This originally started about my book selection process. I’m fortunate enough to have purchased a lot of books and will likely buy many more. But as I started writing, I got stuck on all the resources available for readers to find books for free. I’m sure there are many more than the ones I know, but I thought I’d share what I do.
Be My Friend
I give away some books when I’m done. Some I loan. Some I hoard, like all book lovers are wont to do. Those you will not touch. I believe you should only loan that which you’re willing to lose forever. I’ve lost coveted books to people I love and trust, causing a bitterness I would rather avoid. So I do.
This does not mean if I loan you a book you can just keep it, but if you drop it in the bubble bath and ruin it, I won’t be devastated and expect a replacement. Usually loaners are ones I would like to read again sometime, or I have another friend who would like to read it.
Many books get handed off no strings attached. I like to share and would rather see people enjoying books than having them on my shelves to serve as eye-candy. (Seriously, I love looking at them.) I try to encourage people to share the love or pay it forward, but I know that doesn’t always happen. Not everyone can be so giving or fight the greedy book demon within.
What got me started on the book-sharing track was BookCrossing.com. In the same vein as Where’s George tracks money, Bookcrossing tracks books. Any book I give away will have a Bookcrossing ID. It’s been a while since I released a book into the wild. I thought I’d have better luck if I gave books away to people I knew, but I’ve had more hits (a whopping two) from wild releases. I’m going back to wild releases again. There’s a distinct thrill in leaving a book behind and seeing it gone later.
Sadly, I haven’t caught a wild book myself, but they’re out there. You can set Bookcrossing to notify you of releases in your area. So far, none have been close or convenient enough for me, but you may be in a better location. Or less lazy.
Goodreads has a whole section of book giveaways. I know, I just reduced my chances of winning anything, but it’s worth it to let the few people who read this get a chance at free books. Let me know if you win anything.
Anyone with a computer can download the Kindle or Nook apps. They’re also available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Chrome, Windows 8, and who knows what else. I’ll be talking Kindle, since I know it better.
Once you have an e-reader or the app, you have access to many free books. Countless classics are available in the public domain. Several other free books are available too (though sometimes that’s a crap shoot, figuratively and literally). If you own a Kindle and you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get a free Kindle First selection every month and can borrow hundreds of other books.
There are lots of resources for free audiobooks (and e-books). There is one I use, and that is Audible. Audible is an excellent audio book service, and if you aren’t yet a member, there is a promotion to get two (usually one) books for free. Members also have a selection of free books to download.
Other offerings are many, but these are ones I see mentioned over and over in my Internet wanderings:
LibriVox offers a wide selection of free audio books read by volunteers, and you can even volunteer to read books.
Project Gutenberg works with other sites like LibriVox and has a selection of free audiobooks, both human read and computer generated if you ever wanted Siri to read a book to you.
A list of free books would not be complete without reminding everyone of the local library. As far as I know, most are still free. Of course, schools have libraries, so if you’re a student, use it. Some businesses have libraries too, often containing books related to the business. If you’re working there, you might be interested. Even some groups have their own libraries, like my old quilter’s guild.
We are lucky here in Pittsburgh to have access to the Carnegie Library System, which is huge, well-connected, and free. You can borrow any book from any location and even check out e-books from some publishers.
If you’re forgetful and lazy like I am, the library may not be so free. I don’t use the library as much as I should, because I always rack up late fees and feel guilty about inconveniencing some other poor reader who can’t have the book. Instead I feel guilty I’m not using this treasure chest of books from a branch less than a mile from my house.
Go Forth and Read!
Books have provided a means of escape from the real world for centuries. Stop being “social,” find yourself a free book, and start reading. You have no excuse now.