7 best online destinations to read short stories for free

Read short stories online - the best sites
Electric Literature, The New Yorker, Wattpad, Fictionaut, or Project Gutenberg are among the sites you will love if you are a short story addict.

Looking for a quick read online? Below, you’ll find our favorite websites to read short stories on.

If you’re reading this post, high chances are you’ve been browsing through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Reddit for the past half an hour or so. You’d probably like to do something more productive with your time – read a book, for example – but you just don’t have enough time on your hands to commit to a weighty 400-page novel.

But what if there’s another way?

The answer is simple: short stories. Short stories that can addict, engross, and absorb just like a novel can – but in the timespan of one morning commute or a relaxing bath.

And there are plenty of places to find high-quality quick reads online, often for free. Some websites even have iOS apps to read on, making the reading experience even easier.

Scroll down to find out which short story websites made the cut.

Why short stories are a great read

Having not enough time to commit to reading a weighty tome is one of the major reasons why so many people ditch books.

But little do they know a well-written short story will make them feel the same thrill, experience the same attachment to the characters and spark as much love to reading as a normal book would.

You can read them whenever and wherever you want – on a commute back home from work, during an evening bath, in the waiting room at the dentist.

Need more reasons to reach for a short story? We’ve got a handy list with the benefits of short stories.

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A guide to most popular sites where you can read books online, with detailed descriptions and screenshots.

7 best sites where you can read short stories

Electric Literature - read short stories online for free

One of the most popular websites to read short stories on, Electric Literature is a nonprofit digital publisher focused on unveiling elevating new voices. Their interest lays primarily in writing that operates at the intersection of different cultures, genres, and media.

Everything published by Electric Literature is available to read online for free. However, as a small, independent non-profit, they strongly rely on the readers’ financial support, so donations are more than welcome.

There is also a ‘membership’ option – a recurring monthly donation of $4 or more. Members of Electric Literature get some special pros, such as monthly ebook samplings, a “Writing Well is the Best Revenge” tote bag, and more.

In addition to essays, criticism, and literary news, Electric Literature publishes one short story every Wednesday with a personal recommendation by selected top writers and editors.

A short story can be submitted by anyone through Submittable, as long as it meets specific criteria described on the website. It is later reviewed by Electric Literature editors and, if chosen, the author is paid and their work published. As of today, there are about 380 short stories on their website.

⇢ Electric Literature

The New Yorker - best sites to read short stories online

The New Yorker has always played an integral role in the history of serious American fiction. Ever since the publication of “Short Stories from The New Yorker” in 1940, the magazine became one of the most renowned première venues for short fiction, having literary legends such as Nabokov, Murakami, Atwood, Salinger or Fitzgerald grace its pages.

Today, The New Yorker publishes only one story per issue, devoting one issue per year to new fiction. Stories can be sent by anyone using the magazine’s online submission form. While usually gravitating towards already established writers, The New Yorker sometimes takes a chance on fairly experimental ones.

Without a subscription, users can enjoy the home page, section pages, the video hub, Goings On About Town listings, and six full articles per month. They can also download the New Yorker Today app for free, and browse a couple of articles before asked to subscribe.

With a subscription, however, they are given unlimited access to the entirety of New Yorker‘s content, such as:

  • Unlimited browsing and access to articles on both the New Yorker website and The New Yorker Today iOS app (not just articles, but also cartoons, journalism, and much more)
  • Flash fiction, podcasts, and short stories (often with a podcast of the author reading it aloud)
  • Every issue of the magazine since its founding in 1925 in a digital-replica format at archives.newyorker.com (including all short stories)
  • Every story published for the magazine since 2007 in standard Web format (including all short stories)

The pricing is surprisingly low, standing at $12 for 12 weeks of a Print and Digital subscription. As a welcome gift, new subscribers also receive a free tote bag.

⇢ The New Yorker

Project Gutenberg - read classic short stories online free

One of the most popular choices for free short stories online, Project Gutenberg is a digital library of over 60,000 free eBooks, available in both epub and Kindle eBooks formats.

Comprising primarily older works for which U.S. copyright has expired, Project Gutenberg has the biggest variety of book categories to choose from, including children’s literature, fiction, crime, specialized nonfiction, and many more. It also offers books in other languages, such as Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and many more.

As a volunteer initiative, Project Gutenberg is 100% free and does not require registration or a subscription. The home page includes a link to a donation page, but it is not necessary to donate to access the website’s content.

⇢ Project Gutenberg

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Fictionaut - the best short stories online

Fictionaut is a vibrant literary community designed specifically for short fiction and poetry. It is a friendly creative hub that enables users to discover new authors, publish their own works, get feedback and connect with others.

As a website still in development, Fictionaut is currently invite-only – meaning that only those who had received an invite can log in, comment, and publish.

Non-members can, however, read all short stories and poetry for free – and there are over 15,000 works to choose from already.

⇢ Fictionaut

Wattpad - best sites to read short stories free

Wattpad is an online community for readers and writers alike. With over 70 million members (including Margaret Atwood, Paulo Coelho, and R L Stine) and stories in 50 different languages, it is the most popular social storytelling platform on the Internet. Some of the most popular short story categories include fiction, poetry, fan-fiction, spiritual, humor, and teen fiction.

In order to browse on the website you have to create a free account. All of the services – such as publishing own works, reading and commenting other people’s work, the iOS app, and many others – are entirely free to use, since Wattpad earns money through advertising.

There is also a Premium plan that gives some special options such as exclusive theme colors or no ads, but it is not required to use the app in its fullest nor to promote Premium users’ content over others.

With over 565 million free stories available, there is plenty of content users can choose from. Anyone is welcome to publish their original work, but that does not equal bad writing. On the contrary; Wattpad writers have proven to be extremely popular outside of the site as well, with some getting deals from well-known publishing houses such as Random House and Harper Collins, and Beth Reekles’ short story The Kissing Booth being turned into an incredibly popular Netflix adaptation.

So if you’re an aspiring writer or a good-read-hungry book lover, you should definitely give Wattpad a go.

⇢ Wattpad

3:AM Magazine - short stories online

3:AM Magazine is a literary webzine created by Sorbonne lecturer Andrew Gallix. It features literary criticism, nonfiction essays, original fiction, poetry, and interviews with leading writers and philosophers. Well-known for its “blunt, funny, and angrily academic” content, 3:AM focuses primarily on sharp and savvy avant-garde reads.

All content is entirely free to read and it is not required to log in. Anyone can send a short story submission, but only some are selected by the editing team.

⇢ 3:AM

Inkitt - short stories to read online

This beautifully designed website (and an equally sleek iOS app) was created for the users to upload excerpts of fictional works in progress or entire short stories to connect them with readers to provide feedback.

But most importantly, it is also a publishing house that selects authors to collaborate with through algorithms. “We analyze reader behavior, analyze their engagement,” Inkitt founder Ali Albazaz tells TechCrunch. “If they start reading and stay up all night to continue reading, if they use every break during the day to continue reading your story, we look at this reader behavior in order to see if a book is good or not good”.

And the algorithm seems to work. To date, the company has published 24 books, of which 22 have become Amazon best sellers.

As of today, the Inkitt community has 1.6 million readers, 110,000 writers, and some 350,000 stories.

⇢ Inkitt

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Best gifts to give book lovers in 2020

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Best gifts for book lovers in 2019 - Library Books pencil holder organizer

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Best gifts of 2029 for a book lover in your life - Brightech innovative bedside reading light and USB charger

Innovative reading light and USB charger

This innovative bedroom nightstand light from Brightech has a unique shape that would fit modern, urban flats. It features a touch switch dimmer, and comes with a built-in USB charger.

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