11 ways to get FREE modern & classic e-books, digital comics & audiobooks
Including Harry Potter, David Attenborough's Life on Earth, Marvel and DC comics, and classics such as Pride & Prejudice
Grabbing a cuppa and sitting down to read a book, or listening to an audio version, is a great way to pass the time. Whether you're a seasoned bookworm or you've just recently immersed yourself into the world of literature during lockdown, there are a whole host of online ways to easily help you enjoy both modern and classic e-books, digital comics, and audiobooks for free.
Rather than produce a novel-size guide, I've picked 11 favourite ways that MoneySavers read or listen to books for free – for most, you don't need a special device such as a Kindle or Kobo – you can simply get these online, or via a free app. For more, see our Audible MoneySaving tricks and novel tricks to get must-read Kindle books for free (or just 99p).
If you're a member of your local library, you may have missed taking a trip there during lockdown, but it's likely you'll be able to access an online service using your library membership info, where you can borrow books and audiobooks digitally for free.
It's worth seeing if your library offers this – every one we checked did. Your library subscribes to a service which hosts an online or app-based version of a library where you can borrow/checkout titles digitally.
How it works in a few steps
- You'll need to first be a member of your local library.
- Check to see if your library is signed up to an online service and which it uses – see Gov.uk to find your library's website and it should tell you on there. The online service a library uses differs by local authority – with some of the popular services being Borrow Box, RB Digital, and Overdrive/Libby.
- The next step is to download the free app of the service your library uses. Once you've opened the app, search for your library and register – you'll need your library membership info for this.
- You can then search for titles or browse, and start borrowing (more on that below).
MoneySavers rate these services as a great alternative if you can't physically get to your local library...
Most of the online services will work in a similar way, though exactly what you can borrow digitally will vary depending on what your library has subscribed to. Generally, from the libraries we checked you could borrow fiction as well as non-fiction titles such as cookbooks, history, health and fitness etc.
For example, libraries within Kent County Council have over 26,000 e-books and more than 4,000 audiobooks available online, including fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children via the Libby app.
Anyone who's a member of a library within Edinburgh City Council can borrow over 8,500 fiction and non-fiction e-books via the Libby app and more than 5,000 audiobooks via Libby, RB Digital, Borrow Box and uLibrary.
Libraries will often have popular e-books, and audiobooks with the same narrators as you'll find if you downloaded them from Amazon's Audible so it's worth checking your library's online service first.
The number of e-books and audiobooks you can checkout at one time, and for how long, is determined by your library.
For example, MSE Jenny's local library in Essex uses the Borrow Box app and lets you borrow up to seven titles at a time. MSE Oli's library in Kent which uses the Libby app, allows you to borrow up to 12 titles at once for a period of up to three weeks. MSE Rhiannon's local library in Buckinghamshire uses the RB Digital app and lets you borrow up to five e-books and up to five audiobooks for a borrowing period of three weeks.
Much like in a physical library, an e-book or audiobook can only be borrowed/checked out by a limited number of people at a time. If you find the title you want has already been checked out you can usually put a hold/reservation on it for when it becomes available again.
Your e-book or audiobook should automatically disappear (or become unreadable) from your device once the allotted borrowing time has expired.
E-book seller Kobo, which also makes a rival device to the Kindle, has a regularly-updated section with 700+ free fiction and non-fiction e-books, eg, Calculated Deception by K.T. Lee, Shopping for an Heir by Julia Kent and A Pinch of Salt by Bethany Lopez.
You'll need to sign up for free to access the e-books, and then you'll be able to either download them to your computer, view them in the free Kobo app, or on a Kobo reader if you have one.
If using the Kobo app, once you've signed up/in, select the menu and then choose 'Free eBooks' – you can then choose the book you want to read from several genres. Once you've selected 'Add to My Books' you'll be able to read the book on your device.
150+ free e-books and comics at Google Play Books for Android & iOS devices
Google Play has a books section where you can buy and download books, comics, and textbooks – but it also offers over 150 of these for free, eg, City of Wishes by Rachel Morgan, The Mask by John Arcudi, and Eat Green Get Lean by Michael Matthews.
You'll need to have a free Google account, then simply choose the title you want to read and select 'Free eBook'.
Permanently-free classic literature, eg, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island
Thousands of books are in the public domain and widely available to read for free because they either have no copyright, or have lost it over the years. This includes many great classic literary works such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (see how to listen to it as an audiobook for free).
There are a number of places online that you can read these works. MoneySaver Amy recommends Project Gutenburg which is completely free, has thousands of titles, and unusually doesn't require any sign up...
Another, Planet eBook, offers free classic literature in several formats which can be read on a computer, iPhone/iPad or Android device, or on a Kindle. There are plenty of classics to choose from including 1984 by George Orwell, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Amazon Prime member or on a free trial? 'Borrow' e-books and comics for free, eg, the first two Harry Potter books
If you've Amazon Prime, you can read up to 10 selected e-books, comics, and magazines at once for free with its digital 'borrowing' service, Prime Reading* – it offers 1,000+ titles on a rotating basis. All Prime members can do this, even those on a 30-day free trial, and you'll be able to read the books for as long as you have Prime.
The books can be read on a Kindle or Fire tablet, or if you have neither of those devices, you can use the free Kindle app.
To add a book to your library, find the title in the Kindle store or browse the Prime Reading list* (only viewable by Prime members) and select a title. If the title is available via Prime Reading, it will show a cost of £0.00 with the Prime symbol next to it (see image). Once selected, it will appear in your Kindle library in the same way as other e-book purchases.
Here are some of the books and comics you could read for free when we checked on Monday 18 May:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
- Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
- Only The Innocent by Rachel Abbott
- The Beekeeper's Promise by Fiona Valpy
- Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 1: Vader
- Batman: Year One
- The Walking Dead Vol 1: Days Gone Bye
- Ultimate Spider-Man Vol 1: Power & Responsibility
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1: Cosmic Avengers
The BBC Sounds website has a whole host of classic literature in audiobook form that you can stream for free.
It includes modern fiction, history and nature such as David Attenborough's Life on Earth, and classic literature such as Pride & Prejudice, Wind in the Willows, The War of the Worlds, and The Railway Children.
100s of totally free digital comics at Amazon, eg, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Avengers Alliance
Marvel Unlimited (its digital comics subscription service) is giving access to a curated selection of comic books completely free – there's no payment required.
You can either read the free comics online via your computer, or on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device via an app. Here's how to swoop in and bag yourself a bargain...
Once you've opened the app, you'll see a red 'Free Comics' button on the landing page (see below) – this button will show all available free comic books for you to enjoy. Simply select a comic to read it.
60+ free digital DC comic books, eg, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman
If the DC Comics universe is more your bag, then you can read over 60 of its comics for free.
Until Monday 8 June, it's made 34 'DC Essential Reads' free – a selection of first issues of some of its biggest stories including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Justice League. There's also a Free Comics section which includes 30 Scooby Doo comics.
To access the comics, you'll need to log in with an Amazon or Comixology account and then you'll be able to add the comics you'd like to your cart.
You can read the comics on your computer, or download the free DC app at the App Store for iOS or Google Play for Android. Once you've signed in, scroll along to the 'Free' section where you'll be able to download the comics onto your device.
If you've an Alexa-enabled device, you can listen to selected audiobooks each month completely free – just say "Alexa, what's free from Audible?" to hear what's available. You don't need to have an Audible subscription or give it any payment details. Past free titles have included Aladdin, Treasure Island, Sense and Sensibility and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Right now, you can listen to the first book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Amazon says it will be available for free while the UK is in lockdown, so go quick if you want to read it in case it pulls it.
Until Tuesday 30 June, you can listen to Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Hard Times, all by Charles Dickens. Whichever you want to listen to, just ask Alexa to read it.
Alexa... read Harry Potter Book One.
Alexa... read Oliver Twist.
Alexa... read The Pickwick Papers.
Alexa... read Hard Times.
Free short stories – though you can only pick the genre
It's also very easy to listen to short stories narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry, David Jason, Juliet Stevenson and more on your Alexa-enabled device.
To get it to work, say "Alexa, open Audible Stories". You'll then be asked to choose a genre, eg, mystery, sci-fi, horror, kids – Alexa will then randomly select a short story for you to listen to.
Free Beano comic each month
If you think The Simpsons has been going a long time, well The Beano has been around since the '30s with over 4,000 issues.
You can catch up with Dennis the Menace and the gang with a free digital version of the Golden Beano each month (there have been two so far). It's a collection of comic strips, puzzles and jokes from its archives over the past 80 years.
To download the Golden Beano for free each month, visit The Beano and select the image of the comic to open it as a PDF – you can then print it, or to be more MoneySaving and environmentally-friendly, you can download it to your device.
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