Let’s face it: books can be expensive, right?
Many of us are on a budget and can’t afford to spend $10, $20, or sometimes even $30+ that ebooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, and audiobooks cost. Does that preclude those people from the right to have access to quality literature? It shouldn’t, and luckily, most would agree.
We all know that authors and publishers do not like or appreciate their books being stolen and pirated on scammy websites, but this can also be harmful to the authors we enjoy reading. For some authors, if sales are low, this can prevent them from future publishing deals which means they won’t publish more books for us to read in the first place. For other authors or publishers who enroll their books in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program for readers to read unlimited books within the KU catalog for about $10 a month (hello, that’s what I spend on like one ebook half the time!), having books on these pirating websites is a violation of this program and Authors can not only be booted from Kindle Unlimited; Amazon can close their accounts all together. This is no joke, and once again, if this happens, the books are no longer available for us to read at all.
Thankfully, there are several ways to get your hands on the books you want to read without breaking the bank, or the law! Below are seven ways to access free books without downloading illegally distributed copies.
1. The Public Library
It’s completely free to sign up for a library card, and most libraries will have the really popular books already stocked. If they don’t have the book you want, ask them to order it! Chances are, they will. If you don’t have a library very near to you, don’t let that stop you from signing up for a library card when you have a chance. Here’s why…
2. Book Borrowing Apps
Once you’re signed up with a library card, you’ll have access to apps on your smartphone, smart device, or computer. For example…
Libby by Overdrive is one such app, available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Microsoft Apps to stream on your smart devices. Libby gives you access to check out ebooks and audiobooks straight from the app. If the book is super popular you might have to get on a waiting list for it, but in my experience, these don’t typically take as long as the posted wait times.
Hoopla Digital is another app. This one is available in a wider array of options, including Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Fire TV, and Roku … in other words, you can add it to stream from your smart TVs in addition to your smart phones and devices. It just requires a library card! Same with Libby, there might be a wait list, but these usually have features to search currently available books.
3. Borrow From a Friend
Many books on Amazon are eligible to loan out to friends. All that’s needed is an email address to send the borrowed copy to. Then the person borrowing the book will have 7 days to accept the book, and once accepted, 14 days to read it. After that, the book will return to the original person who bought it. There is likely a limit from the publisher of the book on how many times one person can loan the book out, maybe even only once, but once is probably enough if you can read it in 2 weeks! (By that time, if you haven’t read it, you’ll probably be next up on the library’s wait list!)
4. Sign Up to Review ARCs
Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) are not always easy to come by, but there are ways to request access to them if you’re really interested and really willing to leave honest reviews of the book when it releases.
One of the more common options is NetGalley. This website has options to either request a review copy from the publisher, or in some cases download a copy right then and there without a wait. The more well-known authors and publishers tend to be by request only, but once you get established as a credible and reliable reviewer, your chances of getting those selective ones will go up. Some publishers will auto-approve you, making it to where you’ll automatically be granted a copy whenever you request one. That’s always nice!
Edelweiss is another service that provides ARCs, very similar to NetGalley and often with the same array of books. In some ways, I’ve found I’ve been able to get approved for ARCs on Edelweiss where I wasn’t able to on NetGalley, but I’ve also found Edelweiss is not as user-friendly to navigate as NetGalley, so they both have their pros and cons but provide basically the same service. This one also has a few books available for immediate download.
DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER/AUTHOR:
Another option is if you have a particular author you want to join an ARC team for, you can go straight to the publisher or in some cases the author asking how you could go about joining their ARC team or Street Team.
Be prepared to verify that you have read and reviewed the author before, and don’t expect a response or feel entitled to a “Yes” on this. You have to understand these people are running a business and cannot give their product away for free to everyone who asks, but in many cases, especially for Self Published authors or Small Press publishers, they are often looking for reliable reviewers they can count on to read and review their work at release time.
5. Trade Your Used Books
If you have a used bookstore in your area, it’s likely you can trade in your used books for store credit to purchase other used books in the store. You’d be surprised at the inventory these shops have! I’ve collected some gems at some serious steals!
If this is the way you want to go, it’s usually a good idea to not write in, tear, or earmark your books whenever it’s avoidable so that you can get the highest trade-in price when it’s time to make the exchange.
6. Join Your Favorite Authors’ Newsletters
This may not always render you a guarantee to get free books, but what it will do is usually give you first notice on when the author’s books go on sale. Some authors will send freebies to their subscribers from time to time for being their most loyal fans. At any rate, it’s always fun to hear what they’re up to and what’s releasing next!
7. Follow Authors on Bookbub or EreaderIQ
If you aren’t already subscribed to Bookbub’s daily emails, there are almost always free books in your favorite genres every day for you to download free from your online bookstore of choice. Your favorite authors all have profile pages on Bookbub that you can follow (for example, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, J.K. Rowling, Christina Lauren, or V.E. Schwab) and when they run a deal on an author you follow, you’ll get a special email that day letting you know about it. It’s super-convenient, actually, and it’s one of my favorite places to post my reviews because anyone who follows my bookbub account will see what books I recommend as well.
If you haven’t heard of ereaderIQ, it is one of the handiest ebook notification services I’ve ever found. Once you sign up for your account, you can search specific authors and even specific books to follow. On specific books, you can set it for what discount you want to be notified about, so if it discounts at all or discounts down to free, depending on what you set it for, you’ll know when it happens.
It’s always important to support our authors so they can continue giving us books we love and cherish, and these are all ways we can do that while still keeping a handle on our purse strings.
Were any of these ideas new to you? Do you have any other suggestions on reading your favorite books without breaking the bank or breaking piracy laws? Let us know in the comments below!