3 Easy Legal Ways to Read Books for Free (besides Netgalley and Edelweiss)

Hello everyone!

I dearly hope you’re safe and healthy. Won’t linger on that as we already get enough of it on the media. (Who hasn’t received at least one email starting with “in these complicated/unprecedented/challenging times”? I’ve even received one with all three.)

Before I start: due to work and studies, I couldn’t stay up to date with the blogosphere. Please feel free to link to your favorite post(s) from the past month in the comments so I can catch up on all the amazing stuff.

Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole


If you’re in the same situation as me, then affording books has been reported to further notice. (I mean, I’m also totally not sure if I’ll be able to start my bachelor’s degree in September, but that comes after getting books.)

alice in wonderland facepalming
Don’t know if I’m facepalming because of the situation or because Ron Weasley would suggest that I review my list of priorities.


Since I hold a nonofficial but very certified degree in helplessly surfing the Net, I found three awesome free and legal ways to indulge my love for words and books. Because sharing is caring, I want to tell you about the links that have allowed me to read something new in moments when I had no luck on Netgalley or Edelweiss.

Of course, there are dozens of other ways to legally get free ebooks (like sections on the Kindle and Nook apps or signing up for book tours) but you probably already know about those or I can’t recommend them because I haven’t tried them out or these are quicker. And if you already knew about them too, then I apologize 🙂

Happy and safe reading!

Disclaimer: I am not endorsed or supported in any way by these websites. I want to share the info because reading is my life and yours as well. If I sound too eager, blame it on my love for books and sharing knowledge.

1- Riveted by Simon Teen (YA):

Riveted by Simon Teen is the YA blog of Simon & Schuster, and since I found it (in February-ish), my life has never been the same.

Riveted doesn’t only have quirky and funny posts about the Simon & Schuster YA books and authors, it also has a Free Reads section that changes every month!

Basically, they put at your disposal around twenty full ebooks and extended e-excerpts every month that you can read on any device from which you can access their site.

You cannot download the ebooks (duh), but you have from the first to the last day of the month to read them.

Questions you might have:

Does it work where I live? We aren’t usually able to access all platforms based in Europe or North America where I live, so if it works here chances are that it will work where you live as well.

I was afraid that it may be an option reserved for people in a certain geographical area only (like the option Simon & Schuster offers if you subscribe to their newsletter, which is valid only in the US) but I have found no statement that says that reading Riveted‘s books from outside the US is not permitted. The closest thing I’ve found that relates to territorial restrictions is in the general S&S Terms of Agreement (which basically just state that if your use of their website violates the law in your country, then it’s your responsibility).

I’ve contacted the Riveted team about it (yeah, I’m paranoiac when I want to) but they haven’t gotten back yet. I’ll update the post when they do (if they do).

How does it work? Once you create a free account by registering with your email, you can access all the books/excerpts. Play a bit with the screen at first and you’ll find many reading options (bookmarking, full-screen, etc.) that will make the experience even better.

Yes, I’ve blurred the text. No one will get spoiled in this house if I can help it.

Remember, you cannot download the books, so you have to have Internet connection and a device that allows access to the website to be able to read.

How many books can I read? This is the part where I’m not really helpful because I’ve never read more than one or two books per month on the platform, so I don’t know if there is a limit at, say, five. You’ll have to discover that. (Please, let me know if there is one!)

Is this real? It feels too good to be true! Yeah pal, we think alike on this one. I’ve done quite some research to make sure that the site is legit and that we’re not doing anything wrong by reading the books, but as far as I’ve seen, it is real indeed.

Yet, I’m guarding my feelings because I expect to be deceived in some way or another in the long run (you know, basic instinct in this world). Plus, I’m sure it’s in the contract with the authors, but it still feels wrong to read their books for free, so… limited consumption.

2- Project Gutenberg (Classics and Old Nonfiction):

A classic book is something that everybody wants to have read, and nobody wants to read.

Mark Twain

While Mark Twain’s quote can be true in certain cases books for school, I’m looking at you, classics can be thoroughly enjoyable.

Project Gutenberg is where I got my Dorian Grey and Anne of Green Gables ebooks.

A volunteer effort to make books available to anyone for free, PG displays the books that have become part of the public domain, in most cases because they were published for the first time over 100 years ago (US law, please check to see if that applies to your country as well before downloading).

Questions you might have:

Does it work where I live? As written just above, please check whether the laws regarding public domain and copyright infringement in your country are the same as/are similar to those in the States. If you won’t violate the author’s/publisher’s copyright by downloading the book, then it’s safe to say that yes, it does work where you live.

PG explains it:

Fortunately almost all Project Gutenberg ebooks are free of charge and free as in freedom for readers within the United States (if you are not in the United States, you will need to determine what copyright law protects where you are located).

How does it work? There is no need to subscribe or even register. You can explore genres, authors, and categories or search for specific titles (if a book doesn’t appear on the research result list, it has probably not yet been uploaded or is not yet part of the public domain). You have the possibility to download the ebooks in many formats, including PDF, ePub, and Mobi. Books are even available in French, Portuguese, and German.

I recently started reading the Poirot cases, and my, are they thrilling

3- Smashwords (Indie Books):

Let’s get honest here: books published by big publishing houses often get all the hype, but some titles published by indie authors or independent publishers can turn out to be hidden gems. (Think about Thorns by Intisar Khanani, which I’ve yet to read but whose story is appropriate to prove my point.)

Let me introduce you to the treasure cave of indie books.

Smashwords has some cool novels, an insane list of categories to browse, and over 80k free ebooks available to download in many formats!

It’s easy to browse and fairly accessible! Plus, it supports many languages, and by looking for keywords in the search bar, you may find something you like in a language that isn’t English.

Questions you might have:

Does it work where I live? Pretty positive it does. (Let me know if it doesn’t so I can warn other bookworms.)

How does it work? Register for free with your email, confirm your account, and voilà! You’re all set to find your next legally free indie read. Smashwords has a neat filtering system (allows you to choose the genre/length/pricing limit/more) + a star-based review rating system, which makes it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

I love historical fiction, sorry everyone

At the moment (until May 31, 2020), the number of free books availanle on Smashwords is over 80,000! There are several types of free books: some are labelled You Choose (“the price can be free or reader-sets-the-price, any price above $.99”), some simply Free (you just have to download them), while some are part of the time-limited promotion called Authors Give Back (until May 31, authors give you a coupon to get their selected books for free).

You can find many types of formats including ePub, Mobi, and PDF.

But it’s a website that supports Indie authors. How does it support them by giving out their books for free? Ah-ha! Amazing question, and I’m going to try to answer. When you create your free account, you’ll get an email explaining a little about Smashwords and how it works, including this bit about how they pay authors:

Smashwords is a great place to sample, discover and purchase over 500,000 affordably-priced ebooks, direct from independent authors and publishers. When you purchase a book, 85% of the net proceeds go straight to the author/publisher, which means you’re directly supporting the author who worked so hard to bring you their book.

And then in their extremely extended FAQ, Smashwords tells authors:

I notice some authors give their books away for free. Do you recommend this?
Yes, if you can use it strategically.  We think FREE has a place in every author’s marketing toolbox.  FREE books receive, on average, about 30 times more downloads than priced books.  If you write full-length series, then FREE is an incredibly powerful sales driver if you price the first book in the series at FREE.  Free gets you the most readers because it eliminates the financial barrier that might prevent a reader from taking a chance on you, an author unknown to them

It’s obviously what Kindle and Nook do when they “sell” books for free as well. Plus, if you feel like supporting the authors, you can steer towards the books for which you can set the price (labelled as You Choose) and thus both support your wallet ($.99) and the author.

I should really quit being lazy and add an s to that thought.

There you go! I hope this post will help you not to lose your sanity to keep entertained if you’re stuck at home.

Last thing: regardless of if you pay or not to read their books, remember that a good way to thank authors for the entertainment they provide you with is to show your appreciation for their work and spread the word. Whether you have a platform on which you talk about books or not, make sure to tell other people about the titles you’ve read for free.

Dropping a positive star-rating (only if you’ve enjoyed, of course) on Goodreads or Smashwords (and perhaps in other places where you might find the book for sale) will always help the author (at least those on Riveted and Smashwords, I don’t think those featured on Project Gutenberg will be affected in any way).

Sharing is caring. Supporting is loving.

Final disclaimer: Please make sure that you are using these resources in a lawful way, it is your own responsibility if you don’t.

If you’ve come all the way down here, I hope it means you liked the post. If it turned out to be helpful, please consider supporting me:
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Did you know about these websites? Do you know any other legal way to get free reads? Do you have more questions about these resources? Is there a particular book that you’ve legally read for free and want to recommend?

Let me know in the comments!

Also, don’t forget to send me your favorite posts from this past month! I want to catch up on all the amazing stuff!


37 thoughts on “3 Easy Legal Ways to Read Books for Free (besides Netgalley and Edelweiss)

  1. HAH the “in these complicated/unprecedented/challenging times” email is so real, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve sent that email for my work 😅

    I didn’t know about Simon Teen blog or Smashwords, but those are so cool and such great resources right now!

    Project Gutenberg is the BEST, though – pretty sure it saved my life multiple times during college.

    Thanks so much for putting together this post with so much helpful information! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not that I have found so far – It seems to me ( I’ve never actually read all the provided books in one month but it is a goal of mine! ) like you can read as much of the free titles that you want until the expire 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Oooh, it’s amazing that you got the chance to buddy read it, feminist YA is indeed in need of more content. Have you heard of/read Stepsister, by Jennifer Donnelly? It’s quite the empowering read.

        And thank you for the rec, I’ve added The Nowhere Girls to my TBR!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the suggestions! I think you’d like Anybooks too. It’s an app and requires an initial payment to buy it but after that, you can get any book for free. They don’t have like the latest books but it’s still pretty cool!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I forgot to ask, every time I write a wrap-up I feature posts I’ve really enjoyed reading that month, linking back to the original and giving credit of course. Would it be okay if I featured your post? It’s completely opcional and with no preassure at all, but I wanted to ask first.

        Liked by 1 person

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