Few people would deny the joy that comes from kicking back in a comfy chair to read a good book. These days, modern technology is changing the way many folks read books. More and more are turning to ebook readers and tablet computers for their reading pleasure, a trend that appears to be on the rise due in part to increased availability of free ebooks.


According to a recent study by Pew Research, more Americans age 18 and older have access to books in electronic format today than at any time in the past, with 42% now owning a tablet computer and 32% owning an ereader. Most ebooks can be read with a traditional desktop computer, too.


One potential drawback to ebooks is that you may have to pay for the books you read on top of the cost of the hardware needed to view them.  If you are among the growing number of Americans interested in reading books in digital format, you may be happy to know that there are plenty of public and private sources of books for you download at no cost to you.

Public library

It should come as no surprise that one of the best sources of free ebooks is the public library. Many municipal libraries around the country now allow members to "check out" titles for a period of time by downloading them directly into a tablet or ereader with an application (or app) called Overdrive. In addition to no charge, a key advantage is that you don't have to go to the library to pick up or return the books. Similar to checking out a book from the brick-and-mortar library, users must identify themselves by supplying a library ID card number. Then book loan period expires after a predetermined time – usually two or three weeks.

Book retailers

One literature retailer, Barnes & Noble, introduced a means to download low- and no-cost books with a reader they branded "Nook."  Of course, the company is counting on customers to purchase higher priced ebooks from time to time, too. The latest models of the Nook read are wifi enabled, allowing you to surf the web, as well as stream music and videos, as you can do with many tablet computers.

Online retailer Amazon helped boost ereader adoption with its evolving line of Kindle machines, offering easy access to Amazon's massive collection of content – including some free ebook titles. Newer models have evolved into gadgets with many of the features found on tablet computers, such as apps for playing videos and music. If you own a tablet, there’s no need to buy a Kindle because you can download the Kindle app and gain access to virtually identical volumes as if you owned one.

A word of caution: Some free downloads are available as samples of full-length books that you will need to purchase in order to read in entirety. In fairness, these teaser versions are clearly marked as such. On the flip side, many of the best literary classics, like Moby Dick, Romeo and Juliet, and A Tale of Two Cities, are completely free.