We've argued whether the internet is good at saving you money, but...
Totally legal ways to get free movies, TV shows, books and music online
Our guide to filling your boots with cheap online books and music, as well as getting your hands on free movies online – legally, of course!
The internet is brilliant. It makes our lives so much more convenient with things such as online shopping, instant messaging, live news updates and cheeky celebrity gossip – all at our fingertips within seconds.
It connects us with people we may never have met otherwise. It also opens the door to tons of other great things (including free debt advice of course).
With the sheer influx of handheld gadgets at our disposal, our appetite for free entertainment has never been greater. Getting free stuff to watch, read and listen to doesn’t require donning your cyber pirate hat though (naughty naughty!).
You can get lots of electro-goodies completely free – and totally legally. Here’s how…
Where can I find free TV shows online?
It can be either frustratingly difficult or dangerously easy to find your favourite TV shows streaming online – sometimes it’s not completely clear how kosher a seemingly respectable website really is. For that reason, we’ve played it super-safe with our recommendations…but even so, we were pleasantly surprised by how much good stuff is available, even in the more obvious places.
Oh yawn, how predictable I hear you cry. Well smartypants, it’s definitely worth having a regular browse of the iPlayer library, because this is sometimes the only way to get to see top quality, original BBC programmes. We’re talking about the kind of shows that don’t have much of an international appeal, because it’s programmes with a global (read – American) audience that tend to be shared more widely online.
As a bonus, the BBC often upload the previous series of shows that are currently being aired, allowing you to catch up.
If you’re a fan of quirky Brit-coms (recent examples being, Detectorists, This Country, People Just Do Nothing etc.) the iPlayer is usually your best chance of viewing them for free and legally. Be quick though, the content changes all the time, with most shows only up for a maximum of a month at a time.
4OD (On Demand)
Channel 4’s answer to iPlayer is a brilliant thing. Channel 4 has generously uploaded a vast library of shows that have been shown on their channels over the years. Not just the odd episode here and there, but complete series. It’s boxset heaven!
Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but if you don’t mind the ads (they’re shown about as often as they would be on a live broadcast) you can gorge yourself on:
- Some of the finest comedies and dramas ever broadcast. I could just say Father Ted and Black Books and leave it there, but there’s lots more…
- Some wonderful (and often wonderfully weird) European dramas from the ‘Walter Presents’ stable
- And…erm…lots of shows with clickbait titles like ‘I Married A Chicken’ (this may not actually exist, yet)
But don’t let that put you off. It’s all for free.
UK TV Play
This is the free catch-up TV service for the Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama channels. You have to create a login, but other than that, it’s totally free.
Admittedly if decade old episodes of Mock The Week, or Yvette Fielding hunting down ghosts in seemingly endless series of Most Haunted don’t float your boat, it might not have an immediate appeal.
Don’t give up too quickly…there’s all of Dave’s very own quiz Taskmaster, a good range of prestige costume and crime dramas from ITV and BBC, plus lots of documentaries, including ‘The Nazis: A Warning From History’, which is terrifying, must-see TV.
Netflix (free trial only)
Everyone’s talking about Netflix shows, which manage to be both critically acclaimed and hugely popular. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it, when they’re locked behind a paywall?
You can join for free for a month, which is plenty of time to binge watch The Crown, Black Mirror, or whatever takes your fancy. Just remember to set a reminder in your calendar to cancel your payment before the subscription kicks in at the end of your trial.
Make sure you do a deep dive of their library if you’re considering signing up for the paid service. While there’s definitely a lot on there, licencing restrictions mean that some TV shows and films aren’t available in the UK.
NowTV (free trial period only)
Like Netflix, Sky Atlantic is a source of annoyance for those of us who aren’t members, they have a tendency to hog the most talked about programmes.
Sky offer a 14 day free trial of their services through NowTV. The Entertainment Pass has 300 box sets on demand and there’s the Kids Pass which apparently has ‘1,000s of ad-free episodes’.
Just think of all the quiet time you can have while the kiddywinks are glued to the googlebox.
Where can I download free or cheap online books?
We’ve tracked down some websites where you can download classic and popular e-books without spending much. If you can’t bear to abandon the humble paperback, don’t worry! We’ve got that covered too…
As a general tip, if you want to gorge on the classics, many of them are free, due to being out of copyright.
You don’t need to own an e-reader to enjoy e-books – there are plenty of free e-reader apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet.
With Amazon’s huge amount of ebooks, it’s not surprising that some Kindle books are available for free. The quality varies, and can be tricky for you to find them – but if you’re an intrepid bargain hunter, there’s always a way…
Go to the Kindle store and set the maximum price as £0.00. This will return a list of free books. You’ll even find some big names on there, because sometimes the publishers put books out for free when re-issuing a back catalogue.
Obviously there are a lot of books by unknowns too. But hey, if the book’s yours for free, why not give it a try; you might discover the next J. K. Rowling!
One of our favourites is Aldiko, now on the iPhone and iPad as well as Android. They not only have a huge selection of free fiction and non-fiction titles, but there’s also an option to read from a blue background with dark grey text to reduce eye strain.
Those of you who use Apple products might want to check out iBooks, an app you can also use to read richly illustrated children’s books as well as their more wordy non-illustrated cousins. You can also use iBooks to highlight a quote or passage you like then share it on Twitter or email to a friend.
We’ve seen reports that iBooks is having a makeover. It will have a new ‘Reading Now’ tab and a separate area for audiobooks. Watch this space…
This one’s for the e-book hoarder in all of us. You know who you are (hint: I’m one of you). There are more than 29,000 e-books available for most e-readers on ManyBooks.net. Best of all? They’re completely free!
While you’re not likely to find top-selling new releases here, you can get positively knee-deep in classic novels. There’s also a whole wealth of little known publications to get your literary teeth into.
We’re also fans of the witty wordsmiths who pitilessly review the books they’ve read. A sample: “Simply terrible. A shallow story with the goofiest possible premise.” We’ll spare the author’s blushes by not naming them.
Our friend the paperback is far from dead. It’s just a shame that most of us simply don’t have the space to surround ourselves with all the books in the world.
As one of the more popular online book-swapping websites, Bookmooch is worth checking out. Sign up and send off your unwanted books to earn credits which you can then use to get books that you want.
One word of warning though. You’ll have to pay for the postage costs, so it could be more expensive than buying second-hand books.
Where can I find free music online?
There’s free and there’s really free when it comes to online music. If you’re canny (and remember to update your account when it upgrades to paid only) you can have fun for a while trying out free trials.
Spotify (free ad-supported version, or full service on a free trial)
Justifiably one of the biggest online music streaming services, the full Spotify service can be accessed on a free trial, either for 30 days or 60 days. Even better, the trial is ad-free, so make the most.
One of the best things about Spotify (apart from the wide selection) is the option to queue up tracks.
There’s also the free version, if you can put up with the ads before songs…but do be aware, from anecdotal evidence, it appears that not all tracks are available for free users.
If you’re on the hunt for royalty-free music, then head on over to Jamendo. Their whole catalogue of music is made available through the creative commons license, meaning that the artist themselves want YOU to enjoy their music absolutely free of charge.
You can also download the Jamendo app for free for the Android and iPhone.
Where do you go to get your free books, and music? Have you dumped expensive paid-for subscriptions in favour of free sites? Tell us all about it in the comments.