The best free books to read on an Amazon Kindle

29 Dec 2011

There are so many free books available for the Kindle that you never need spend anything more once you've bought the device. You have the entire canons of out-of-copyright writers such as Oscar Wilde, all the Sherlock Holmes adventures you’ll ever want to read, plus a myriad of other freebies. And in a way, those other freebies are the more interesting.

Some of the books are honeypots from professional authors, hoping to lure you into their 23-part series that tells the life story of an amazing spy/explorer/dancer/footballer. There’s nothing wrong with this, just go into it with your eyes open.

Some are only briefly reduced to free as a promotion, before being shoved up to full price. You can keep an eye out for such promotions by entering your email address at www.ereaderiq.co.uk (this site also provides a slightly clumsy search mechanism for finding free books).

Then there are some that barely qualify for the terms “books” at all. O’Reilly, for instance, produces a number of very short publications about technology that feel more like extended articles.

So where do you go to find new books? First of all, naturally, you read this article. But after that you should head to www.amazon.co.uk and click on the Kindle Books link. To the right of the page you’ll see a Bestsellers box; click on the “Kindle Store : Books” link and you’ll see a straightforward listing on the right, plus a useful list of categories on the left. Click on the category you’re interested in – let’s say Science Fiction – and you’ll see the bestsellers, both paid for and free.

If using the Kindle itself then Amazon makes it a little trickier to find the free books, but it’s still possible to access the top 100. Select “Shop in Kindle Store”, then “Kindle Best Sellers” under Featured. You’ll find the link “Kindle Top 100 Free” on the top right hand of the screen.

Here's our pick of the free books we've found - feel free to add your own suggestions in comments:
The Penal Colony

A gripping read from start to finish, this novel depicts an all-too-conceivable situation where Britain despatches its most dangerous prisoners to remote islands. Think of it as Lord of the Flies for adults. The Penal Colony is based on Sert, where The Village is the pinnacle of island culture: hot water, limited electricity and a direct link with the prison authorities make it the best place to live. But, as our arrogant protagonist Routledge discovers, you have to earn your place: when he arrives, insisting himself innocent of the murder of a young woman he met on a train, he’s told he can only be allowed in if he survives six days on the outside. But it doesn’t take him long to be captured by the biggest psychopath on the island…
Jane Eyre

The setting may be old fashioned and all too reminiscent of stuffy English Literature lessons, but the story is so strong – and your compassion with Jane Eyre so compelling – that you’ll likely rush through it if you haven’t done so before. As with A Christmas Carol (and for that matter all the Bronte sisters’ works), this book has been lovingly transcribed from the original and formatted for the Kindle by a community of literary do-gooders. If you haven’t read a classic for donkey’s years, let this one guide you back into the fold.
A Little Book of Christmas

Yes it’s twee and sentimental, but if A Christmas Carol wasn’t enough to get you into a festive mood then this book definitely will. It’s a collection of short stories tied together not only by the C word but also sheer niceness. Whether it’s the story of George W Hetherington, a Scrooge-like figure whose anti-Christmas sentiment is swept away when he becomes involved with a poverty-stricken family, or the way a New York Santa helps Little Billee find his way home, if you don’t have a tear in your eye at some point while reading this book your heart is made of flint.
A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies

There’s no getting away from the fact this is basically an advert for the For Dummies series, but it’s still packed with information. There’s a nostalgic chapter lifted from the first ever Dummies book – DOS for Dummies – plus another about networking in Windows 7, both written in a style you’ll either find chatty or enormously irritating. But it’s impressive by the sheer range of other topics covered: how to keep a relationship happy, enjoying an evening out in French, meditation tips, learning to play rock music on the guitar… and much more.
A Christmas Carol

Everyone knows the story of Scrooge, if only through the various movie tellings – prepare yourself to be shocked, but The Muppet’s Christmas Carol wasn’t the original. Like so many classic novels, it’s been converted to Kindle form by “the community”, and aside from the odd formatting error it has a very professional finish. Certainly you won’t be distracted from Dickens’ most accessible plot, with straightforward storytelling making this just as suitable a read for young children as it is for adults who may, just like Scrooge, have fallen under the magic spell of money.
What is HTML5?

We’re not massive fans of most of O’Reilly’s free books on the Kindle – as we mentioned above, they have a tendency to feel like extended web articles – but this one serves as an excellent introduction to HTML5. The opening pages focus on what it means for the end user, and it's helped along by a friendly tone, but the target reader is always the aspiring web programmer and so there’s plenty of more meaty information to get your teeth into.
White Fang

There are plenty of children’s books available for free on the Kindle, and Jack London’s tale of survival is among the best. You follow the story of White Fang, half dog, half wolf, as he moves from one perilous situation to another. Most children will love the idea of being this close to the wild – he isn’t a gentle dog, to put it mildly, but most of the violence is hinted at rather than explicitly described – and unlike many such books it does its best to steer away too much from humanising wild animals. A deserved classic.
The Crew

Dougie Brimson was already considered an “expert” in football hooliganism before The Crew, his first novel, was published in the late 1990s, and he brings all that knowledge to bear in the plot. We follow two main characters: an under-pressure cop and a claustrophobic hooligan who’ll do anything to avoid being locked up in a cell. The police use this knowledge to persuade him to work with an undercover officer as they infiltrate an operation being run by the UK’s most notorious hooligan mastermind, with dramatic and unexpected consequences.
South: The Story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition

If you’re hoping for a book with stylistic prose and beautiful descriptions of landscapes then look away now. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton is a man who calls the killing of a seal a killing of a seal, and this journal features plenty of that. But while the prose is straightforward it’s also compelling, dragging you through the long months his ship spent locked in ice while they waited for summer to reappear. It’s a superb record, not only of that trip, but also a historical record to reflect the state of the world at the beginning of the First World War.
The brilliant book of calm

This is just one of the many self-help books that litter the Amazon freebie list, but it’s certainly one of the better ones. You’ll need to be in the mood for it – the one person we know who would benefit from The brilliant book of calm, PC Pro editor Barry Collins, probably wouldn’t make it through two pages before slamming it into the proverbial bin – but if you ignore the awkward humorous asides then it becomes a little more bearable. And actually, on occasion, thought-provoking. Please note this book is no longer free; since this article was written, its price has gone up to around £7.

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