How to get cheap and free books: Kindle, audio books, E-books and more

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a dad reading a free book to his daughter on the sofa

Books can get expensive, especially if you're buying them for yourself and the whole family. Which is why we've sourced tips on how to get free books.

Whether it's a tale for you or one of the best books for kids - reading is an important activity that opens us up to new worlds, introduces us to foreign cultures, challenges our knowledge and aids our development. Starting little ones off young with one of the best books for toddlers (opens in new tab) is a great way to encourage reading as a skill for life. Though as is the case with most hobbies - reading can come with a price. And those book costs can certainly add up over time.

The good news is there are a number of platforms and opportunities to pick up a free book or a cheap book bargain. And we've shared details on how you can get your hands on them for you and your child.

Where to shop cheap books:

How to get free books - 12 tips

1. Sign up to Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited (opens in new tab) costs just £7.99 ($9.99) a month and offers unlimited books to read on your Kindle. Though the good news is if you're an Amazon customer, you can try it for two months free first. Allowing you to see if it's to your liking, whilst also receiving free books.

During this time, you can get free access to over a million Kindle titles which include ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines. Whilst the subscription does include some bestsellers and must-reads like Harry Potter and The Handmaid's Tale, it's worth noting that the general selection are made up of books from new or less famous authors. But that's not to say that these aren't worthy of a read.

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Titles can be read on any Amazon device or the Kindle app, which is available to download for free to your phone or tablet. You can borrow titles as often as you want with no due dates - and can keep up to ten at a time.

To browse books, go to the Kindle Store and find the link to Kindle Unlimited - here it will flag up all the books included in the subscription. Alongside Amazon recommendations of what to read next.

If you don't want to continue after the two months, then be sure to set a reminder on your phone to cancel and avoid the monthly fee.

2. Check out Booktrust

If you’re not already familiar with Bookstart (opens in new tab) - it’s a great resource from charity Booktrust that offers free books to every child under 12 months and those aged 3-4 years. Bookstart gifts additional needs packs for babies and toddlers too, as well as black-and-white booklets for newborns and dual language books.

In England, your health visitor or health professional should gift a yellow bag in your baby's first year to help you share stories, rhymes and songs. And your pre-schooler will receive their special gift envelope when they are 3-4 years old, from their nursery, children's centre or other early years setting.

If you haven't received your Bookstart Baby pack by the time your child turns one, or the Bookstart Treasure pack before they turn five, ask your local library for help.

3. The Love Literacy App

This is a great one if you have young children. EdTech start-up, Readingmate have launched over 200 free children’s eBooks on their free reading app, the Love Literacy App (opens in new tab).  The app was developed by English teacher Hannah Rix and husband James in June 2020 to inspire a love of reading.

Explaining why they developed the app, Hannah said: "1 in 8 disadvantaged children (opens in new tab) in the UK don’t have a book of their own. This is a shocking statistic, and it’s one that we want to help change. That’s why we’ve created the Love Literacy App, which provides free eBooks for children so they can always have a bedtime story. We believe that every child should have the opportunity to read and learn to love reading, and with this app, we’re one step closer to making that dream a reality."

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The machine learning within the app generates personalised reading recommendations for every child, rewards with badges for every milestone they reach and encourages conversations around reading and books with comprehension-style questions.

4. Library borrowing online

As well as visiting traditional local libraries, you can now borrow free books from online libraries. Check out sites such as Z-Library to get free books online. Simply search for the book you want and it will download onto your Apple Books or Kindle. Or you can sign up for a free account and download books direct from the site. Once you have an account, you'll get an increased daily download limit and access to the useful features such as getting books sent directly to your email address. So it's definitely worth doing.

Another good option is The Open Library (opens in new tab). It's easy to set up an account on their website, then simply search what you want to borrow and read it via your internet browser on your phone or tablet.

5. Swap with friends

This is a great way of bagging some free books, while also broadening your reading material and helping the environment. You can swap or borrow books with colleagues, friends, family, the options are endless. Why not get together once a month and make a night of it? 

For those looking for a formal story swap programme, look no further than Bookswap.co.uk (opens in new tab). All you have to do is sign up for free online, list the books you want to swap on their website and search for ones you want to order (if available).

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You should also check out The Book Swap Club (opens in new tab) on Instagram - which involves the same practice but with an in-person element. Founders regularly organise pop up book swap events in London. We recommend doing a search via Google or Facebook to see if there's any community book exchange groups in your own area too.

6. Audible’s free kids audiobooks

Audible boasts a whole catalogue of over 60 kids' audiobooks completely free (opens in new tab) on their Audible Stories section. You don't even need to sign up for an account, simply choose what you want and stream it. The free books feature titles from best-selling children's authors like David Walliams, Matt Haig and Jeff Kinney.

7. Audible free trial

There's more benefits to be had with Audible.  Similar to the Kindle Unlimited offer, there's an option to sign up to a free 30-day trial of Audible (opens in new tab). During this time, you get two free credits to redeem from a selection of audiobooks. 1 credit is 1 audiobook, so you can access two free books during the trial.

Audible offers everything from podcasts to Harry Potter audiobooks. And if you choose their Premium Plus option, you also get 30% off all additional premium selection titles you want, plus access to exclusive sales.

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It's also worth following their social media accounts - as they'll often treat subscribers to free books too. These are only available to download for a limited time, so be sure you get yours whilst you can.

8. Look for free Kindle books

Amazon has hundreds of free eBooks (opens in new tab) you can download and send straight to your Kindle. It’s well worth having a scout to see what’s available.

Search for "free kindle books" on Amazon's website and you'll be shown a host of free books, many of which are temporarily on sale. You'll find books organised into categories and many of these books are classics, as well as kids books and thrillers. They'll have a button that says "Buy for Free" on their individual payment pages and will specify if it's a limited time deal.

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9. Kobo Books

Kobo Books (opens in new tab) is an online store which offers eBooks, audiobooks and eReaders. And if you look hard enough you'll discover their collection of free eBooks and audiobooks (opens in new tab) too. From romance to mysteries and thrillers, there’s something for everyone in their free section.

Staff members like the Romance Editor and Audiobook Editor also highlight their pick of the free books each month. So you know you're not getting a dudd one because of it's free status.

You will need to create an account to be able to read the books, but this is totally free. And in further good news, there's no limit to the amount of free books you download. Win win.

10. Sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

If you have a child between the ages of 0 to 5 and your local area participates, you can sign up to get free children’s books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (opens in new tab). There are participating communities within the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Republic of Ireland.

Once you sign up via the website, each month, Dolly’s Imagination Library mails a high quality, age appropriate book to all registered children at no cost to the child’s family. The books are carefully selected and include traditional stories and rhymes, books by popular authors and illustrators, non-fiction content, plus newly published titles.

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11. Check out loyalty schemes with book shops

Lots of online book shops and publishing companies offer reward schemes when you purchase books with them. For example, Penguin Random House offer a points system where you collect 10 points with every purchase. Then, once you have 120 points, you can use them to claim a free book of your choosing.

Another clever way to get free books from publishers is to start a blog. Often, publishers will send advanced reader copies to book bloggers for review. Usually, 1000 Instagram followers is enough to request free samples. Most publisher's websites have a 'contact' or 'press' section, where you'll find contact details to request free books.

12. Follow your favourite authors

Make sure you’re following your favourite authors on social media, or sign up to their mailing list. Authors tend to let their fans know exactly when books are free or discounted for a limited time. Make sure you sign up for notification updates to avoid missing out. You can also follow authors on most eReaders to get similar updates.

If you do decide to start a book blog, you can also contact authors via their social media offering to review their books. Good luck.

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