I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel like I can't go ten minutes on Facebook without seeing an author or blogger discussing how we "all" have no problem paying $4 for a fancy coffee at Starbucks, but don't want to pay the same amount for an ebook. Sometimes these posts include readers mentioning that money is tight for them (money is tight for a lot of people right now, America is still recovering from a recession, so I'm sure their comments are entirely valid) so they have to look for sales or take advantage of the KU program because they read voraciously and it's just too expensive otherwise. The authors are right, they deserve to be paid fairly for their work. But the readers are right too. Humans have been trying to find and take advantage of bargains for everything under the sun for as long as history has been recorded (probably).
I feel that I'm a fairly voracious reader, not by some people's standards I'm sure, but I do read on average 150 books per year (or thereabouts), which is considerably more than basically everyone I actually know in real life (not just through Facebook). I'm a bargain shopper; I love my thrift store, I one-click books just because they're free, and if a book is on sale for 99 cents and sounds pretty good, my finger tends to slip on that one click button then too. I have literally thousands of books that I own and have never read, in my possession right now (over 19K in my Amazon library alone.) I have a really wide range of literary interests though, and enjoy reading just about everything. That is going to help me on this mission I'm setting for myself to spend a year reading for FREE!
I know what you're thinking, "Yeah, but you're a blogger so people offer you free books all the time." You're not wrong, I do get offered review copies of books on the regular, but I already only very rarely take authors up on those offers, preferring instead to purchase my copies and relieve myself of any guilt over my own personal TBR list flakiness. And during this year, I will not accept any of them at all (*Note to self: Edit review request page on blog to reflect this.) For the purposes of this mission, I am only going to read books that I got for free simply as an average reader (there are three exceptions to this, that I will go into more detail about later.) Additionally, I'm not going to allow myself to read books that I one-clicked for free on Amazon (I will probably still read and review some short stories that I one-click for free, but nothing over 50 pages long. This is in order to keep my verified review average up to help protect my reviews should Amazon purge again.)
I have three avenues that I will be using to obtain my free reading material for this mission.
The first avenue is through Goodreads First Reads giveaways. I have been entering these giveaways aggressively for a little over three years now and have quite the collection of books built up from them that I need to read and review. Now again, I have a fairly wide range of literary interests, so I enter most of the giveaways offered which greatly increases my odds of winning, but actually reviewing the books that I receive through the program helps too. After I get one book reviewed, I usually win two to three more within a couple of days.
The second avenue I will be using is Penguin's First to Read program. At least once a month Penguin offers up digital galleys of some of their upcoming releases. They have a limited number of galleys that can be guaranteed by using points which you accumulate by signing in daily (it seems that you earn more points if you sign in to the site via emails that they send, or maybe my extra points have come from others logging on via links I've shared. I'm not really sure which, but on several occasions I've logged in to a much better bonus than the usual daily points). If you miss all of the guaranteed copies though, you can put your name in to the drawing for the remaining galleys of whichever books appeal to you. These digital galleys do have a time limit however. You only get 42 days to read them after downloading (and you only have 42 days after the drawing ends to download) so I wouldn't recommend guaranteeing every single book in any round, even if they all sound amazing (unless you read super fast.) The other drawback to Penguin's First to Read program is that it uses Adobe digital editions to verify your loans. You can sign up for that for free, but the galleys are only available to be read on limited devices (iPads, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy tablet, Android phones, and iPhones. They have a list of supported devices on the website.)
The final avenue I will be using to obtain my free books is the Kindle Scout program. In case you don't know, Kindle Scout is operated by Amazon (pretty obvious I think). Authors can submit their books for publication through Kindle Scout, which nets them some perks that self-publishing doesn't, and readers (like you and me) go vote for the books that we'd like to see published. If a book that you have nominated for publishing is selected, you receive a free eARC of the book, and you can even post a review BEFORE the book goes live on Amazon (I've never finished one of the books before that point, but I know it's an option). It is totally free to nominate books, and you can have up to three books nominated at any one time. I personally check it almost daily and usually only nominate books with campaigns that are ending soon, but I do scan the other books and save the ones that I find interesting for later nomination. (Be prepared to see me championing Kindle Scout books that I'm really interested in.)
*Exceptions to my rules*
I mentioned that there were two exceptions to my free reading this year. The first one is that I will be buying my books for my monthly book club meetings. I do not mess with the library under the best of circumstances, and when there are 4-8 other women also wanting the books I do at my base alone, it's just not worth it. Also, I like to own my books, and I'm pretty sure I can't convince my book club to only read books that I have won free copies of through Goodreads for an entire year (I might be able to get away with it for a month or two though!)
The second exception to the rule is books that I am hired to proofread. I am still working as a freelance proofreader, and I will still be reviewing those books around their publication dates. Technically I am getting them for free, but they do not count as a book that I got as just a reader, so they do not count for this mission (but I'm also not going to stop working for a year.)
The third exception is Netgalley books. I have dug myself a very deep hole on Netgalley, and I want to try to claw my way out of it this year (at least a little bit.) Now I will try to only use books that I double-dipped with (won a copy through Goodreads and snagged as a read now on Netgalley), but I can't guarantee I will fully succeed in that endeavor.
All three of these types of reviews will be clearly indicated as such, and they will not bear the #YearofReadingFreely hashtag that I intend to use with all of my other reviews for this year (unless a Netgalley book was also a Goodreads win.) Additionally, for these books I will also be spotlighting a book that I got for free as just a reader of a similar length (and genre if possible).
I think that pretty much covers everything. If you would like to join me in this endeavor, feel free to do so. You're welcome to take advantage of all the avenues that I've presented, as well as your local library and Amazon freebies if you want too. Just use the hashtag #YearofReadingFreely when you post your reviews, so I can check them out too! - Katie