Books are expensive and our wallets aren’t always deep enough to satisfy our dragon-sized appetites. So what do you do when you just have to have that book but can’t wait until your next paycheck?
Hopefully, you don’t hit up a pirate site, because that’d make me all frowny-face.
Here are 4 alternatives to browsing a pirate site and still getting your books for free.
1. Your local library
We’re starting with the obvious. Borrowing books from your local library.
There are several reasons you may not be totally in love with the library or why you haven’t visited it recently, so we’ll tackle them one-by-one.
Reason 1: My library is so small it doesn’t even have a dictionary
While I doubt anyone’s come across a library that small, I feel your pain. I live in a country town and our library isn’t huge, but they’re connected to a heap of others all around the state, and I can borrow from them without going further than the front desk.
It’s called an inter-library loan. Some libraries might charge a fee for this service, so check that before placing a hold.
Reason 2: I only read ebooks/listen to audiobooks
E-libraries are a thing. I kid you not. Now, not only can you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library, you can do it without leaving your couch.
All you need is your library card and whatever device you usually use to read ebooks. (You may need to download an app like Libby, Bolinda or Adobe Digital Editions, but they’re free too.)
Reason 3: I live out past Whoop Whoop and it takes 8 hours to get to the local library
See Reason 2, above. So long as you have an internet connection, you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks. A lot of libraries are even including comic books in their online collections!
As a bonus, a few libraries will even let you sign up online and don’t require you to live in their service area. They often call these e- or web-memberships.
Reason 6: They don’t have the books I want
Ask your library to order them in. Librarians are always happy to take recommendations for new books and will do their best to fulfil your request.
Bonus tip: The Ex-Library Book Cart
There’s often a cart of books somewhere near the front door full of books. These are books the library has retired, pulling it from the shelves to make room for new titles. Some you may have to pay for ($1 is a common price), but more often than not, they’re free.
I have several ex-library books in my collection, including this rather nice edition of The Emperor Mage.
2. Lead magnets
Here’s a cheeky little secret, authors often deliberately write books to give away for free. They’re called lead magnets and their sole purpose is to get you get you hooked so you’ll buy (or borrow from the library!) the rest of the series and/or books by that author.
A lot of lead magnets will ask you to sign up to an email newsletter before you can download it, which can lead to a lot of emails in your inbox. Nobody wants a whole heap of junk filling up their inbox, so my recommendation is to set up a separate email address for this purpose.
If you find yourself inundated with emails from authors you don’t like, just unsubscribe from their newsletter. Each email should have a link at the bottom just for this purpose.
Here are a few sites to get you started.
3. Review copies
Authors love getting book reviews and we’ll give you books to get them. In fact, a lot of reviewers are so swamped with offers of free books they stop accepting them.
Reviewing books isn’t that hard and you can do it in a variety of ways, depending upon what works for you. If you’re not sure how to review a book, check out How To Write A Book Review.
All of that said, there are some things you need to consider before you go hunting for review copies.
1. If you accept a book for review, you need to review it. Don’t take the book, read it and then just leave the author hanging, even if you didn’t finish it. That’s a quick way to never get offered another book.
2. You won’t like all the books you review, which is cool, not all books are for all readers.
3. Most of the books you’ll be offered will be ebooks, because paperbacks are expensive to produce and ship.
4. Don’t expect JK Rowling to come knocking on your door. Review copies for bestselling authors usually go to newspapers, TV hosts and other people with a large audience. That could be you one day but you’ll need to put a heap of work in beforehand.
Still want to give book reviews a go? Here are some sites to check out.
4. Book swaps
Book swaps work the way the name suggests, you swap the books you have, but don’t want, with people who want them. It’s like a library, except you get to keep the books you fall in love with.
There are two downsides to this method of getting free books.
1. Unless you’re meeting someone to swap books in person, it’s not exactly free, as you still have to pay for postage of the book.
2. You have to find people to swap with. From my experience (which is limited in this area), book swaps work best ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies, special copies that publishers send out to reviewers before a book’s official release date). ARCs can’t be sold, even as secondhand books, and so reviewers swap them amongst themselves.
The best place to look for book swaps is Facebook or Goodreads.
5. Op shops & thrift stores
Okay, so getting books from an op shop/thrift store isn’t exactly free, but it’s darn close, and they’re often cheaper than a secondhand seller. As a bonus, you’re helping to support a charity and keep books out of the garbage dump.
That’s it! Four easy ways to get free books, and two easy ways to get cheap books!