Updated on 02.17.11

A Collection of Free Kindle Resources

Trent Hamm

Dinner With My Family is taking a one week hiatus due to a cavalcade of visiting family and an inability to get good pictures of a meal. Tune in next week for the series’ return.

On Monday, Sarah gave me a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift – a Kindle. I’ve had a great deal of fun playing with it all week long.

Unsurprisingly, within a day of having the Kindle, I found myself spending lots of time online looking for great free resources for the Kindle. What books and other materials are out there for free for Kindle users?

Since I’ve received many emails over the years from Kindle users – and I know at least some people subscribe to The Simple Dollar using a Kindle – I thought I’d share some of the best resources I’ve found, both this week and over the years.

If you don’t have a Kindle but think you might own one someday, bookmark this page.

Good for a smattering of free current novels and many well-known public domain classics
Feedbooks is a source for purchasing electronic copies of books readable on the Kindle, but the site also offers a huge selection of free works, including quite a few well-executed copies of public domain literature. Generally, what you’ll find here are very good versions of the more well-known classics, whereas Gutenberg (below) has a much wider selection but some of the less-well-known items can sometimes have minor issues (extra punctuation and so on). I particularly enjoy the new free releases section, where unknown authors give away a novel or two in order to try to make a name for themselves; you can find all kinds of things in there!

Five free quick picks from Feedbooks: The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Project Gutenberg
Good for classic literature as far as the eye can see
Project Gutenberg is a repository for electronic copies of any and all public domain books. The advantage of this is that if you’re looking for a piece of classic literature – and pretty much everything prior to 1920 is public domain – you’ll find it here. The disadvantage is that the database is huge – you can wander for days through the mountains of books listed there. Another minor concern is that some of the lesser-known titles can have dodgy elements in their text, including some unwanted punctuation. However, if you enjoy reading classic literature, this is a definite place to go.

Five free quick picks from Project Gutenberg: The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams, Silas Marner by George Eliot, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Dubliners by James Joyce, and Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser.

Amazon’s Free Kindle Store
A deep mixed bag of free books
Amazon themselves has a free Kindle store which usually contains books that are available for free for a short time as a promotion from the book’s publisher (my own book had this kind of promotion in the middle of last year and hit #1 on the “free” chart). There’s a big mixed bag of books on there, but I found a couple interesting reads just this week – although they seem to no longer be free, just that quickly. Thus, it’s difficult to link to a list of free picks for this store.

Other Sources?
After investigating a lot of additional Kindle resources, I found that most of them fell into one of three categories.

One, they were full of junk. By junk, I mean that a significant portion of the books were unreadable on a Kindle, either due to language problems or software errors or something else. Many of them seemed to be just scrapings of websites, resulting in piles of badly-formatted text.

Two, they were duplicates of Project Gutenberg. I found several sites that seemed to just duplicate what Project Gutenberg was doing, often just collecting piles of Gutenberg books that they themselves liked.

Three, they were full of pirated books. I found a few repositories of pirated books during my search, but I know quite well the work that goes into writing a book and I’ll leave it up to the authors whether or not they want an electronic free copy floating around out there, not the pirates.

Of course, with the three resources above, you’ll have plenty of free stuff to read. If you can’t find something to entertain you in all of that, I’m not sure how to help.

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  1. Cheryl says:

    Project Gutenburg Australia (gutenberg.net.au/)
    and Project Gutenburg Canada (www.gutenberg.ca/) have some titles not on the US site.

    I use my Kindle for my son’s school texts by scanning the pages and saving as PDFs.

    Also Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project and Google Books have some free titles.

  2. Wesley says:

    Trent, any chance of getting a Kindle review? Just in terms of what you think about the reading experience as opposed to dead-tree-books.

  3. Dena Shunra says:

    As a fellow Kindle-enthusiast, I’ve found one other big help: Calibre.

    It’s helpful in formatting net texts into “books” which I use at will.

    Also, the experimental feature allows a link to my Google reader.

  4. Charlotte says:

    You can check out electronic library books from Overdrive for the Nook and Sony Reader. They don’t work on the Kindle.

  5. Suz says:

    I was going to suggest getting electronic library books, but didn’t realize it is not compatible with the Kindle! That is a shame. The only drawback I have found to getting ebooks through the library is that not all titles are available immediately, but I only had to wait about 2 weeks after I put in a request to borrow one of the Stieg Larsson books. (Now I have to rush through 400 pages in 2 weeks.) In the meantime I read a couple others that were more readily available. Also, I have found that the selection is not as great as physically going to the library, but hopefully that will get better!

    I am interested to hear what you think of it after you use it a while.

  6. Jules says:

    Oddly, where I live, I can get every other eReader out there except the Kindle…

  7. Jill says:

    Why is everything in italics??

  8. ABQBrent says:

    The Italians have taken over its all italics.

  9. Michelle says:

    Contests! You over paid for a sub optimal eReader. Seems to me that the Nook or Sony would have been a much better choice because you can use the library with them.

    And secondly, that seems like a pretty extravagant gift for a holiday you profess not to care about.

    Love your work, most of the time, but sometimes you are really inconsistent.

  10. Lex says:

    I’m also looking forward to a post where you tell us how you like the kindle experience. I have one and I LOVE it so much! Even buying the books full-price saves me money because I don’t live in the USA and imported books are more expensive and harder to find – nearly impossible to find in a public library. I do go to the library when I want to read a French novel though!
    The kindle is amazing for reading in public transportation. It’s much easier than having to deal with a bulky book and losing your page/bookmark and trying to find your place again. Plus it can be held with only one hand, even when turning the page!

  11. Interested Reader says:

    Trent left a tag open. Wonder how long it takes him to realize it.

  12. rosa rugosa says:

    ABQBrent: You cracked me up!
    Michelle: Aren’t we all sometimes?

  13. Leah says:

    the open tag is on “Wuthering Heights.” Hope it gets fixed soon!

  14. Nan411 says:

    He didn’t overpay. It was a gift and not all libraries offer e-books. Mine doesn’t, at least not yet.

  15. valleycat1 says:

    Wait, what? I agree with #9 – the writer of this:
    “For me, Valentine’s Day is another one of those days in which people cram sentiments they feel they should have throughout the year into one day. Much like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for example.

    Instead of going out for some exorbitant dinner or tossing some sort of expensive “romantic” gift at your partner, why not do a little thing or two each day to show your partner how much you love them? Write a little note for him or her and stick it in a coat pocket. Make a batch of your partner’s favorite cookies. Do the dishes so your partner can relax after a stressful day.

    A little bit of consistent love means a lot more than an ostentatious display once a year.”

    is now posting about getting a Kindle as a gift for Valentine’s Day? My spouse & I subscribe to Trent’s original sentiment and therefore don’t exchange expensive gifts for V-day.

  16. Michele says:

    I love my Kindle! My husband got me one for Christmas and it’s been wonderful!
    I’ve gotten a lot of free ‘classics’ that I haven’t read yet through Gutenburg, and very reasonably priced books through Amazon.com that I wanted to read!
    I love the ability to enlarge the font, and left or right handed page turning.
    I love the lighted leather cover I was given as a gift for my birthday!
    In short, I have now read 16 books since Christmas, and haven’t looked back. Love love love!

  17. Availle says:

    I’m surprised you don’t mention archive.org.

    Lots of free texts (most of them very old ones in the public domain, but also some other cc licences), audiobooks… (and the largest Grateful Dead collection online).

    Most of the texts have various formats to read online, as .txt or .pdf, also different formats for e-readers (like the Kindle).

    Personally I don’t like e-readers, although I can see that they are handy at (travel) times. If I ever get one, it won’t be a Kindle though – not unless they solve their DRM issues…

  18. Charles Cohn says:

    I am inclined to shop for a Kindle or some other reader. I want it mainly for reading instruction manuals. These normally come as large PDF files included on a CD or DVD that is included with most pieces of tech equipment. If you print these out, you get an inch-thick stack of paper that’s impossible to bind and awkward to handle. I don’t know much about the Kindle, but I would hope that it would be capable of handling large PDF files and using input devices like CD/DVD’s and USB.

  19. Cheryl says:

    Weren’t you the one that referred readers to amazon to get a free Kindle version for your computer? I did that and download several free books already.

  20. Riki says:

    I have toyed with the idea of getting an e-reader on and off for the last year. Haven’t actually done it yet, however, I’ve done some pretty exhaustive research and experimenting with the various e-readers my friends own (Kobo, Kindle, Sony, and Libre). I would buy the Sony e-reader, without question. The Kindle is the most popular and recognizable brand name, but it has too many issues with DRM in my opinion. The Sony will read more file formats.

    I’ve read that some e-readers are actually allowing you to “lend” files for a certain period of time. It’s an interesting concept that makes e-readers more attractive to me.

  21. Kate says:

    Although a Kindle is a pretty extravagent (some might say ostentatious) Valentine’s Day gift, I guess that extravagence is in the eye of the beholder. I have to wonder, though, what kind of example that sets for watching children that parents exchange such expensive gifts for Valentines Day.
    My experiences with a Kindle:
    Being a devotee of physical books I never thought I would say that I like my Kindle so much. I got mine before Christmas and then got several Amazon gift certificates for Christmas presents.
    Things I like about the Kindle:
    ~~the number of classic free books that Amazon offers. I have downloaded them so I will have them for vacations after I have exhausted the new books that I have put on it. the number of free books that Amazon offers is pretty extensive, although you have to search for them (google free books and Kindle–there are blogs that are devoted soley to free things for the Kindle).
    ~~the 3G ability because I have a very cheapo cell phone plan and now I can check my e-mail and most websites (albeit very clumsily but it is more than I had and teaches me patience).
    ~~the ability to download and read the newest Newbery Award winner in a raging snowstorm.
    ~~I can download samples of books and then make the decision to buy or to wait and check them out at the library.
    ~~the ability to change the font size and page orientation.
    ~~the free or very reasonably cheap word games
    ~~it goes to sleep on its own to conserve battery power.
    ~~turning off the wireless conserves battery power.
    Things I don’t like:
    ~~the difficulty in gauging how long a book is. There is a status bar at the bottom of a page but my brain doesn’t use it the same way my fingers and brain together judge a book’s thickness or thinness. If I really like a book, I don’t get that same “slow down and savor the last few pages so it won’t end” kind of feeling and if I am not in absolute love with a book it feels like it will never end.
    ~~not being able to quickly turn back to a page and check a sentence or detail.
    ~~the clicking of the page turn is pretty quiet but it sometimes disturbs my husband if I am reading in bed.
    ~~the fear that if I fall asleep reading that it will fall and break. I have read stories where this has happened.
    ~~no color.
    ~~it sometimes freezes which is scary because I paid a lot for it. A hard reset has fixed the problem but there is still the fear aspect that isn’t there with a book.

  22. kittie says:

    Getting a gift is not the same as buying one for your spouse. Sarah bought Trent a gift. Trent did not specify if he did or did not buy Sarah a gift. Sarah does not write the blog. Sarah can and apparently did what she wanted to do to show her love and appreciation for her husband. It is perfectly ok for Sarah and Trent to have different opinions on gift giving. I don’t think receiving a gift equals not being consistent. Go Sarah!!! I usually don’t comment, but this just bugged me.

  23. Janis says:

    Thanks for the list of links! I read Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom years ago as a free download on a Pocket PC device. Nice to find it again.

    I read ebooks all the time on my iPhone. Sure, the screen is small, but I don’t mind it. What’s really great is that there are apps that make my phone function as a Kindle, a Nook, or other type of reader, which means that I am not restricted to one format. I can use the Nook app to borrow from my local library.

    When the next generation comes out, I’ll probably spring for an iPad. I realize that there is a considerable price difference between a Kindle and an iPad (or similar tablet), but the iPad is so much more than an ereader.

  24. Claudia says:

    Oooh! curling up on the loveseat to read a piece of plastic. No, no,never-ever!

  25. con says:

    #24 Claudia…I couldn’t agree more. I guess better to read on a piece of plastic than not at all, but yikes. Of course, I’m on here commenting to a blog on the internet, so I’m no better. Still, holding a “real” book in your hands is much better in my opinion.

  26. con says:

    My word of the day is apparently “better.”

  27. Sara says:

    In Trent’s defense, his wife bought the Kindle for him. What was he supposed to do, refuse to accept it? Still, I hope Sarah wasn’t disappointed that Trent just did the dishes and stuck some notes in her coat pocket throughout the year.

  28. Lilly says:

    I love my Kindle!! My mom bought me one for my birthday/Christmas and it has been great. Within a couple days of getting it I had 70 books on it without paying a cent – all free (mostly classics) from Amazon.

  29. Mark Fitz says:


    I use instapaper regularly to “bookmark” articles I come across but don’t have time to read while at work. It will grab the text of the article and keep it indexed online for later reading.

    There is a good Instapaper client for i-Devices (and, I presume, the Android market), but I find myself reading my instapaper articles more on the kindle (delivered for free) than anywhere else. Perfect for the doctor’s office, where I have a difficult time “getting into” a book, but where a short article will suffice.

    I know I’m late to this game, but thought I’d weigh in after seeing it hadn’t been mentioned yet.

  30. pat says:

    My favorite site for free books is manybooks.net. This might be one you lumped in with the “duplicates” of Project Gutenberg, but they have both public domain and current free books available in many formats. What sets this site apart for me are the book reviews/recommendations from readers that I’ve found to be tremendously useful.

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