To make it more precise: the books that are available in other places than Kobo offer books in a format that Kobo devices and applications read.
Obviously you can start from Kobo website itself, and I’ll also explain how to make the most use of it.
There are two general things to remember:
1. The format which is compatible with Kobo is epub. Pdf format is also supported, but it’s less comfortable to read than epub, especially on smaller screens, like the 5-inch Kobo Mini.
2. Some books, even if they are available for free, can be protected with DRM (Digital Rights Management). For instance, you can get a DRM-ed free classic from Kobo, or you can find the same title without DRM elsewhere – the decision is yours. Read more about ebook DRM in this post.
Before buying a Kobo ereader you can test how it is to read epub files by downloading one of the free Kobo apps. They are available for iPad/iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, BlackBerry devices, and PC/Mac computers.
You can also read and browse for Kobo books directly in your browser, using Kobo Instant Reader (you’ll need a Kobo account for that).
Read also: 50 best Kobo cases, sleeves, and accessories
9 sites with free Kobo books to download
1. Kobo Ebookstore
Free ebooks are not very well highlighted on Kobo (it’s actually the problem with most ebookstores).
Kobo claims they’ve got over 1 million free ebooks. Recently access to these titles have been limited even more. The landing page for free Kobo books is not working for all users.
The search trick is still there, however. To find free ebooks, simply perform any search, you can look for author’s name, title of the book or genre. Then, on a list of results, from a drop down list select Free Only. You can further sort titles by ratings, title, or publication date.
There is also a directory of books that are currently free. Not too many books there, usually between one hundred and two hundred, mostly romance, fantasy and YA.
Smashwords is a top destination with ebooks from independent authors and publishers. There are almost 200,000 titles in the catalog. At the time of writing this post there were exactly 6,598,605,314 words published. You’ll be able not only to download books in epub or pdf format, but also read them online in your browser.
There are two major benefits of Smashwords. First one is that some books are being distributed to major ebookstores – and Kobo is one of them. Smashwords is simply a very important source of newly released independent ebooks. But there is one more benefit: all books on Smashwords are DRM-free. If you download an epub file, you’ll be able to read it on Kobo and any other device which supports that format. It is possible that a book from Kobo is DRM-ed and the same book on Smashwords is DRM-free.
To quickly get to the list of free ebooks, simply use the combination of three top filter bars. For instance, here is the link to: bestsellers – that are free – that are 50k words or longer.
Currently there are almost 23,000 free ebooks on Smashwords. You can pick a category first and then select Free tab to get a list of free titles in your favorite genre. For instance, there are 2,100 science-fiction books that are free on Smashwords.
3. Project Gutenberg
While Smashwords is all about books from contemporary authors, Project Gutenberg is the top place to download free classics. It’s the primary repository of free public domain ebooks. When the title enters public domain, it means the rights to this work have expired and the book is publicly available. On Project Gutenberg the public domain books are free. It’s possible that elsewhere you will find the same classic titles in ebook format, for which you’ll have to pay. This issue also applies to Kobo, so if you are looking for the literary classics from Mark Twain, Jane Austen or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, don’t hesitate to check Project Gutenberg.
Currently there are 40,000 public domain books in the catalog. The files are very well prepared. There are two kinds of epub files: with or without images. The one with images is much heavier. The one without should take no more than 500k of disc space. One more thing: Project Gutenberg offers a very useful Dropbox integration.
4. Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the mission of “universal access to all knowledge.” The website is a huge digital library of text, audio and video files. It offers over 3.8 mln ebooks and texts. Sub-collections include American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, books from Project Gutenberg, titles from the Million Books Project, and books for children.
When you find the interesting book, you’ll see in the left panel the list of available formats. In most cases epub will be included.
5. Open Library
Open Library is an initiative of the above mentioned Internet Archive. The site positions itself as “the world’s classic literature at your fingertips”. There are over 1,000,000 free ebook titles available.
The biggest benefit of Open Library is that it’s driven by a strong community. It’s like Wikipedia for ebooks. If the book had more than one edition, you’ll see them listed on Open Library. For instance, Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, first published in 1876, have 306 editions altogether and most of them have separate download directories.
On Feedbooks you can find both public domain (Public Domain section) and free contemporary books (Original Books section), both fiction and non-fiction. As the site is based in France, there are a lot of titles in French, as well as in other languages, not only in English.
The site offers RSS feeds of specific categories, so you can subscribe to them and get new books the moment they are added to offer.
The largest book discovery site, Goodreads, offers also books in epub format. The catalog is not huge, there are only 2,500 titles listed here, but they are very interesting ones. For instance you can download Harry Potter: The Prequel by J.K. Rowling, a short story set about three years before the birth of Harry Potter. It recounts an adventure experienced by Sirius Black and James Potter. The books are available in epub, pdf and txt format.
The site offers 29,000 free ebooks. The site is very well-organized and it’s easy to browse for books or follow recommendations. The book detail page displays not only the usual fields like the author or publish date, but also word count and the reading ease. The number of available formats is impressive. Epub included.
The site is an online ebook catalog, where you can find almost 30,000 titles – all of them are free. There are several categories to choose from. The most popular are Poetry, Juvenile Fiction, and Literary Collections.
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