook offers free downloadable reading apps for smartphones (iPhone, Android); tablets (iPad, Android); and laptops, desktops, and netbooks (Mac, PC).

Sony Reader offers free downloadable reading apps for smartphones (Android), tablets (Android), and laptops, desktops, and netbooks (Mac, PC). Yes, iPhone and iPad owners, you read that right: Sony Reader’s app is only available for Mac computers.

Other options: Do a Web search for whatever device you want to double as an e-reader (“free e-reader apps for Android,” for example) to learn your options. If you own an iPhone or iPad, you probably already know that Apple’s free iBooks is one. Google Play is Android’s equivalent. Kobo is another free reading app for phones – iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. It’s known for its collection of one million free e-books.

If you prefer to read on your computer, check out Adobe’s Digital Editions, a free downloadable software program.

Where to find free e-books

Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader offer free e-books on their websites.

Other options:

  • eReader.com‘s “FREE eBooks” page (eReader.com is the website of a Barnes & Noble-owned e-book publisher)
  • Google Play’s “Top Free in Books” page
  • Kobo’s “FREE eBooks” page
  • Money Talks News’ Freebies page
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Sesame Street’s “FREE eBooks OF THE WEEK” page
  • The University of Chicago Press’ free e-book of the month
  • Your library’s website

What’s your favorite site for downloading free e-books?

Karla Bowsher runs the deals page at Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.

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