Henry James said the two most beautiful words in the English language are "summer afternoon." What better way to spend yours than lying in the shade with a good book? Now that we're almost 100 years removed from James, make that a good ebook. Most digital volumes retail for $9 to $15, but there are plenty of sources for cheap or free ebooks, as well as subscription services that open the door to all the ebooks you care to read for a small monthly fee.
Libraries in many communities lend ebooks for free, for two weeks at a time. The selection is limited due to publishing company restrictions; on the other hand, you don't need to go to the library to borrow ebooks. Just use a library card and the OverDrive app to gain access to ebooks, audio books, and videos. All ebooks aren't available in formats that suit all devices, but Kindle and ePub, an open format that is sharable and readable on any device, are featured regularly. As with physical library books, new books are often taken; placing a "hold" on a title secures a spot on the wait list.
Want to spend the summer reading or re-reading the classics? Get 'em for free from Project Gutenberg. This institution has been around since before the Internet. Its mission is to digitize books that have passed out of copyright into the public domain. Close to 50,000 ebooks are available; search alphabetically, by popularity, or by category. Titles can be downloaded into ePub or Kindle formats, or as HTML files to read on a computer. CDs and DVDs, sheet music, and audio books are also offered.
With more than 8 million public domain ebooks available through Internet Archive, unusual finds are a sure bet. This resource, a central location for digitized books and documents from public, university, and world libraries, also offers access to video, audio, and photo libraries. Files are downloadable to several ereader formats and as PDFs. There are half a million documents for people with vision disabilities. Open Library, which is affiliated with Internet Archive, contains plenty of modern books in digital format.
Sign up for this service and Bookbub will send a daily list of deals on current titles, often by bestselling authors, usually for $3 or less. Ebooks are available for a limited time and downloadable to many different devices, including those associated with Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google. Go to the site, rather than pulling off the list, and check out any of the offerings.
The name of this resource is a bit of a misnomer; more than 100 ebooks are available and they're not all free. But One Hundred Free Books is a source for books by bestselling authors at incredibly low prices (free or less than $3), usually for a limited time. Deals of the day are emailed to subscribers (no cost to get on the list) and selections are downloaded to the Kindle app, which is available for a variety of non-Amazon devices.
Scribd launched as a document-sharing site and has reinvented itself as a subscription site for ebooks. Shell out $8.99 a month for unlimited access to more than 1 million books, comics, and audiobooks. Titles include current bestsellers as well as classics and everything in between. Download the Scribd app to an iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or Android device.
Like Scribd, Oyster is a subscription service, and charges $9.95 a month for unlimited access to its library. Alternatively, skip the subscription and browse the bookstore, which stocks plenty of free ebooks and others, new and old, that go for discounted prices, often under $10. Oyster says ebooks can be downloaded to any device.
This indie publishing site offers thousands of self-published ebooks, either free or at low cost. Find titles by genre, price, length, or popularity and download as ePub, PDF, or Mobi (for Kindle). For ebooks that require payment, it's often possible to read a large portion for free before committing to buy.
Amazon offers two paths to acquiring cheap or free ebooks. Prime members with Kindles can access the online vendor's lending library, which holds 800,000 ebooks. The second route takes readers to Amazon's Cheap Reads page, which grants access to thousands of ebooks, listed by category, for free or less than $4. All titles are available for Kindle or a Kindle app.