Where to get Kindle books for free

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Two months on from Christmas, and many recipients of a Kindle e-reader are discovering that e-books can be an expensive habit. While owning a Kindle means having a good read on hand at all times, it's not so great for the bank balance, with many e-books only a little cheaper than their dead-tree counterparts.

The good news, though, is that it's possible to find an enormous number of Kindle books without paying a penny. And canny users are cottoning on - indeed, a recent survey by Ofcom and Kantar Media found that in the UK 61 percent of e-books are read for free.



Even better, you don't even need to own a Kindle device to get these free titles - there are Kindle applications available here to download free for all major smartphones, computers and tablets.

So, once you're all Kindled up, where are the best places to browse the virtual shelves?

Amazon
The first and most obvious place to look for free books is Amazon itself. However, clicking on the 'free books' tab on the right-hand side only brings up a list of the most popular free titles of the day. This link, though, leads to the full list of free books by searching on '£0-£0' as a price.

And what a list it is. There are an astonishing 40,157 titles available right now of every type and genre - although there's a bias towards classics which are out of copyright and self-published novels. It's worth remembering, though, that the classics are classics for a reason - they're good.

Books are classified by genre, and some categories are huge: but to avoid having to plough randomly through the list, customers can sort by popularity, date of publication and average customer review score. Around 1,000 new books are added every month. Children's books are particularly well-represented, with over 1,000 titles from The Ugly Duckling to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as well as plenty of new books.

Some of these titles are available free indefinitely, others only as a time limited offer - these books can be found in a separate listing here. Most, though, are self-help titles and technical guides.

The Kindle Owners' Lending Library
Amazon runs its own lending library - but only for users of Amazon Prime. This service, which offers free one-day delivery for more than seven million items from the Amazon store, also gives customers access to more than 350,000 Kindle books for free. Amazon Prime itself is free for the first month and costs £49 per year thereafter - soon to go up to £79.

Titles include, of course, all the usual out-of-copyright classics - but also many more. The complete list of Harry Potter books is there, for example, along with the Hunger Games trilogy and many others of Amazon's top sellers. Customers can borrow one book a month and keep it as long as they like - though they're restricted to one at a time.

Project Gutenberg
The other huge source for free Kindle books is Project Gutenberg, founded as a volunteer project in 1971 to encourage the take-up of electronic books. It now offers nearly 45,000 free books, again with a preponderance of classics.

Right now, the top 100 titles include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Jungle Book and the Kama Sutra, and more than 50 new titles are added every week. Project Gutenberg is still run by volunteers, and donations are welcomed.


DailyFreeBooks
If you've already browsed the main free lists from Amazon, Gutenberg et al, you may only be interested in new additions. DailyFreeBooks searches Amazon and US site Smashwords to find new free books as they're addded, updating its list once an hour. The company also sends out daily emails with a list of the highest-rated books.

British users, though, may find that not all the books listed are free in practice, as the site's set up using US sources. Special offers can vary by country, and differing copyright laws mean that publishers can't always release a book in every country.

Your local library
Yup, as long as your library has signed up for Amazon's OverDrive service and you have a library card, you can borrow Kindle books without even leaving home. Around half of public libraries in the UK are members; check your local library website for more information.

There's a central catalogue of over a million books, videos and audio books, with individual libraries offering their own selection from this list. Depending on the terms set by the publisher, some books can only be downloaded by one person at a time, whereas others are available for an unlimited number of users simultaneously.

The big problem for OverDrive in the UK, though, is that the document format used isn't compatible with all Kindle devices. Only the Kindle Fire is supported at the moment, although anyone can access the books on a PC or mobile device using the Kindle software mentioned above.

Happy reading!