An electronic book or an eBook is a book publication available in digital form that can be read on a computer, tablet, smartphone, or an eBook reader. Always available for purchase, eBooks are never out of stock, and all you need is an internet connection to download the latest bestseller from your favorite author and start reading it immediately. Your entire library can be carried around on a portable device, thus saving physical storage space and ensuring you have every book at your fingertips at all times. Eliminating both the paper printing process and the shipping and handling of books lowers the environmental impact significantly, making eBooks eco-friendly and, at the same time, more affordable. However, the accessibility of eBooks can still put a strain on one’s finances, so, if you’re an avid reader, you might be on the lookout for electronic books that can be downloaded for free. If you are searching for your next great read or want to develop your own virtual library, keep reading to find out which are the five best websites to legally download eBooks for free:
1. Internet Archive
MISSION: “to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.”
The Internet Archive is an American non-profit digital library that provides free public access to a huge number of digitized materials, including websites (the Wayback Machine), audio recordings, videos, software, and images. Overseeing one of the world’s largest book digitization projects, with 1000 books being scanned daily in its 33 scanning centers, the Archive hosts a collection of over 20 million freely downloadable eBooks and texts from a multitude of libraries and cultural heritage institutions from around the globe. On top of that, you can get a free account and gain access to over 1 million modern eBooks in its Books to Borrow section.
An advocate for a free and open internet, this website offers a wide selection of texts in any language you can think of. You can read eBooks online, and most are also available for download in a variety of formats: PDF, EPUB, WORD, MOBI, DAISY (for print-disabled users), and more. The Archive does not require you to create an account to browse favorite issues of old magazines or to download a Klingon dictionary. Whatever your preferences, we are sure that you can find some great reads on this website.
2. Project Gutenberg
MISSION: “To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.”
Founded by the inventor of eBooks – Michael S. Hart, Project Gutenberg is the grandfather of eBook sites, as the first digital library to provide free access to books and publications from the public domain. This website is a volunteer effort and currently offers over 60,000 free eBooks available to read online, download to your computer or device, or upload directly to your preferred cloud service, in EPUB or MOBI format.
While you won’t be able to find recently released books, you can enjoy reading the complete works of classical authors, like Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, or Mark Twain. If you can find the time, you can even volunteer to proofread books and contribute to Project Gutenberg, a website fittingly named after the fifteenth-century German inventor who propelled the Printing Revolution.
MISSION: “to provide a valuable service to our readers.”
ManyBooks is a digital library with over 50,000 free eBooks, that you can choose to read online or download by creating an account. The signup process is quick and painless, and it comes with the added value of remembering your favorite genres and preferred format for download. While many of the eBooks initially featured on ManyBooks came from the aforementioned Project Gutenberg archives, it has since grown into a platform that allows authors to upload their books and make them available to the community, either for free or for a reasonable price. It is also worth mentioning that the website is accommodating potential authors, offering detailed info on the steps to take if you are looking to publish your book. The interface of ManyBooks is user-friendly, helping you quickly discover good books to enjoy, and a wide variety of formats are available for your downloads and purchases: EPUB, MOBI, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF and more.
4. Scribd (paid plan with free trial, unless you upload content)
MISSION: “To change the way the world reads.”
Scribd is an American subscription service for both eBooks and audiobooks. In spite of its $8.99 per month (after the first free 30 days) membership, it is wildly popular, with 80 million monthly readers in over 100 countries. Although you can’t use a prepaid card for it, the membership offers unlimited access to over one million titles, articles from leading magazines and newspapers, documents, and sheet music, making Scribd the biggest digital library you can access. What makes this website different are Scribd’s global publishing partners, ensuring you find the latest bestselling and award-winning eBooks.
You can access this content at any time, on any platform, and in any format you can think of, either through a browser, or using Scribd’s downloadable app, and you can save, bookmark, or create collections with your favorite titles. The second reason we included Scribd on this list is that it does allow you to download some books and documents for free, but only when it comes to user-generated content. You just have to upload something (either public domain or original content) in order to get the document you want, but no account is required for this. Authors wanting to publish their work now have the opportunity to make it available to millions of readers around the world thanks to this popular platform.
5. International Children’s Digital Library
MISSION: “to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community – who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas — by making the best in children‘s literature available online free of charge.“
While it does not allow the download of eBooks, the International Children’s Digital Library is a free online library worth mentioning due to its goal of “fighting worldwide illiteracy among children” and its collection of over 4600 books, in 59 languages, designed specifically for use by children ages 3 to 13. You can find award-winning children’s books from diverse cultures and open an account for either an adult or a child (the process to register on the website is different for children, who have to choose a monster to guard their password). While registration is optional, and you can read any of the available books online without an account, it helps when it comes to bookmarking pages and saving age and language preferences. The interface is well developed, and we loved the options in Simple Search, that allow anyone to retrieve long-lost children books, with the help of a few very basic, but adorable, options, like the color of the covers, the type of characters, the age group, or the length of the book you are looking for.
Do you know of any other websites that should be on this list?
To bring you this article, we browsed what felt like hundreds of websites. We wanted to avoid wasting your time, so we decided not to include on this list any small sites, that only offer around two or three thousand books and usually get most of their content from the Gutenberg Project anyway. Portals that only provide links to other websites offering free books were also not included in the article, as we could not verify the safety of the downloads. Instead, we chose to offer a more detailed view of what we truly consider the best sites out there, focusing on what makes each of them great. In the end, we feel confident that the websites on this list should provide even the most passionate readers with plenty of reading material for the future. If you come across any websites that you think belong on this list, please leave a comment, including what you think makes that website special, and we promise to look into it.