Get Millions of Books and Magazines for Free

A good novel, a classic whodunit, a scientific treatise, a trashy celebrity mag – all this and more can be yours for little or nothing.

A good read is one of life’s great pleasures, whether enjoyed in a hammock on a sunny summer afternoon or in a cozy armchair while winter winds howl outside.

You might be the one howling, though, when you add up the cost of all that reading material.

Plenty of libraries have magazines you can read for free, but you can’t enjoy them from a hammock or armchair. You have to read them on-site.

Borrowing books for free is great, but you may not find everything you want. Libraries have to make choices based on shelf space, so you might find only a few of John Steinbeck’s novels or Sue Grafton’s mysteries.

Fortunately, plenty of workarounds exist. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson is an avid reader, but he’s also a savvy saver. Check out his video for advice on how to pay little or nothing for good reads, and then continue on for more tips.

Many magazines can be read online free of charge. But if you like turning actual vs. virtual pages, look for free subscriptions at online sites such as Mercury Magazines, Freebizmag and All Free Magazines. Since it’s necessary to provide personal information and opt into marketing emails, start a separate email address.

Slick mags without sticker shock

Magazines sometimes offer free trial subscriptions to increase interest in their publication. Follow a reputable freebie blogger and keep your eyes peeled. (For links to some of the good ones, see “How to Find Thousands of Freebies.”)

Can’t find the title you want for free? Subscribe with a friend to cut the cost — or maybe more than one friend, if others in your circle take guilty pleasure in trashy celebrity rags or glossy cooking magazines.

Here’s some additional advice, which comes in two parts:

  • Subscribe through a magazine site like, MagazineLine or Magazine Deals Now, which offer low prices and frequent specials.
  • But don’t buy directly from those sites. Instead, access them through a cash-back shopping site to earn rebates of 12 to 20 percent or even more. I recently saw a temporary rebate rate of 35 percent.

No matter where you buy your magazines, beware of the words “auto renew,” unless, that is, you’re organized enough to cancel before your subscription runs out and the company puts another year’s worth on your credit card.

Any time you’re at a yard sale, look for a “free” box. That’s where sale hosts put things they don’t think anyone would want to buy. Usually they’re odds and ends of housewares and Happy Meals toys, but sometimes I’ve seen magazines and books in the free box.

Finding (or rescuing) books

You’ll see tons of magazines in the mixed-paper bin at the recycling center, too. A kindergarten teacher I know pulls some of those out so her students can practice scissors skills and reading readiness (“Cut out pictures of five things that start with the letter ‘B.’”). You, too, may find periodicals worth rescuing.

At times I lean in and retrieve books from the mixed-paper bin as well, a practice I call dumpster wading. Some are pulp mysteries or children’s titles, but I’ve also found classics like Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie,” and recently I lucked into Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.”

Another great place for me has been the library giveaway shelf. Sometimes I find beat-up copies of old books the library is discarding. I don’t care what they look like on the outside as long as all the pages are intact.

But people also donate unwanted titles all year long to the library for its semiannual book sales, and plenty of those wind up on the giveaway shelf. I’ve seen everything from history to mystery, from beautifully written novels like “Inés of My Soul” to a beautifully illustrated book about Civil War battles, complete with fold-out maps.

Speaking of books no one wants any longer, why not look on The Freecycle Network? I’ve seen children’s books, adult novels, textbooks and even entire sets of encyclopedias. Watch the “free” section on Craigslist, too.

Book swapping sites like Paperback Swap and BookMooch operate online, giving you a chance to trade titles you’ve read for those you’d like to read. These aren’t strictly free, of course, because you have to pay for postage. Still, they’re darned cheap.

Or you could start your own service. Ask for permission to put a swap box at work or in your place of worship. A children’s book exchange could be set up at the afterschool program or child care center.

You could also do this with a small group of friends: Every time you finish a book you don’t want to keep, post the title on social media or do a mass email. First person who responds gets it, as long as he or she is willing to come pick it up.

The virtual library

If you’re the kind of person who likes to talk about what you read, sign up as a reviewer at GoodReads or Amazon Reviews. A thoughtful and well-read reviewer might wind up getting advance copies from authors or publishers.

Oh, and Amazon offers free books every day. Really. They’re e-books and the lineup changes constantly. Visit the “Kindle Store: Free” section of that online juggernaut and download away. Not to be outdone, Barnes and Noble also puts free titles up for grabs.

But what if you can’t find the ones you want? Suppose, for example, that you’re besotted with Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series “Sherlock” and decide you want to read the Holmes works. Not every library will have all 56 short stories and four Holmes novels, but you can download 48 of the works for free from a site called

Millions of e-books in every imaginable genre are available without charge at a number of other sites online. A tremendous resource is Gizmo’s Freeware site, “Free eBooks and Audio Books to Read Online or Download.” It lists 913 sites for free e-books, sorting by genres like autobiography, horror, romance, travel, young adult/teen and math. In addition, it features 224 places to find free audiobooks.

Too overwhelming? Try a few individual sites like:

  • Open Library — more than 1.6 million books, dating back as far as 1008.
  • Project Gutenberg — more than 45,000 titles.
  • Google Play — more than 4 million titles, at least half of which are free.
  • — more than 29,000 e-books, with a “genre filter” to help refine your results.

For some of us, an e-reader will never replace the comfortable weight of a book in our hands or the delight of turning a page. But sites like the ones above are a great complement to our physical bookshelves, especially when we’re traveling. Instead of lugging three or four hardbacks, we can access multiple downloads via a small e-reader or even a smartphone.

Imagine it: Never again to be bored while standing in line at the DMV or waiting for an airline delay to be resolved. Never again to run out of reading material. Now that’s a modern miracle, and it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Dale

    A couple more tips: find deep deep discounts on magazines at discountmagsdotcom. I’ve never paid more than five dollars a year for any of my favorite magazines. I subscribe to cooking, yoga, decorating and gardening mags amongst others. Sign up with e-mail and then wait for them to have one of their incredible sales where every mag is five dollars or 4.99 for a year. They even have multi-year sales where you can still get the five bucks a year just multiplied for all the years you choose to have. I’ve even found some hard to find mags like Urban Farm (unfortunately, just weeks out of print!). Worth a look-see if you ask me.

    Also, if you’re an AARP member look regularly at the member website for places where you can find freebies or deep discounts. One of these is a cherry picked selection of free kindle downloads available to AARP members only. There’s a link from the website that gets you onto the free downloads page. A recent visit turned me onto the genre of ‘cozy’ mysteries – the sort of thing Miss Marple reads like when she’s home having tea except they usually involve a favorite pet helping solve the mystery as well.

    And don’t forget downloads from the perennial site for free and up to 2.99 prices – I’ve downloaded everything from memoirs to history to cookbooks and most for free. You get a seven day a week e-mail with offerings from among the categories you indicate you’re interested in. They’re not annoying about it and I haven’t been spammed by any so-called ‘affiliate’ sites. They also occasionally have free chapter or complete book downloads at the bottom of the e-mail for an advertiser. I’ve discovered a couple of new authors that I now like to follow.

    Best of luck and happy savings!

  • Vince Ryder

    My local library has a paperback swap (bring one take/keep one) rack AND a free textbook rack (take and keep). I also find children’s books for my son’s library in the kid’s section for sale 5/$1 or 25 cents each. Earlier this year, after perusing one of the ‘free’ textbooks, I looked online and determined it was actually collectible. I ended up selling it to a person in Brazil for $45 on eBay. I also fund my book reading and Christmas gift buying with super cheap finds at estate sales and our library’s member-operated bookstore (Hardcovers $2, most everything else $1 (paperbacks, audiobooks, etc.). Of course free online books are everywhere now. Between paying little or nothing for books and selling some of my collection each month or two, I come out hundreds of dollars ahead each year (as a hobby, basically). When I accumulate too many books, I sell them at a garage sale for approximately what I paid in most cases, and then donate whatever doesn’t sell. It will be interesting to see how the 2nd-hand book market changes over the next 20 years as most publishing changes to cloud-based only.

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