free-chinese-ebooks

7 Budget-friendly Sites for Finding Free Chinese E-books

The Library of Congress. The British Library. The Library of Alexandria.

…And your e-reader.

Want your Chinese learning library to compete with those famously massive ones? You can download hundreds of Chinese e-books straight to your favorite device without spending a penny.

We’ll show you the seven best sites for stocking up on free Chinese e-books so you can explore the fascinating world of Chinese literature—as well as titles created specifically for language learners—no matter your proficiency level or favorite genre.

Plus, you’ll be boosting your reading comprehension skills and becoming more comfortable with hanzi with every digital page.

But why should you bother reading free Chinese e-books to further your language education? Shouldn’t you just focus on formal lessons? Before we build up our free e-book libraries, let’s look at why reading Chinese-language books is such an important part of learning Mandarin.

What’s the Point of Learning Mandarin with Free Chinese E-books?

  • Reading literature is an effective and efficient way to practice hanzi reading. If you travel to a Mandarin-speaking country, you’ll find that everything is very fast-paced. You’ll need to be able to read maps, travel brochures and other media quickly in order to get places.

Without some fluency in the act of reading Chinese, you might find yourself hitting roadblocks and fumbling to string characters together.

Reading Chinese e-books will give you consistent practice with hanzi so you can be prepared for these situations. Reading an e-book from start to finish will also build your stamina and confidence over time.

  • Chinese e-books may lead you to discover hanzi that you don’t understand and can look up. If you’re intermediate or advanced in reading and writing Chinese, you’ll still come across a character every once in a while that’ll truly baffle you. By making time for casual Chinese reading, you can discover those characters, translate them and practice them.
  • Simply reading a book is a great way to get extra practice in your leisure time. It’s hard to find time to learn a language. You may find that outside of lessons or class, it’s tough to fit in practice time. Try curling up with a good Chinese e-book to both unwind and get some much-needed Chinese practice in! Plus, you might even discover your new favorite author.
  • They’re free! Well, all the e-book resources we’re covering in this post, at any rate. That means you’ll get a serious boost in your comprehension skills without paying a penny!

How to Build a Totally Free Chinese E-book Library

Here are some of the top online resources for free Chinese e-book downloads. We’ll give you tips on how to browse them most effectively, plus some recommendations of great free reads on each site.

Huayu World

Huayu World provides e-books specifically designed for Chinese language learners. It caters to a range of learning levels: basic, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Just select one of those options from the upper lefthand dropdown menu. With these e-books, you’ll get language lessons in the context of Chinese lifestyle, etiquette, culture, leisure, dining and much more.

These lesson e-books feature a ton of really nice illustrations to make your lesson time a little less boring, too. There are even interactive e-books you can download to put your new skills to use.

Favorite free read:

“Stories of Zi” uses engaging short stories to teach you about Chinese characters.

HaoDoo

This website is best for intermediate and advanced Chinese readers, as the entire website is in hanzi. However, there’s a lot of really great contemporary and modern works available on this website, plus a ton of great poetry as well.

You can either read books directly from the website or download them in your preferred format.

Favorite free read:

If you want to practice reading in Chinese but would like a more familiar modern Western story to pull context from, HaoDoo offers the Mandarin Chinese version of Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island” entirely in hanzi.

Baiyun

Baiyun is another recourse best reserved for intermediate and advanced speakers, as the website is in hanzi. This resource contains different types of modern and classical readings, as well as comedy collections and biographies.

To download an e-book from Baiyun, simply select a genre from the far left column, pick a story and enjoy in the browser of your choice.

Favorite free read:

We suggest the riveting martial arts novel “誓不低头 (shì bù dī tóu) — Never Say Die” by 张力 (zhāng lì) — Zhang Li.

Loyal Books

Loyal Books offers a wide array of Chinese-language e-books for the low, low price of nothing!

Downloads are provided in a range of formats, including Kindle, NOOK and more. You can also read straight from your browser simply by scrolling down the preview text and selecting the “Continue reading book >>” link.

Favorite free read:

A great selection from this resource would be “朝花夕拾 (cháo huā xī shí) — Dawn Blossoms Plucked At Dusk.” This essay anthology by influential writer 鲁迅 (lǔ xùn)  Lu Xun tackles critiques of society and culture in mainland China during the early twentieth century. It’s a spectacular read, but it’s also definitely far from “light” reading.

Amazon

Amazon is a great source for all e-books, not just Mandarin Chinese literature! There are many free Chinese e-books available here, which you can further narrow down by genre on the lefthand sidebar.

To download e-books from Amazon, simply select “Buy now with 1-Click” to have a particular book sent your Kindle device (or any other mobile device, as long as you have the free Kindle app).

Favorite free read:

If you love poetry, especially timeless Mandarin Chinese poetry, we suggest “唐诗三百首 (táng shī sān bǎi shǒu) — Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty.”

Google Books

Google Books, much like Amazon, has a wealth of literature in many languages. However, to download or even find Chinese e-books on Google Books can be a little tricky. We’ll walk you through it:

  • First, go over to the Google Books page (linked above).
  • Then, make sure to do a search for a particular keyword in hanzi only. When you enter keywords like “Chinese literature” or “Chinese language,” you’ll get a lot of English-language dictionaries and write-ups on those subjects—not Chinese e-books. By searching a keyword translated in hanzi, you’ll be able to access the thousands of free Chinese e-books that Google has to offer.
  • After you get your search results, be sure to select “Tools,” then “Free Google eBooks” from the left side of the toolbar.
  • Once you’ve found a book, simply click the title, then hit the “BUY EBOOK – $0.00” button on the lefthand sidebar, and read away!

Favorite free read:

If you’re a fan of sensual romance novels, a good choice would be “代嫁王妃(上):我的野蛮王妃 (dài jià wáng fēi [shàng]: wǒ de yě mán wáng fēi) On Behalf of the Princess (Part 1): My Wild Princess.” You might find yourself getting addicted to Chinese romance period pieces very quickly!

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a massive public domain library—meaning everything on the website is 100 percent legally free to the public. Not only can you find English literary classics on this website, but there’s also a wealth of Mandarin Chinese e-books available as well.

Since the e-books are organized by author, this site works best if you’ve already discovered a writer you love and want to explore their work. Just click the author’s name, then select the title of your choice. From the menu, select what file format you want to download and you’re good to go!

Favorite free read:

There are dozens of amazing Chinese authors’ works available on the website, but we suggest the works of 劉墉 (liú yǒng) — Liu Yong, such as 樂章集 (yuè zhāng jí) — “The Musical Symphony Set.”

 

Are you ready to build your totally free library of e-books in Mandarin Chinese? Outside of your planned lessons or class time, some leisure time with a book can be a great way to improve your language skills. Plus, what’s better than winding down after a long day with a good book?


Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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