Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to Get Free Books (Legally!)

Being a book blogger and following many authors and blogs myself on Facebook, I've seen loads of people talking about how they can't afford books, or can't afford many books a month, and I get it. For a voracious reader, buying books can get really expensive. Before I started reading indie books, I only used my Kindle to read my monthly book club books, because I found that the books I was looking at buying were just as expensive if not more expensive as their paperback counterparts. Frankly, I'd rather pay the $3.99 shipping and wait a couple months for my book to arrive than pay $10 for an ebook because I'm a cheapskate like that. I didn't have the luxury of waiting a couple months for a book to arrive for a monthly book club meeting though, so the convenience of buying a book and having it instantly on my Kindle was good for that. Most of the time I didn't even want to pay the $3.99 shipping though, and bought most of my books at my local thrift store (I still do this because books.) I'm American living overseas and books are one of the first things many people get rid of when they're trying to make weight for an upcoming move it seems, so our thrift store was always well stocked with a wide variety of books for me to choose from. When the thrift store was particularly overstocked on books, they'd go on sale at the price of 10 for $1. I'd spend four or five bucks in a single trip, because I have a wide range of literary interests. But I digress, that's not the point of this post.

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy anymore books, because that would be crazy talk, but if you find yourself with a limited book budget, you have ways of getting new books while waiting for payday. So what are the best ways to get free books without resorting to dreaded piracy?


My favorite is Amazon. You already know that you can get free books on Amazon, but do you realize that some of those free books are actually amazing? I got my copy of Bully by Penelope Douglas for free (this was before she signed with a publisher), and Bully is the reason why I started reading indie books and eventually became a book blogger. Want to see every book that is free on Amazon at any given time? Just go here. (There are 94,000 free books at the time of this posting.)

There's also the Kindle Unlimited program (not entirely free). I don't have a lot of information on this program as I don't take part in it at this time. What I do know is that for $10 a month (I think) you can download and read as many books as you want (or you know, as many as you can read in a month) from a selection of titles available through the program. This is somewhat limiting as not all books are in the program, and I've seen a lot of criticism for KU from indie authors, but for a bookworm on a budget, it just might be a good choice for you. It does feature an insane amount of gay billionaire dinosaur erotica (if that's of any interest to you.)

Kindle Scout: This is another great option through Amazon, and participating in the Kindle Scout program as a reader helps authors out as well. Basically, authors submit their books for voting by readers, and if a book gets enough nominations, Amazon publishes it and everyone who nominated the book gets an advance copy (that counts as a verified purchase when/if you review) for free! There are perks for the authors too getting published this way as opposed to just self-publishing, but those don't really matter for this post.

Finally, if you are comfortable allowing your email address to be visible on your Amazon profile, make it so. This is a relatively new feature (I think), but since I made my email address visible on my profile, I've received about a half dozen offers from authors for review copies of their books because they've read some of my Amazon reviews (presumably for books that they feel are similar to their own). And I know that these offers are from Amazon because they've come to my personal email address as opposed to the blog email.


My next favorite way to get free books is through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program. I'm pretty sure my husband would say that I have an unhealthy obsession with entering Goodreads giveaways because I enter most of them (wide range of literary interests and all). Now you may say that you've tried Goodreads giveaways but you never win, but how many times have you tried? Also, if you're only trying for very popular books, obviously your chances of winning are going to be reduced. In the year and a half that I've been entering Goodreads giveaways, I've won a total of 432 books, but I've entered over 40,000 giveaways. My win percentage is about 1%. Of the books that I've won, I've currently read 54 of them (12.5%), and that is an important thing to keep in mind because reviewing the books that you win, increases your chances of winning again. Reviewing really does help with winning more too, so if you're more discerning in which giveaways you enter, you won't win as frequently as I do, but I bet your win percentage is similar, and once you start reviewing those books you've won, it will probably even be better than mine (because I'd have to completely stop entering giveaways for a while to even hope to catch up on my books I've won, because it seems once I get one read, I win 2 or 3 more.) There is an additional benefit to entering Goodreads giveaways though (if you add the books to your to-read shelf when you enter the giveaway like I do). Some authors will message you offering you ebooks in exchange for an honest review (I've even received a few offers for paperbacks in exchange for an honest review after not winning the giveaways for them.) 2 of my top 18 books of 2014 were books that I was offered review copies of through Goodreads after entering giveaways for them (and not winning).


Then there's Facebook. Facebook has a few different ways to get free books. These include joining reviewer groups (where authors post books free in exchange for review), becoming a part of a street team (or 10), and entering giveaways (which can be found on almost every blog and author page at some point in time.)

Reviewer groups: I say that this is the easiest way to get free books on Facebook because in most cases the only requirements are that you review the books after you've read them. Different reviewer groups operate differently (obviously). Some groups it's a straight up exchange, book for review. Some groups operate sort of like a book club, where each month you sign up to read one book which you receive for free and then review it, and also discuss the book in the group. I actually take issues with most of those groups that I've joined (and then quickly unjoined) because they frequently state that if you're rating a book 3 stars or below to run it past an admin first to ensure that it's a constructive review. To me, that feels like censorship, and I'm not down with that. I don't feel like I should have to obtain approval to post a review of a book that I read. That kind of goes against everything I stand for here. If you're interested in joining a review group on Facebook, a good friend suggested Melange Books - Read and Review, feel free to check it out.

Street teams: Getting into street teams can be pretty easy or incredibly hard, depending on your particular reading interests. I'm currently a member of 8 street teams. Of those 8 street teams, I joined 5 without having previously read the authors work. The other three street teams I was added to by the author without having requested to join (and only one of them even asked me if I wanted to join first), because I was either an ardent supporter or had worked closely with them already on one of their books either through the blog or a reviewer group. I know for sure that two of my authors will provide e-copies of any of their books that I want to read (and I believe two of my others will do the same, I just haven't seen them talk about it as much, so I can't say for sure). They do this because they want my genuine support, and it makes sense. Really, how am I supposed to pimp an author whose work I've never even read? Beyond that, there are also opportunities to beta read books and provide feedback to the author before the book is even ready for publication. I do that for most of my authors and help them correct every spelling and grammar error I find. But street teams come with more obligations. Some of them have very strict requirements about the jobs you perform, others are pretty easy going (mine are all super easy going and I love it). I believe they all usually require some weekly pimping on social media though, but that is a requirement that is really easy to meet. Most blogs at last post a Teaser Tuesday pimp post, and you can get all sorts of pimping done on Tuesdays. So while street teams do have some obligations, they're not necessarily that difficult to meet.

Giveaways: You've seen them, you've probably entered them, and you get super jealous of those lucky b*tches that seem to win all of them (I've been there, although I've also been one of those lucky b*ches that wins a lot of giveaways too). I don't think this really needs much explanation.

Penguin First to Read

First to Read is an ARC giveaway program offered by Penguin. At least once a month they put several books on offer. Each of these books has a limited number of guaranteed copies available (you can "buy" guaranteed copies with points that you accrue by logging onto the site), and then copies that you can enter to win. The drawback to Penguin First to Read is that you have the books on loan for a limited amount of time (42 days after you download the book, and you have to download the book within 40 days of the entry period closing), and you can only read the books on a device that supports Adobe Digital Editions (these devices include but are not limited to iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Kindle Fire. There is a list of supported devices on the First to Read site.) 

Now if none of these avenues for free books appeal to you, I guess you'll just have to forgo a few of your Starbucks lattes (that it seems many authors believe all bookworms drink*) in order to feed your reading addiction.

*Note: I have personally never ordered anything from a Starbucks because I think coffee is gross, and don't see much reason going to Starbucks if I'm not going to order a coffee.

**Edited on May 2, 2016 to add Kindle Scout and Penguin First to Read information.


  1. Also you should add NetGalley

    1. It's my understanding that Netgalley is for bloggers and librarians. This is a list for the general public that has no interest in working with a blog. - Katie