Books can be expensive, but that hasn’t quenched my thirst for literacy. Every day, I add numerous new books to my “To Be Read” pile, despite the fact that I don’t have an unlimited bank account or unlimited time. How do I do it? I’ve hacked the system and figured out how to get books for free, but you don’t need to report me to the piracy authorities. I’m doing it all legally. Let me tell you how I’ve done it so you can follow in my shoes.
One discovery that changed the way I approached books was Goodreads Giveaways. Participation in these giveaways requires a free Goodreads account and the use of a desktop computer – as opposed to an app on a phone. Once you access these giveaways, the world is yours for the taking. At any given time, there are nearly 2,000 giveaways going on, from indie-published books by first-time authors to the latest Dan Brown or James Patterson blockbuster. You can sort these giveaways by category so you only enter for books you are interested in. All you have to do is wait and win. In just a few months of usage, I’ve already won nearly 50 free books, some finished copies and other advanced reader copies, which we’ll get to next.
If the phrases “advanced reader copies” or “arcs” are new to you, I’m about to blow your mind. Most times, you’re probably reading a finished copy of a book with a shiny cover that’s been seen by a dozen editors. However, something must come before. Before they become finished copies, publishers create “arcs” of books to give to readers and reviewers to get their input and drum up excitement for the book. Now, you can get involved too. NetGalley is a free-to-join website. On this website, you can ask for free digital arcs from publishers for upcoming releases. All you have to do is post a review, whether that be on NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon, or your own blog. I got to review several books by authors I loved months before they came to my local bookstore.
Overdrive and Hoopla
Another resource likely offered by your library are Overdrive and Hoopla, basically two online libraries full of audio-books and eBooks that you can check out for free. There are limits on how many you can check out at a time. There is often a wait list for some of the bigger name books, but it’s amazing how quickly new releases pop up on these sites. Sometimes, you can even get on the wait list for an eBook before it’s released. If you don’t have an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, you can download e-books in various formats through the Overdrive and Hoopla apps and websites or transfer to the Kindle app.
Free Kindle books
It’s time you learn about how many FREE books are offered by Kindle. Most out-of-copyright classic books, like Pride and Prejudice, Tale of Two Cities, Count of Monte Cristo, etc, are available for free to download. Similarly, many authors choose to make their books free on Kindle and available to buy for free on Amazon. It’s a great place to discover indie or self-published books and discover new authors.
Your local library
Local libraries are often underutilized by young people. Most cities have public libraries. Every college also has a library. Use them! They’re free if you live in the area and have proof of address. If that’s not the case, it’s pretty cheap compared to the cost of new hardcover books. These libraries are full of books you can read, both for school and for leisure. I love browsing the shelves at my local library and discovering new books that I can’t wait to devour. If I find a book on Amazon and want to avoid spending money on it, I request it from my library. More often than not, they have it or can get it from me.
Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan
If you are seeking a book that is not in your library’s collection, you can utilize resources like Borrow Direct and Interlibrary loan which allow you to check out books from other libraries within a certain network, perhaps across the state or a university conference. Often, when I can’t find a book at my library, they’ll use Borrow Direct to get it from a nearby school or even across the country. I once received a book from the Stanford Library. It crossed the country to be read. If you’re not sure if your library has these resources, just ask. The worst they can say is no.