In an increasingly digital world, literature is evolving. Sales of e-readers continue to rise, yet the cost of digital books and texts has not necessarily decreased to the extent to which many initially predicted. With authors’ incomes collapsing to near “abject” levels, and with public libraries under threat from swingeing public spending cuts, we felt honour bound to provide our fine readers with some valuable resources that could help save valuable money.
While we of course advocate supporting your local independent book store – and independent publishing houses – and would urge you to purchase copies of your books where you can afford to, below you can find a collection of 45 websites where you can download tens of thousands of books, plays and texts for free. Oh, and these sites are also all completely legal, of course!
Browse works by Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Joseph Conrad, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edgar Allen Poe and other famous writers here.
- Classic Bookshelf: This site has put classic novels online, from Charles Dickens to Charlotte Bronte.
- The Online Books Page: The University of Pennsylvania hosts this book search and database.
- Project Gutenberg: This famous site has over 27,000 free books online (in fact, a lot of the books listed in subsequent sites here can be found at PG – yet we list the others as users may prefer different site’s interfaces, while the others below also help tailor searches for specific types of books or plays).
- Page by Page Books: Find books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells, as well as speeches from George W. Bush on this site.
- Classic Book Library: Genres here include historical fiction, history, science fiction, mystery, romance and children’s literature, but they’re all classics.
- Classic Reader: Here you can read Shakespeare, young adult fiction and more.
- Read Print: From George Orwell to Alexandre Dumas to George Eliot to Charles Darwin, this online library is stocked with the best classics.
- Planet eBook: Download free classic literature titles here, from Dostoevsky to D.H. Lawrence to Joseph Conrad.
- The Spectator Project: Montclair State University’s project features full-text, online versions ofThe Spectator and The Tatler.
- Bibliomania: This site has more than 2,000 classic texts, plus study guides and reference books.
- Online Library of Literature: Find full and unabridged texts of classic literature, including the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain and more.
- Bartleby: Bartleby has much more than just the classics, but its collection of anthologies and other important novels made it famous.
- us:Fiction.us has a huge selection of novels, including works by Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, Flaubert, George Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.
- Free Classic Literature: Find British authors like Shakespeare and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, plus other authors like Jules Verne, Mark Twain, and more.
- net: Here you can read plays by Chekhov, Thomas Hardy, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and others.
- Plays: ReadPygmalion, Uncle Vanya or The Playboy of the Western World
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: MIT has made available all of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, and histories
- Plays Online: This site catalogs “all the plays [they] know about that are available in full text versions online for free.”
- ProPlay: This site has children’s plays, comedies, dramas and musicals.
- Public Bookshelf: Find romance novels, mysteries and more.
- The Internet Book Database of Fiction: This forum features fantasy and graphic novels, anime, J.K. Rowling and more.
- Free Online Novels: Here you can find Christian novels, fantasy and graphic novels, adventure books, horror books and more.
- Foxglove: This British site has free novels, satire and short stories.
- Baen Free Library: Find books by Scott Gier, Keith Laumer and others.
- The Road to Romance: This website has books by Patricia Cornwell and other romance novelists.
- Get Free Ebooks: This site’s largest collection includes fiction books.
- John T. Cullen: Read short stories from John T. Cullen here.
- SF and Fantasy Books Online: Books here includeArabian Nights,Aesop’s Fables and more.
- Free Novels Online and Free Online Cyber-Books: This list contains mostly fantasy books.
- The Literature Network: This site features forums, a copy of The King James Bible, and over 3,000 short stories and poems.
- Poetry: This list includes “The Raven,” “O Captain! My Captain!” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.”
- Poem Hunter: Find free poems, lyrics and quotations on this site.
- Famous Poetry Online: Read limericks, love poetry, and poems by Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Lord Byron and others.
- Google Poetry: Google Books has a large selection of poetry, from The Canterbury Talesto Beowulf to Walt Whitman.
- com: Read poems by Maya Angelou, William Blake, Sylvia Plath and more.
- com: Rudyard Kipling, Allen Ginsberg and Alfred Lord Tennyson are all featured here.
- com: On this site, you can download free poetry ebooks.
- Banned Books: Here you can follow links of banned books to their full text online.
- World eBook Library: This monstrous collection includes classics, encyclopaedias, children’s books and a lot more.
- DailyLit: DailyLit has everything fromMoby Dick to the more recent phenomenon, Skinny Bitch.
- A Celebration of Women Writers: The University of Pennsylvania’s page for women writers includes Newbery winners.
- Free Online Novels: These novels are fully online and range from romance to religious fiction to historical fiction.
- net: Download mysteries and other books for your iPhone or eBook reader here.
- Authorama: Books here are pulled from Google Books and more. You’ll find history books, novels and more.
- Prize-winning books online: Use this directory to connect to full-text copies of Newbery winners, Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer winners.