We are suddenly awash in free (or on sale) ebooks and audiobooks to keep us entertained or at least distracted, in this age of quarantine. Many publishers have taken pity on the homeschooling parent and offered a lot of material for kids free.
In an attempt to help you navigate all the choices, here is a roundup of my favorite places to find free or discounted books.
For me, it always starts with the library. If you haven’t checked out your local libraries website in a while you meant be plesantly surprised. I’ve noticed many libraries have made a lot of progress in improving their ebook and audiobook experience whether through the website or through a dedicated app.
Libraries may be closed but you can still access ebooks, audiobooks and often other materials like magazines, videos, learning courses, and newspapers with your library card.
If your state has multiple library systems, check the other library sites as well. As a resident of the state you may have access to their electronic resources as well. Some systems have different offerings.
This is a library of more than 60,000 free e-books, assembled by thousands of volunteers who digitize and proofread digital media. No fee, registration or special apps are required. Titles are available in Portuguese, French, Dutch, Finnish, Tagalog, Hungarian, Esperanto, German, Spanish, Latin and more.
Access e-books by bestselling authors such as Stephen King and Ann Patchett and other electronic materials at no cost (and no credit card) for 30 days.
These websites offer a daily selection of free or discounted e-books for Kindle, Nook, Apple and Kobo devices.
This nonprofit library offers free academic and historical books such as “An Embroidery Pattern Book” by Mary E. Waring, published in 1917, and “Goody Two-Shoes,” published by the McLoughlin Brothers and copyrighted in 1888. There’s also an online collection from the Smithsonian Libraries.
Download PDF versions of poetry, plays, nonfiction and literary classics such as “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.
The Amazon-owned company launched Audible Stories which lets families listen to hundreds of free titles. My kids especially enjoyed “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” narrated by Scarlett Johansson and “Anne of Green Gables,” read by Rachel McAdams
Find it: The collection is at stories.audible.com.
Throughout the month of April, Penguin Random House audio is offering free access to classics like “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” narrated by Brooke Shields and Paul Rudd; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” narrated by a full cast and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” read by John Lee.
Volunteers from around the world record books in the public domain and then release the audiobooks online for free. One of those efforts that make you smile and see the internet as a force for good. Available titles include “The Adventures of Puss in Boots Jr.” by David Cory and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. Multiple different languages available too.
The streaming giant has a surprisingly robust audiobook section but it’s very well hidden. There is no distinct audiobook genre or type. The authors are treated like music artists and the books like albums. Your best bet is to just search and then rummage around. If you have an existing subscription, it’s worth the effort but I wish they’d make it more user friendly. The streaming service boasts a wide selection of recordings and free audiobooks narrated by well-known authors. Listen to Kurt Vonnegut read “Breakfast of Champions” and “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Edna St. Vincent Millay reflect on love or Charles Bukowski recite his poetry. You also can find audio editions of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Of course there is YouTube where celebrities are also popping up to help your bedtime reading. Dolly Parton recently got in on the act. Can’t say no to Dolly.
That’s it. Well, not all of it. There are plenty more options out there (Did you know if you are an Amazon Prime member – you get a free book each month) for free reading or listening but those are my favorites. I hope it helps you find something to keep you occupied and entertained while you are stuck in your house. Happy reading!