Mario writes: I have an Amazon Kindle e-reader with Wi-Fi. As a first time user, how can I go about on getting free books to read. Please provide a step by step answer. ex: best sites to go to, how to go about it, etc. Much appreciated.

So, you’re looking for free Kindle books? Well, you’ve got plenty of choices—more than a million, actually.

Most of these free e-books are older, often classic titles in the public domain or otherwise out of copyright, although plenty of contemporary authors are offering their digital books for free.

Also, transferring Kindle-compatible books to your device (whether you’re using a dedicated Kindle e-reader or a Kindle smartphone or tablet app) couldn’t be easier, although you will need to make sure you’re dealing with a compabile e-book format.

So, ready to crack open a few books? Let’s get started.

Finding free Kindle books

There’s no shortage of free Kindle-compatible books online—indeed, we’re pretty much talking an embarrassment of digital riches, free for the downloading. The real challenge is deciding where to begin.

Open Library directory

Sites like Open Library offer hundreds of thousands of free, Kindle-friendly e-books.

  • Our first stop, unsurprisingly, is Amazon—specifically, Amazon’s list of Kindle bestsellers, which includes a list of the top 100 free Kindle books. No, you’re not going to find “The Hunger Games” on the list; instead, expect bodice-rippers, self-help books, and fiction from authors you’ve probably never heard of. Still, you’ll probably find some gems as long as you’re willing to be adventurous.
  • Another option is Amazon’s new Kindle lending library, a perk for Kindle e-reader owners (sorry, the Kindle smartphone app doesn’t count) that lets you borrow (if not keep) a single book per month.
  • Next up: Project Gutenberg, a searchable directory of tens of thousands of free e-books, including a treasure trove of out-of-copyright masterworks. If you’re into the classics, you won’t want to miss this site.
  • Also handy: Open Library, a handsomely designed site that seeks to catalog each and every book ever written—talk about ambitious. The site also has a quick link to more than a million free e-books in a variety of Kindle-friendly formats.
  • I’m also a fan of Freekooksy, a blog that highlights a different (and mostly contemporary) free e-book each day, including limited-time giveaways by notable authors.

Want more? Check out A Kindle World for an exhaustive, frequently-updated treasure map of free e-books sites.

Getting the right format

Not all e-book documents are created equal. Among the file types you’ll see listed on the free e-book sites I’ve listed above: EPUB, PDF, MOBI, PRC, “plain text” files (TXT), and Amazon’s proprietary AZW files. Confused yet?

The good news is that most of the free e-book sites listed above will make it perfectly clear whether there’s a Kindle-compatible version of a specific title—and if there is a specific Kindle version, you should download it first.

Specifically, the main file formats you’ll see associated with Kindle e-readers are AZW, MOBI, and PRC. AZW is the e-book format used by Amazon for copy-protected Kindle books, while MOBI and PRC are more common for free e-books.

TXT and PDF files, meanwhile, are also compatible with your Kindle, although you may have to do without features like a table of contents (often the case with TXT files) or the ability to easily change font sizes (for PDFs).

Last but not least, there’s the popular EPUB format, which is one of the most widely used for free e-books—and no, it’s not compatible with the Kindle. If you’re game, though, A Kindle World has the scoop on a utility that’ll convert EPUB volumes into a Kindle-friendly format.

Sending free books to your Kindle

In many cases, you’ll find it incredibly easy to send a free e-book to your Kindle. Both Open Library and Freekoosky, for example, offer prominent “Send to Kindle” links for many of their selections, and Amazon (naturally) will offer to zap its free Kindle books directly to your device.

What if there isn’t a “Send to Kindle” link? Well, you can always download an e-book to your desktop and e-mail it to your Kindle—assuming it’s in the right file format, of course.

  • The first step is to download a book to your desktop PC or Mac. Project Gutenberg, for example, has download links for all its free e-books. Just click, then select an easy-to-find download location.
  • Next, you’ll need the “Send-to-Kindle” e-mail address for your Kindle e-reader. Just visit Amazon’s “Manage Your Kindle” page, go to the “Send-to-Kindle E-mail Settings” section, find the name of your Kindle device, and grab the e-mail address that’s listed right next to it.
  • Once you’ve got the address, just compose message to your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address, select the e-book on your desktop and attach it to the e-mail, and click “send.” Within a few minutes, your free e-book should pop up on your Kindle’s home page.

One thing to keep in mind for those with 3G-enabled Kindles: Amazon charges a small fee for sending books via e-mail over your Kindle’s 3G connection. That said, sending books to your Kindle via Wi-Fi is free.

You can also send e-books to your Kindle using Amazon’s new Send to Kindle tool (for Windows PCs only), or via your computer’s USB port.

Hope that answers your questions, Mario. Still need help? Let me know!