If you own a Kindle ebook reader or have the Kindle app on your phone or tablet, you’re probably already enjoying a wealth of books that you've downloaded to your device. Although many Kindle books cost less to buy than their print counterparts, shelling out even a pound or two for each book can add up over time if you're a voracious reader.
However, there’s a vast collection for Kindle books available for free – so many, in fact, that you can go for years without paying for a book to read on your Kindle device, especially if you like the classics.
Related: How to download and read ebooks
Why are some ebooks free?
It's not hard to find free Kindle books that are completely legal to download and read. Most fall into the public domain because the author’s copyright has expired. This means anybody can do whatever they want with the content, including republishing it and giving it away for free, without having to ask permission or pay royalties to a copyright holder.
As well as classics you can also find modern books for free. Many self-published authors and small publishers give away their books as a promotional tool, for example an older book might be released for free to promote a new book from the same author and they hope you'll enjoy your free one so much you will go on to purchase other books, or tell your friends, or even just give them a positive review. Check Amazon's list of the 100 most popular free books to get started, and if you devour a specific genre, such as historical romance, science fiction, horror or crime thrillers you'll find these books being promoted directly to communities on sites like Facebook, Good Reads and Reddit.
You may also find review copies of established authors are sometimes available for free for a limited time.
Other non-fiction items may be freebies from faith-based organisations and other companies.
Where can I download free Kindle books?
The Amazon store itself no longer offers the free ebooks it used to, presumably as a way of getting people to sign up to Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading which will give you access to a library of new and old books for a set subscription price. The public domain classics are now offered at a low price, and you can often pick up entire back catalogues or authors for just a pound or two, but look elsewhere and you can still legally download these public domain books in Kindle formats.
The pioneer of free ebooks, Project Gutenberg boasts more than 60,000 free ebooks. These are available as ePub, Kindle, HTML and basic text documents, so can be read on any ebook reader or tablet. On the Project Gutenberg website you can can search for ebooks by author and title, and browse through a wide range of categories including novels, poetry, non-fiction and reference books.
Several other websites offer free ebooks in the Kindle format. These include Internet Archive, Feedbooks and ManyBooks.
What classic books are free for Kindle?
There’s a myriad of free Kindle ebooks available, many of which are beloved classics including:
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- The War of the Worlds by H G Wells
- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
- The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Man in The Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
- The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
- The Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn
- Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott
- Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Not sure what you're after? Browse Project Guttenberg's list of the 100 most popular free ebooks to get some ideas.
Borrowing ebooks from your local library
One way of getting a huge amount of choice without the restrictions of classics or promotional free books is to utilise your local library. Libraries across the UK are participating with OverDrive's Libby app, which allows you to temporarily download ebooks using your library registration details. You will need to check with your local library to make sure they are participating and what their Libby address is, and you will probably have restrictions on how many you can borrow at a time, but it's a great way to support your local library and get access to hundreds of new books for free.
Find out more about the best apps available for book fans.
Amazon Prime Reading
While not technically free, you might already have access to Prime Reading without even realising it, as it isn't a service Amazon seems to shout about. If you have a Prime membership, which gives you access to fast delivery options and Amazon Prime film and TV streaming, you should also be able to access Prime Reading. While the choice isn't going to be as vast as Kindle Unlimited (see below) there are a few thousand books and magazines to choose from so it's definitely worth a look.
If you're a Prime member, simply open your Kindle app and go to the home page. Scroll down past the recommendations and new releases and you'll see 'Prime Reading: new and notable in Prime Reading' with a 'see all' link. you can also browse by going to the Amazon shopping app (or website) and navigating to Books> Prime Reading, however you won't be able to see what is available without having a Prime account. At time of writing, books included in Prime Reading include a mix of classic and new books split into categories for Mystery & Thrillers, Romance, Science Fiction, Non-fiction and more. Authors include JK Rowling, Cecilia Ahern, Michelle Paver, JM Dalgliesh and many more.
Amazon First Reads
Amazon First Reads is an early access book service available to Prime customers. Each month a selection of brand new books will be available to choose from as either a free ebook or a low-cost hard copy. You'll be limited to one free book a month from this selection, although you can purchase additional hard copies. You can choose from the selection conveniently organised by genre and once you have it it's yours to keep. First Reads is a way to encourage avid readers to try brand new books and hopefully review them.
Once the books are available to purchase they will also be available to read through Kindle Unlimited.
Is Kindle Unlimited worth it?
Kindle Unlimited is not free, it currently costs £7.99 a month, so whether it is worth it or not does entirely depend on your reading habits and how much value for money it is. Kindle Unlimited allows you to browse a rotating catalogue of one million books, plus magazines and even thousands of audiobooks. If you read a lot of books and don't want to just read public domain books it might be worth it, especially if you don't live close to library or just end up paying a lot in late fees when you borrow hard copy books.
One of the bonuses of Kindle Unlimited is that you aren't locked into a contract so if you fancy just having it for a few months over summer, or you want access to it while you're on holiday, you can cancel after use. If you're particularly savvy you can just use the 30 day trial and spend a few weeks plundering the catalogue, just be sure to remember to cancel it before any money is taken.
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