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Re: did I choose poorly, or am I uninformed???
I haven't used a Kindle much, so I am not sure how it compares. However, there are tons of free books for the Nook. In the six months I've had my Nook, I've downloaded about 315 free books (plus dozens more borrowed from the library), and only paid for about 15 (and all of those were on sale for under $5 each).
If you want to root for other reasons, that's up to you, but if you're just looking for free books I doubt it will help you much. And if you want a generic tablet, and you're not an expert hacker, you may want to see if another device would be a better fit.
Just type in 0.00 when you search in the Nook section of the BN website, and you can add other search terms if you want (like a genre or an author's name) or just browse. The biggest problem is that there's a lot of crap, so weeding through it to find the good stuff can be time-consuming. And unless you check every day, you might miss stuff that is new or free only for a limited time. (Luckily there are other people who do this for you which is why the next few resources are handy).
Every week on Free Fridays, there is a free book posted on the Nook blog. In addition to the main selection, there are several people who post lists of additional free books in the comments section.
The NOOK Blog - Barnes & Noble Book Clubs
There is a free app called Books Buddy that can be downloaded from the Nook store, which lists both free books and cheap ones.
BARNES & NOBLE | Free Books & Book Deals Buddy by 5ivedom
There are also several Facebook pages/groups. These have a mix of free and cheap books.
Nook offers a free two-week trial of each magazine and newspaper, so you can get at least one issue free (and if you time it right by looking at the publication dates, you can get two issues of a magazine start your trial a few days before the new issue is due, and you get one right away, then the next one will automatically download if it's available before you cancel just remember to cancel before you get charged).
Finally, from what I've heard, some books are free on both Kindle and Nook at the same time (Many e-books are published to both through services like Smashwords.com, so that makes sense. Also, BN has rules - at least for self-publishers - you can't charge less for a book on another service like Kindle than you do on Nook.) So if you see a book free on Kindle that you want, try searching for that title on the Nook.
If you're in the market for classics that are in the public domain, there is Project Gutenberg. Some of the same books can be found for free by searching the Nook shop, or other sources, but the shop versions are typically unreadable since they were not edited after they were scanned. Project Gutenberg is much better. You'll also probably want the Calibre software, because (with some extra effort***) it will allow these books to show up in your library and with real covers (instead of showing up in the files section of your Nook, with the grey text cover the Nook usually gives to books downloaded from other sources).
Project Gutenberg - free ebooks
calibre - E-book management
You already mentioned that you've gotten books from your local library, but you may want to see if there are additional libraries you can use. My state offers a program where if you have a card from any library, you can get a special sticker, and then get a card to any other library for free. I have 4 different libraries (each with a different selection) that I can get e-books from, and one I've never even visited in person! (I applied online and they sent my card in the mail.) Even if your state doesn't have a program like this, most libraries allow out-of-towners to pay a small annual fee to get a card. Even a $50 fee would pay for itself after 5 books (considering most traditionally published books are $10+) and works out to less than $5 a month so if you have a family or buy a lot of books, this could be worth it and you'd be supporting the great work libraries do, too.
Cheap books / sales
BN also offers two daily finds (usually one for adults and one for children/teens), at a greatly reduced cost. They also have a whole section of Under $5 deals. (Although you said you aren't interested in paying, I mention this for others who may read this post).
NOOK Daily Find - Barnes&Noble
Great NOOK Book Bargains - Barnes&Noble
There are also several sites that promise to connect you with other Nook owners for the purpose of borrowing books free via the LendMe feature on the Nook, in exchange for lending your own books or buying credits. Since you can only lend a title one time for 14 days, and can never lend it again and because of poor selection and possible security risks from unknown sites I don't think it's worth the trouble. I haven't used any of these services and thus won't recommend specific ones.
*** To get books downloaded from other sources (like Project Gutenberg) to show up with the proper covers is a bit tricky. This is the best, simplest way I can describe it, but if you don't understand a specific step you can get help from within Calibre or a Google search. Also, there doesn't seem to be a way to do this with books borrowed through Overdrive or any PDF files.
1. Install Calibre on your computer.
2. Download the books and import them into your Calibre library.
3. Google search for the cover you want and save it to your computer (you can do this within Calibre, but it doesn't always find the best cover).
4. Click on the book to select it, then go to edit metadata then edit metadata individually.
5. In the middle of the pop-up screen there is a section to choose a cover. Choose browse then find the cover where you saved it. You can also edit any of the other data/tags you want.
6. Go to convert books then convert books individually. Choose EPUB for both the input and output formats. (I know this is illogical, but this is the step that makes it work!) Under page setup change the output profile to Nook Color (or Nook, depending on your device). Then click OK to complete the conversion.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 with other books, if you have more than one you want.
8. Connect your Nook and then transfer the books.