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Updated: 20 Apr 2022

Where to download free or cheap ebooks

Ebook readers are handy devices for reading on the go, but even though digital books are cheaper than paper, costs can add up. We reveal where you can find cheap and free ebooks 
Michael Passingham
Relaxing in a hammock reading an ebook

Ebooks are typically cheaper than paper books, but if you get through a lot of ebooks on your Kindle or other devices, you'll still want to get the best prices and save money altogether by downloading free ebooks.

There are many online stores to choose from for purchasing and downloading your favourite reads. We've rounded up five of the most popular stores so you can see which one may suit your reading needs the best.

Plus many of these stores feature a range of free-to-download ebooks and content, so we'll show you how you can browse tons of titles without spending a penny.

Ready to read on the go? Our expert tests reveal the best ebook readers for all budgets

Choosing an ebook reader

Your choice of ebook store will depend on how you read your books. If you're only starting to think of branching out from paper to digital books, it's worth bearing this in mind when choosing the device you want to read on. 

Ebook readerHow to download and read ebooks
Amazon KindleYou'll be limited to ebooks bought on the Amazon store. You may also be able to download PDFs, but this won't typically provide a great experience. See our Amazon Kindle reviews for more information.
Kobo ebook readerKobo is the Kindle's main rival. If you have a Kobo, you have a few more options because you can import licensed ebooks from third-party retailers, as well as buying ebooks directly from Kobo and borrowing ebooks from your local library. See our Kobo reviews for more information.

Alternatively, you can read books on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Your options are fairly wide and there are multiple ebook stores that will let you read on various devices.

However, these devices aren't optimised for reading in the same way that ebook readers are. In our lab tests, for example, we check which ebook readers let you comfortably read in bright light and also in near darkness. This means our Best Buys are comfortable to read and can keep you immersed in your book, whether you're on the beach or tucked up in bed.

Head straight to our ebook reader reviews to find out which models are worth your money.

Man reading an ebook on an ereader

Which stores sell ebooks?

There are five main places to buy ebooks in the UK, but how you can read their content varies significantly. We've summarised this below and you can use the links to visit the stores.

  • Amazon Kindle: Read books on Kindle ebook readers, Amazon Fire devices, Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, and on the internet on your computer at read.amazon.com.
  • Kobo: Read books on Kobo ebook readers, Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, and on your computer using the Windows 10 and macOS app.
  • Google Play Books: Read on Android smartphones and tablets, and on your computer via play.google.com.
  • Apple Books: Read on Apple smartphones and tablets and on Mac computers.
  • Hive.co.uk: Read on Kobo, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and Windows and Mac computers using Adobe Digital Editions.

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How to get free ebooks

If you're a prolific reader who wants to save money, there are a number of ways to get hold of free ebooks, particularly if you're a lover of the classics.  

Free Kindle books 

The Kindle Store has around 40 classic published books available for free, including 'The Railway Children', 'The Great Gatsby', 'David Copperfield' and 'Twelfth Night'. Beyond that, you may also find some self-published works available on the Kindle Store for free, although the quality of these will vary.

Free out-of-copyright books 

Project Gutenberg is a repository of 60,000 copyright-expired works from before 1924, so if you’re after a classic book you may well find it here. They’re available in formats that work on both Kindle and Kobo.

Local libraries

In the UK, your local library may use a digital book borrowing service through companies such as BorrowBox or OverDrive. 

  • OverDrive is built directly into Kobo devices and there are apps available for iPhones, iPads and Android devices as well as Amazon Fire tablets. For Kindle ebook readers, OverDrive is available only in the United States.
  • BorrowBox isn’t built into any ebook reader, but it has apps available for a variety of devices including Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Whether you can access BorrowBox or OverDrive depends on what system your local library uses. You will need a valid library card in order to access the digital book loans on either system, so you’ll likely need to provide proof of address when you register with them. Check your local library branch to find out what’s available.

Transfer files to your Kindle or Kobo 

You can also transfer books to your Kindle in Word Document, PDF and Mobi formats, so if you have a friend who’s writing a first novel or have been given a freebie at an event, you can probably load the content on to your Kindle. Information on how to do this can be found at Amazon’s help pages. All the above formats as well as the open standard ePub format also work on on Kobo ebook readers.

Kindle Unlimited 

This option isn’t strictly free, but it does allow you to access more than one million ebooks, thousands of audiobooks and selected magazines for a flat monthly fee of £7.99 (at the time of writing). 

Which ebook store is cheapest?

We cross-checked the most popular titles from The Bookseller's Official UK Top 50 books (2021/2022), and found little to no price difference between them on various ebook stores – £1 or so at most. These include authors such as Richard Osman, Colleen Hoover, Dr Julie Smith and Nancy Revell, among many others. 

So wherever you buy from, you're likely to be getting a good price.

Browsing ebook prices on an iPad

We've found that many stores, including Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, Kobo and Apple Books, also allow you to filter for free downloadable ebooks. If you search around your chosen site, you're likely to find deals and special offers to give you a good read for less. For example, at the time we checked: 

  • Hive.co.uk featured a range of thrillers for 99p, offers 10% off to students, apprentices and those aged 16-25, and 10% off to those aged 55 or over. Go to the Hive website for more information.
  • Amazon reduces several titles down to less than £1 every day in its Kindle Daily Deal. You can also search for Kindle Book Deals for discounts on well-known titles that have been out for a while. Go to Amazon.co.uk for more.

Cheap and free ebooks for kids

Whether you're taking the family on holiday or need to keep the kids entertained during wet weather at home, downloading some kid-friendly ebooks will keep them happy.

It's easy enough to find a range of cheap children's stories by simply searching any one of the ebook stores we mentioned above in which ebook store is cheapest and downloading some of their favourite titles.

For more educational reading for kids, we found Oxford Owl ebooks to be a great and totally free resource. Oxford Owl ebooks are best accessed online to be viewed on a laptop, computer, or tablet.

After a quick sign-up, you'll have access to hundreds of primary school books suitable for ages 3-11. The ebooks available here are largely suited to developing reading skills and understanding phonics.

Looking for a device that lets you read books from a number of ebook stores and free sites, and browse the internet, play games and check emails too? Take a look at our pick of the Best tablets and iPads