My Search for the Best Free and Cheap eBooks


erica-manfred-headshotErica is addicted to books. Last week, she wrote about her favorite sources for audiobooks  – read about it!  This week, she’s on a hunt for deals to feed her ebooks habit…


The great thing about ebooks is that they were invented. How quickly we’ve taken for granted that on a Kindle, Nook, and even a Kindle app on a tablet or smartphone, you can adjust the size of the type so you don’t have to rummage for your reading glasses, and pack hundreds of books in a device that weighs under a pound. No more schlepping  the latest 500-page bestseller or wondering if you’ll run out of reading material on that beach in Fiji.


Buying ebooks vs. libraries


The not so great thing about ebooks is paying for them. Most of us grew up in an era when you didn’t actually buy books; you used the public library. At least I did. Except for children’s books that were read over and over, in my family buying books was, as Woody Allen once noted about shopping, a crime akin to buying retail.

You can still borrow books from libraries, which is what most of my friends do. But if you’re an ebook devotee like me, you have to shell out a few bucks.

What about libraries for ebooks? While free ebooks are available from libraries through, the selection is extremely limited and the rental time is over in a flash.  You can keep a book for maybe for a week, and it’s not going to be “The Goldfinch (which is my bellwether ebook since it’s a bestseller, I adored it and it’s 750 pages heavy).

Libraries carry very few ebooks because the publishing industry is stonewalling them, desperately trying to hold on to every dollar that readers spend on books.

Amazon, the Goliath of booksellers, helped bring Kindle prices back down by filing an antitrust lawsuit against price-fixing publishers that had jacked them up. But libraries are David to the publishing industry’s Goliath,  so they’re stuck with draconian restrictions on lending ebooks.

However, you can get the ebook version of “The Goldfinch  this week for $7.50 on Kindle, which is a damned good buy.


Where to get great deals and how to find great reads


You can easily stock your Kindle with lots of terrific low-priced and even free books, including bestsellers. Not only is Donna Tarrt’s  The Goldfinch  $7.50 this week, but Stephen King’s newest, Dr. Sleep, is only $7.99. Most bestsellers are likely to be closer to ten bucks, but it’s worth checking prices regularly.

However, there’s no need to pay big bucks – or even small ones – for ebooks. Mainstream publishers, as well as authors who publish their ebooks exclusively on Kindle, schedule free promotions, which means hundreds of books are free every day.

While there is a glut of unreadable self-pubbed books, there are also lots of good ones, some of which have gone on to be best sellers. A slew of websites have popped up that let you know what’s free, and some help you figure out what’s worth reading – before it hits the best-seller lists.

Books for the iPad, Nook and Kobo  Most free ebooks are for the Kindle, since Amazon allows authors and publishers to do free and low-price promotions – and owns the world. You can download the Kindle app onto the iPad, even though Apple wants you to use iBooks. But there’s no Kindle app available for Nook, which is made by competitor Barnes & Noble, and you can’t read Kindle books on a Kobo either. For obvious reasons, both the Kobo and Nook are rapidly becoming obsolete, but if you own one, try Smashwords, which publishes books for these platforms. Click on their “best sellers” tab to find books recommended by readers.

One Hundred Free Books As it happens, Jewish vampire books are my favorite genre, and serendipitously, when I took a look at this site I found what looks to be a free Kindle edition of a fabulous book by Jim Williams, a Booker prize nominee, about a Jewish vampire: “Recherche: A Tale of Memories, Murders and Vampires.” Every day, the site picks the best reads from among the free and discount Kindle books, including self-published books and publisher promotions; you can sign up on One Hundred Free Books to get a list of the daily picks by email.

Self-published Kindle books Most self-published Kindle books cost $2.99. For that price, you can buy the funniest of the Jewish vampire genre, “Interview With A Jewish Vampire.” OK, OK, full disclosure: I wrote it, but it’s got lots of great blurbs and reviews on Amazon, which is how you decide if self-pubbed books are worth reading. Books that get scads of 5-star Amazon reviews from intelligent-sounding customers are generally the ones to try. You can also check out reviews on Good Reads. More full disclosure—some of my reviews were 1-star, but what do those people know!

More picks by email If you sign up for a daily email from Book Bub you’ll get a free/cheap ebook recommendation every day, tailored to your preferences. Unlike most other sites, Book Bub’s ebooks are also for Kindle, Kobo and Nook. I found a few great choices from $1.99 to $2.99, including   “Out of My League,” a New York Times bestseller by Dick Hayhurst, and books by Mark Helprin and Barbara Kingsolver.

Classics The Guttenberg Project is dedicated to providing classics that are out of copyright to ebook readers. If you’ve always meant to read “Pride and Prejudice,” this is the place to find it. There are a bunch of versions and many, many classics to choose from. However, the Guttenberg Project site isn’t exactly user-friendly, so also look for your favorites on other, easier to use sites.  FYI, “Pride and Prejudice” is also available for free on Kindle.

Kindle shorts If you like shorts, Kindle is now sponsoring “Singles,” which are articles, short stories or novellas costing between 99c and $1.99, often from very well known authors.

A blog that talks about and links to Kindle daily deals, Kindle Books and Tips also provides tutorials and shortcuts for using your Kindle. I found “Spare Change” by Bette Lee Crosby, a murder mystery that was a USA Today bestseller, for 99c. Looks like a good read.

Search by title from among all currently available free Kindle books at Kindle Nation Daily.

I found bestseller “Defending Jacob” at Bargain eBook Hunter  for $2.99. I’d been meaning to read it. You can also follow the site on Facebook to get daily deals in your newsfeed.  

Besides recommending free ebooks, Weber Books also has a link to a free Kindle book about free Kindle books, “Kindle Buffet.”  It’s worth downloading.


There are many more ebook recommendation sites, and I admit it’s a challenge to sift through chaff to find the gold in them, but it’s a lot of fun, too. I’m willing to bet that you’ll download least one book after surfing a few ebook sites.

If you can’t decide which device to read your ebooks on, I recommend the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s the perfect device for reading. It passes my crucial “can read upside down in bed” test because it’s so lightweight. Plus the battery lasts forever, and its soft backlight, unlike the one on tablets, is glare-free.

Enjoy your book!

Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.


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