Aside from my smartphone, the one gadget I'll never travel without is my Amazon Kindle. I love how I can quickly and easily download books, magazines, and other written and audio content almost instantaneously, and store thousands of books for enjoyment on the go. While I abhor piracy and am all about supporting creators, I was also pleased to discover that there are many ways of getting and reading free (or almost free) content on my Kindle. I'll show you how you can access this content for yourself on your Kindle device!
Products used in this guide
- Our favorite e-reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (From $130 at Amazon)
- Free two-month trial: Amazon Kindle Unlimited ($10/month at Amazon)
How to read free books and other content on your Amazon Kindle
It's easy to supplement your paid content with free material to read on your Kindle, and fill up that immense Kindle storage with just about anything you can imagine! Note that these tips work for any Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet, or other Android or iOS device with the Amazon Kindle app.
Borrow free ebooks from your local library
The most popular way to borrow books for free from your local library is through a service called Overdrive. This app is available on virtually every device, and you can also use it to get free content onto your Kindle e-reader. Here's how.
From the OverDrive website, sign in or create a user account.
- Locate your local library (it can be a public library or school).
Search the library's website for the book you are interested in. Many libraries will have a Kindle Books section in the main webpage navigation.
- Sign in with your local library account information.
- Click on the book you want to borrow.
- Under Available formats, click on Kindle book.
- You will be taken to Amazon.com, where you should sign in to your Amazon account if you haven't already.
- Click on the Get Library Book button. You will then be able to download the book to your Kindle device or app wirelessly.
According to Overdrive's website, Kindle books are only available for libraries in the U.S.
If you prefer to borrow from an app, there is an Overdrive app as well as the Libby app, which you can use to follow a similar process as outlined above. Unfortunately, you can't send some Libby books to your Kindle and will have to read them through the Libby app on mobile instead.
Ask a friend to share free ebooks with your Kindle
If you have friends who also have an Amazon Kindle, or who have purchased e-books from Amazon in the past, they can share books with you (one at a time), and vice versa. Once you've politely asked them to borrow their e-book, here's what they need to do.
- From a web browser, have them log in to their Amazon account.
- Have them click on their profile.
Then, click on Your Content and Devices.
- Search by books to find the title you want to borrow.
Click the Actions button next to the book.
Click Loan this title.
- Fill out the recipient's e-mail address, name, and a personal message.
The recipient of the loaned title will have seven days to accept the book, or else it will be "returned" to the owner. The owner will not be able to read the book while it is on loan.
Note that not all Kindle e-books will be eligible for the loan program. Be sure to look for the "Loan this title" link.
Use Amazon family sharing
If you've set up a family profile with your Amazon Prime account, you can share apps, games, videos, books, and other content with family members. That means that if your partner purchased a Kindle book that you are interested in, you don't have to repurchase it to read on your device. Just share it!
We have a thorough step-by-step guide on how Amazon family sharing works, so I won't rehash the steps here. Just know that once you set up your Amazon Household, you'll be able to borrow at will!
Find free ebooks on Goodreads
Goodreads is a social network centered around a shared love of reading, and it's no surprise that Amazon acquired it in 2013. From the website, app, or their Kindle, users can post updates on what they're reading, write and share reviews, and mark books for later reading. A little-known fact is that you can also find free e-books on the site if you know where to look.
- Log in or sign up for a Goodreads account.
- From the search bar, type in free e-books, or click on the following link curated by Goodreads.
Click on a book you are interested on.
Click on the Download eBook button to download an excerpt, sample, or entire book (as available).
Select your format, and click download.
There are many other websites and apps that offer free, downloadable e-books that you may want to look into, such as Project Gutenberg and Manybooks. Each website has books in multiple formats as well.
Amazon Prime Reading has free ebooks
One of the many benefits of an Amazon Prime membership is all the free content you have access to, from videos to music, and yes, even ebooks. Here's how to find this content and add it to your Kindle for later reading.
- From your browser of choice, go to the Amazon Kindle Store.
- Click on the tab that says Prime Reading.
- Scroll through the many recommendations and categories.
Click on a book or magazine you want to read.
Click Read Now or Add to Library.
- Make sure your Kindle is synced, and then the title should appear on your device.
If you are not currently an Amazon Prime member, you can try it out for free to see if it's right for you (but I suspect if you have a Kindle, you're in the target audience already). You can also search for titles directly from your Kindle from the Store tab, under Prime Reading.
Free Kindle e-books
In addition to the programs mentioned above, there are literally tens of thousands of free Kindle e-books available for download. Sometimes they're public domain content, sometimes they're through author giveaways, and sometimes they are part of the programs mentioned above. Regardless, all you have to do is type in "free Kindle books" the Amazon.com search bar, and you'll see what we mean!
- From our browser of choice, go to Amazon.com.
- Type in free kindle books into the search bar.
Alternatively, Amazon has curated a list of free Kindle e-books here.
Subscribe to Kindle Unlimited
Last but not least (expensive) is the popular Kindle Unlimited subscription service. For only $10/month, you can "borrow" as many books, magazines, and audiobooks from the available list (over 100,000). Amazon offers a two-month free trial, so it's worth giving it a shot to see if you like it.
From your web browser of choice, go to the Kindle Unlimited site.
- Click Start your free trial and confirm your subscription and payment details.
- Start searching for books you love from the Kindle store.
Our top equipment picks
While it's true that you can read Kindle books from the Kindle app on many smart devices, our favorite experience is still on the classic e-reader itself.
The e-reader to buy
The one to get
If you're an avid reader, then the Kindle Paperwhite is the device to get. It's waterproof, has backlighting, multiple storage options, and comes in several fun colors.
Additional apps and subscriptions
For more great free and low-cost reading material, be sure to check out these apps and services.
Overdrive (Free at Google Play)
Overdrive lets you borrow audiobooks, e-books, and videos from your local library as well as libraries around the world. Not only are there no late fees, but there are also no fees period!
Amazon Prime (Try Prime free at Amazon)
You probably already know about all the goodies that come with Amazon Prime, but did you know that extends to Kindle readers as well? Prime members get access to thousands of free books with a subscription, and you can try it for free if you're not a member!
Amazon Kindle Unlimited ($10/month at Amazon)
Kindle Unlimited is a fabulous e-book subscription program that gets you access to over one million books, as well as thousands of magazines and audiobooks. It can be accessed on any device, and Amazon typically offers a one or two-month free trial period.
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