So. Raise your hand if you're a book addict with a less-than-entirely-adequate budget.
Raise your hand again if you've always been a book addict with a less-than-entirely-adequate budget.
Raise your hand a third time if you're not living in an English-speaking country, and therefore 2nd-hand English books are scarce and borrowing is tricky.
*hand still in the air*
One of the first things I did when I moved to Holland (after the mad scramble to make our new apartment habitable) was to look into the problem of feeding my book habit. I quickly realised that paper books aren't really my friend anymore; they're expensive, hard to track down, expensive, relatively scarce, and expensive. Even second hand.
Ebooks are my friend.
Over the last several months I've managed to hunt up loads of places to get free (or cheap) ebooks from, and I thought I'd share.
But before I do, let me just add: I'm no enemy to buying books. Hell, no. I love supporting my favourite authors and I wish I could afford to do more of it. But I can't just whistle loads of spare income out of the trees. So until my fairy godmother gets her behind in gear and turns me into Cinderella, I'll just have to carry on with the make-do-and-mend approach.
And yes, these are all legal and non-piratical. Not an eyepatch in sight.
I give you… the Eight Wonders of Ebookery!
A few months ago, Amazon wouldn't have been at the top of my list. But that was before KDP Select. (This is an optional programme that forces an author to make their books exclusive to Amazon, in return offering them the chance to set their books to free for a few days out of every 90). Since then, the numbers of free books turning up on Amazon every week has sky rocketed. No surprise really: there are thousands of us indies desperately looking for exposure. You could spend an hour on Amazon and hoover up enough free fiction to keep you going for a year.
What I really want to share in relation to Amazon is this: eReaderIQ.com. This is a seriously handy-dandy way to trawl for freebies on Amazon without having to trudge through all their categories one at a time. Try it out. It's fab.
And don't forget that you don't need a kindle to read Amazon books. You can also read them on any device that can handle a kindle app (like iPads, and a bunch of others. Check Amazon for more).
Note: Yes, most other major ebook stores have freebies as well (Sony, Kobo, iTunes, etc). I'm not going to list them all, because that would be a waste of time and perfectly good wordery.
Same issue as Amazon. Loads of hungry indie authors, loads of free books. Smashwords holds all the indies who haven't gone over to KDP Select, so it's worth checking out both of them. And the big advantage: you can download books in any format you like, for any ereader.
Everything on this site is free, and everything on it is out-of-copyright. If you like your classics, this is the place to go. It's great because it also has more obscure titles by people you weren't forced to read for GCSE English.
Baen Books Free Library
It's tempting to assume that it's mostly – or even solely – indie authors who consistently give away titles, but that isn't quite true. Baen is a publishing company, and somebody over there cottoned on to the fact that free reads can be a great way of expanding your readership. So there's the Baen Books Free Library, with loads of instantly-downloadable freebies. (These are fantasy and sci-fi titles only).
LT is a big online book club which holds regular giveaways. There's the early reviewer programme, which offers you the chance to get pre-release books on the agreement that you'll write a review. Then there's the more general member giveaway programme, which just offers free books – reviews appreciated but not mandatory. Many of these titles can only be claimed by people living in the centre of the universe (aka the US), but the rest of us can still pick up some good stuff once in a while. Oh, and these are a mix of paperbacks and ebooks (though again, don't expect to pick up any paperbacks if you aren't living in the US, the UK or maybe Canada).
Note: if you're an author and you want to clock up a few more reviews, it's simple and easy to set up a member giveaway to offer some ebook copies. This has worked well for me, especially since it's aimed at (potentially) all ebook readers, not just Amazon-buyers.
Like LibraryThing, Goodreads is an online book club. Personally I like it better than LT… for everything except giveaways. They don't allow ebook giveaways, for some reason, so it's paperbacks only – and that naturally screws over anyone outside the US or the UK, all over again. I include it here because it is still a source of free books for the geographically advantaged.
This is something of an odd-one-out in here, but I wanted to include it anyway. Wattpad is a mobile reading community, which means it's set up to deliver fiction to your mobile phone (though you can read online out of your browser, too). There's buckets of free fiction on here, and more going up all the time. It has a high proportion of fan fiction right now, but I believe they're taking steps to increase the quantity of strong, original fiction on there. It's well worth checking out, especially if you read on your mobile.
Another odd-one-out, but still relevant: podiobooks. This is the happy home for audio books, delivered as podcasts – so you don't even need an e-reader to enjoy these. Also, they're all free. Huzzah.
That's it for now: eight places to go to feed your e-reading (or e-listening) habit. Enjoy!
back to top