How to Read Free Google Ebooks on Your Phone or Tablet

laptop screen showing Google books page
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

While modern books are born digital, books old enough to be in the public domain may never have seen a computer. Google has been scanning books from public libraries and other sources for several years. That means you've got access to an entire library of classic literature that you can read on the computer or on a variety of mobile devices and eBook readers.

In some cases, you may also find free books that are not public domain. Not all free books are copyright free. There are other reasons publishers may choose to make a book free, such as for a promotion or because the author/publisher just wants to get the information in front of an audience. 

Here's how to find free books (both public domain and otherwise) through Google Books. 

Search for a Book

  1. The first step is to go to make sure you're logged into your Google Account and go to Google Books at books.google.com

    Search Google Books
  2. You can search Google Books for any book or topic. In this case, let's go with "Alice in Wonderland" since it's a well-known book, and there's probably a free eBook or two for this title.

  3. The original work is in the public domain, so most of the variations are just with formatting and the number of illustrations included in the work. However, you might also run into several copies for sale, as reformatting the print copy into an eBook still took some work. Some of your search results may also be related works with the same title. 

    Sort Google Books results for free

    Now you can make this easier and filter out the irrelevant results. Restrict your search results using the search tools to find only free Google eBooks. 

  4. When you find one that you like, select it to read in your browser.

    Read a book in Google

Finding the Free Ebooks on Google Play

Another easy way to get Free Google eBooks is to just go to the Google Play store and browse. Top Free in Books is a browsing category that lists this week's most popular free downloads. This includes public domain books and promotional books that legal copyright holders wanted to give away for free. 

  1. Open your browser, and go to Google Play Books.

    Google Play Books
  2. Select Top Charts from the menu across the top.

  3. Scroll until you see Top Free. Press See more for the complete list.

    Google Play Books top charts
  4. You can also search for your book, and use the pricing controls in the top menu to sort free ones. Press All prices and select Free in the menu to see only free books.

    Sort search results free books Google Play
  5. "Buy" them like any other Google Book, except that you are buying them for no money.

Amazon often has the same promotions running for free eBooks, so if you prefer Kindle, search Amazon and check. If they're on sale in both the Amazon and Google Play bookstores, you could also download them both. 

Read Your Book From Google Play

As soon as you "buy" your free book, Google will give you the option to Read it.

Google Play book purchased

You can also keep shopping for more books, free or otherwise. You can get back to your digital library by selecting My Books in the side menu of the Play Store.

My Books on Google Play

When you press My Books, you'll see all the books in your virtual library, both purchased and free.

Google Play my books

You can also get your books from Google Play on Android and iOS to read any time.

Google Play Books will remember which page you were on, so you can start reading a book on your desktop computer and continue reading on your tablet or Android phone without missing a page.