Katherine Boehret

Online Entertainment That’s for the Taking

For all the money people spend on technology gadgets, it’s about time they got something without spending a cent. In this week’s column, I’ve compiled a cheat sheet to some of the most popular free digital content that isn’t always easy to find. This includes books, music, movies, TV shows, catalogs, magazines and apps, available on mobile devices as well as computer desktops.

This guide is divided into the four major content companies you’re likely to buy from: Apple, Amazon, Google and Barnes & Noble. The free offerings include content people will actually want to download, such as songs from new and established music artists and hit TV shows. I also included some broader-based websites that aim to help people sort through vast collections of free content.


Apple’s iTunes Store has been a hit from the start, simplifying the process of buying music with a click of the mouse and saved credit-card information. But these clicks can add up quickly if you aren’t careful.

Every Tuesday, starting around 12 a.m. Eastern Time, Apple offers a free Single of the Week on its iTunes store. This week it’s “Déjà Vu” by Coco Jones. In addition, Free Songs are offered every so often on a case-by-case basis, like on Feb. 19 when “The Clock” by the View was offered. Once in a while, albums are available to stream for free about a week before they’re available for purchase in the iTunes Store. This week, I listened free of charge to Justin Timberlake’s entire new album, “The 20/20 Experience,” which can be preordered now for $10.99. (The free listening offer ends March 19.)

One spot on the iTunes Store houses all free content in one place, including music, movie featurettes (short clips of films or Q&As with a cast), featured TV shows, apps, books and podcasts. You can find the Free on iTunes page at http://tinyurl.com/boxckdn.


Owners of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader are constantly on the lookout for new reading material, especially if it’s free. A helpful summary page that lists all of Amazon’s free book options can be found at http://tinyurl.com/aaq5yd6. People who pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime membership and who own Kindles can borrow books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This library represents just 300,000 books of Amazon’s 1.8 million total, but it’s a plus that these books are borrowed for free without due dates.

Amazon’s MP3 Store offers a free music playlist for the month. An Artists on the Rise page highlights and allows free downloads of songs by these new artists. The list of March songs includes 12 tracks; all can be previewed or downloaded for free.

Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s video-subscription model that comes with the $79 annual Prime fee, lets people stream over 38,000 movies and TV episodes.

Amazon tries to promote a different paid app for free each day. These daily deals can be accessed via the Amazon Appstore for Android on the Kindle Fire, mobile devices, Android tablets or PCs. Past examples include Quickoffice Pro, SwiftKey X and Angry Birds Rio.


Google’s Play Store is big on free stuff. Each day, a Free Song of the Day is given away and this can be found on the store’s Music home page about halfway down, or at http://tinyurl.com/cqdhj9a. Like Amazon, Google promotes a playlist of free music each month, called “Antenna.” Random sales appear in the Play Store every so often, like a global-dance-tracks sale that is going on right now, including 12 free songs.

Free episodes of TV shows can be downloaded from the Play Store. Current shows include “Revenge,” “Once Upon A Time” and “Red Widow.” The Play Store often has sales on collections of shows. For the past week it offered 85 free TV show pilots.

The Play Store carries free public-domain books and ranks the Top Free books in a list, including “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells. These are found on the store’s Books home page. Digital versions of over 115 magazine titles can be tried free for 14 or 30 days at a Free Trials page.

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble’s Free Fridays program offers its Nook users a different paid book and app for free every Friday. (Last Friday, the free app was OfficeSuite Professional 7, which costs $14.99.) Users can download these free books and apps via the store at Nook.com. There are also thousands of free books and apps available at the Nook store when customers type “free books” into the search bar.

Free 14-day trials for over 700 magazine titles are available for Nooks as well is access to 60 free catalogs.

Work-For-You Websites

If you’re an Amazon customer and don’t want to bother hunting through Amazon’s website for free content, numerous websites compile lists of free books for users. FreeBookSifter.com is bare-bones, but has 26 categories on the left side, including its useful top category, Added Today.

OneHundredFreeBooks.com is a visually pleasing site that includes categories like handpicked and newest. It even lets you sign up via email to receive free book suggestions in your inbox.

ManyBooks.net sorts books by new titles, popular and recommended; it also includes a search box at the top.

If you’re tired of seeing a chunk of your credit-card bill go toward digital content each month, take advantage of these free digital options.

Write to Katherine Boehret at katie.boehret@wsj.com.

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