I Own 3,000 E-Books. I Paid $0: How to Build an E-Library Free

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Tech Test E Reader Gift Guide
Mark Lennihan/AP
One of the highlights of my day is to browse several emails I receive that list free e-books. A lot of it is dreck (many self-published books on Kindle's free publishing platform sorely needed editors). But virtually every day, I find something interesting.

The average price of Kindle best sellers on Amazon.com (AMZN) is rising steeply. E-book prices go from 99 cents for unknown and self-published authors to $20 or more for new books from household names, such as John Grisham, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown.

I now have more than 3,000 free e-books on my Kindle and iPad. Many are from Project Gutenberg, which includes books whose copyrights have expired (these are generally a century old). Other, I have borrowed from openlibrary.org (check to see if your local library participates). Authors also briefly offer their books as freemium promotions (sometimes for just a day) in hopes that you'll read them and tell all your friends about them. And bestsellers and new books do appear on these lists occasionally. These may even be available on your own public library's e-reader platform.

Free, Free, Free

These sites for free e-books span the genres, including self-help, children's fantasy, romance, mystery, Christian, erotica and nonfiction. I've found that having an Amazon account is the best access. Also, it's easy to cancel an order if by accident you buy a book that is not free.
  • You can sign up for ZeroFrictionBooks' daily email list or browse the books with the covers on the site. Links are to buy free on Amazon.
  • Bookbub.com lists deals and freebies with links to buy on Kobo from Indigo (IDGBF), Apple (AAPL), Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Amazon. It also lists when the deal expires.
  • PixelOfInk links to Amazon.
  • ChoosyBookworm links to Amazon.
  • BookGorilla.com has some freebies but mostly good deals.
  • OpenCulture.com lists free e-books as well as free movies, courses and more.
  • At Amazon, type in "free Kindle e-books." Today's list had almost 60,000 available. And you don't need a Kindle. Just search for free Kindle apps for your mobile device,
I check these almost daily since many freebies are one-day only or may only be free for Amazon Prime members. I've snapped up several financial books for free that retail for close to $100.

Write for Free E-Books

A more unusual way to get free e-books is to write brief reviews. I've written reviews on Amazon under a nom de plume, not in the hopes of garnering free books, but just to vent. Since then, I've received several offers to review books for authors. The easiest way to become a reviewer is simply to read an ebook from Amazon on your device. At the end, there will usually be a page asking for a recommendation. Write your honest thoughts, and ta-da, you're now a reviewer. A new site called StoryCartel allows you to download a book if you write a review afterward. It has its own standards available on site.

Either a Borrower or a Lender Be

Amazon Prime members can borrow many e-books for free through the Kindle Owners Lending Library You don't need Prime to lend to friends, but there are limitations -- the loan can be active for just for two weeks, for example. BookLending.com allows readers to lend to each other, risk-free. Lendle is similar, no Kindle required.

If none of these free choices satisfy you, scribd.com, often called the Netflix (NFLX) of literature gives its subscribers unlimited access to a library of 300,000 books for $8.99 a month.

Now, with all these books, you'll feel like "The Twilight Zone" book lover finding himself among countless books in a post-apocalyptic era, only wishing for enough time to read them.



(Correction: A previous version of this article understated the number of free e-books available to scribd.com subscribers by three orders of magnitude. Not having spotted this error causes your DailyFinance editors so much embarrassment that we are writing this correction note obscurely to make you, our readers, do the math.)

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