Coffee & Computers | Free eBooks & Audiobooks
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Free ebooks & Audiobooks

Suddenly we all have time on our hands. One way to spend it productively is by reading or listening to books, but libraries are closed and shopping is discouraged. Fortunately there is an increasingly wide and varied selection of books available in electronic (ebook) and audiobook format. Since these are in digital format, they can easily be downloaded – so there is no need to leave home.


Can be read on any device – laptop, tablet or phone. Many can be downloaded for free. Most classic books, out of copyright, are in this category.

Many can be borrowed. Most public libraries (including Haringey) now have an ebook section.

Ebook Download Sites

  • Project Gutenberg. Possibly the best resource for classics – over 60,000 free ebooks, mostly pre-1924. Can be read in a browser, so no app required.
  • Kindle  is the most popular paid-content ebook reader, but also offers quite a lot of free stuff.
  • Kobo is another paid-content ebook reader. Like Kindle it offers free content.
  • Manybooks  claim to have over 50,000 free books. You need to be a member to use the site, but joining is free and can be done online.
  • Google ebookstore has many free ebooks, as well as ones you can buy inexpensively.
  • Digilibrary – not a huge selection, but very easy to use.

There are many more sites you can find by searching the web. However, these are ones the author has personally used and can recommend.

Ebook Borrowing Sites

  • Haringey Library has quite a good collection of ebooks. To borrow them from the library you need software called “Libby”. Download it for phones and tablets, (in Apple and Android flavours), and for Windows devices. Using Libby is quite self explanatory – you need the number from your library card and a PIN number. When you have selected and downloaded a book you don’t need to leave the app – you can read it there.
  • Open Library Open Library is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published.” You need to be a member to use the library, but joining is free and can be done online.
  • Internet Archive National Emergency Library  An American initiative, this is “a collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed.” This collection has several million books. Older books can be downloaded and more modern ones borrowed through the Open Library. NB: There is some controversy about the legitimacy of this emergency initiative, as it seems to flaunt copyright protection.


Small print:

There is not  one universal standard format for ebooks. Amazon has tried to use its Kindle ereader muscle to impose its format, ebook.azw, but the open source community has come up with an alternative, ebook.epub. These two formats are incompatible. Kindle ereaders, for instance, will not handle .epub files. So which to choose? If you have a Kindle, the decision is taken for you. But if you are not tied into the Amazon ecosystem it’s better to go for the epub format. There are lots of reader apps – such as FBreader – that like the epub format, and some sources of ebooks will not let you download in .azw format. Haringey Libraries, for instance, make this statement: it is not possible to use a Kindle device to download eBooks via Overdrive as Amazon does not provide this service to UK Public Libraries. (Overdrive is the company that own Libby)


Any modern laptop, tablet or smartphone will be able to play an audiobook.

A big factor in the pleasure of listening to an audiobook is the quality of the reading. You may find you develop a preference for a certain reader, an actor say, so remember his/her name.

Availability: the elephant in the living room is Like Kindle, it is owned by Amazon, and is profit driven. However, there are many other sites that offer free audiobooks to either own or borrow.

Audiobooks are available from:

  • Usually a subscription is needed, but during the covid crisis: The audiobook platform has stated that during the Covid crisis,  for as long as schools are closed, anyone can listen to a vast selection of its titles. This means books read by Westworld’s Thandie Newton and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens are available to stream at no cost at all.
    Simply visit from any web browser to get started. No log-ins, credit card or passwords needed. But note that streaming means it is only available while you are online. You can’t download these books.
  • Librivox provides “Free Public Domain Audiobooks”. They provide books in, i.e. compressed, format – which need decompressed* (unzipped) before they can be read. Unzipping reveals a number of .mp3 files, typically one per chapter. Usually you can just click on an .mp3 file to play it.
  • Project Gutenberg has a selection of audiobooks for download. There are  two categories: human-read books and computer-read books. Several audio formats are offered. Select .mp3 format as it is compatible with almost all devices.
  • Open Library also has a selection or audiobooks. You need to be a member to use the library, but joining is free and can be done online.
  • Haringey Library has a selection of audiobooks available for loan. To borrow an audiobook, the procedure is to use LIbby – same as for an ebook. See previous section for details.

Like ebooks, this is not an all-encompassing  collection of resources. Searching the web will bring up many more sites offering audiobooks, free and for a price. But this is a good starting place.

*The idea behind Zip files is that they save storage space by compressing files. They are often used to speed the sending of long files. Fortunately, most modern hardware will recognise a Zip file and know what to do with it.