So I read a lot. And it sounds expensive, because books are really expensive in the US, but in truth, I barely spent any money last year on books. There are so many ways to get free books LEGALLY, and I’m here to spill the beans, having compiled over 2 dozen ways to read for free (or almost free)!
★ All! The! eBooks! and Audiobooks!
First accommodation I had to make was to ditch the paper. Before I moved to NYC, I was an ardent paper-lover. Once I moved here, and I quickly realized that there is absolutely no space (both in my apartment or my budget) to feed my hunger for words. So I made the switch to digital. I can rent books and go through them so quickly because I have them on my phone to read on my commute, downtime, and any time I’m traveling, cooking, or doing mundane tasks.
I’ve collected as many promotions and discounts as I could possibly find for the services for you as well (if they aren’t free already)! Many of these resources, I discovered while writing this entry, so I haven’t tried all of them yet. The ones I have tried and use, I’ve highlighted with a * next to the name.
Note: The 2 major eBook formats are Kindles, and ePubs. You’ll find majority of free books offered in these 2 formats.
Got your 2018 reading goals? Let’s jump in!
★ Free Books: Free/Almost Free eBooks/Audiobooks
So everyone knows that the Kindle is a physical tablet you can buy from Amazon. But the Amazon Kindle App is available for most smart phones/tablets, and allows you to read books for free even without having to buy the Kindle device. Here are some services you can get with the Kindle. (There are more amazon related ways to read books for cheap in the “Paid Subscriptions” section below, too!
At the beginning of every month, Amazon sends you an e-mail with offer to choose a free early access editors’ pick book out of usually a list of 4-8 ebooks.
You can redeem 1 book a month, and after that, you can buy them heavily discounted (usually around $4.99), or buy hardcover editions of the books for $9.99. If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can borrow these books the month after, when it’s officially released.
If you have Amazon Prime (Promotion: 30 day free trial), you read for free! They have books, magazines, and audiobooks that you can read for free.
Amazon is always running deals on books, so this is a link to all of the Kindle deals they happen to be running at the moment.
Curates a list of free or heavily discounted books with your favorite genres in mind, and sends you daily or weekly e-mails with purchase/download information along with blurbs.
Overdrive (Library) *
Many of you probably have a dusty library card. Did you know that you can use it to rent eBooks and audiobooks, without the hassle of having to return it physically to the library?
This is definitely the app I use the most in terms of getting myself books, especially because the NYPL OverDrive account, I can have the books for up to 3 weeks. They have over 30,000 libraries in over 40 countries, so even if you’re not in the US, definitely give it a shot!
Free or heavily discounted (costs up to $1.99) ebooks, with recommendations delivered to your inbox curated to your GoodReads “Want to Read” shelf.
Most of FeedBooks is just a normal book seller, but they also have free “Original” books uploaded by the writers themselves; a great opportunity to “discover” new authors and books before they get picked up.
★ Paid Subscriptions
Rent unlimited audiobooks/ebooks/magazines
- $9.99/mo (Promotion: 30 day free trial)
Get 1 audiobook a month to keep. Unlike Kindle Unlimited, you keep them “forever” even if you cancel the subscription. You can buy any additional audiobook after your first one for 30% off.
- $14.95/mo (Promotion: 30 day free trial + 2 free audiobooks)
3 books and 1 audiobook a month with unlimited access to magazines and documents.
- $8.99/mo (Promotion: 30 day free trial)
★ Like the Classics? You’re in Luck!
Many “Classics” aka: Ze Olden Dayz Bookz (what) are in the “Public Domain.” Many people are surprised to learn that these books are often available for free, as any copyright and publishing rights have expired!
Most of these are run by volunteers, so if you love books, have a copy of one of the books not currently on there, you could volunteer in recording or providing text copies!
Volunteer project to get “every public domain book in audio form”! You can get public domain books in both ebook and audiobook forms.
54,000 free eBooks- you can choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.
Thousands of public domain books in epub form.
Opensource text and books.
★ Discounted Books & Book Swaps
You can buy discounted pre-loved books, ranging from mystery, romance, to rare collectibles for very affordable prices. They have a lot of deals going on all the time (like 2 for $7, 4 for $12), and has rewards for spending certain amounts of money so that your book addiction can keep on fueling itself. (Promotion: 15% off first order)
For just the cost of shipping, swap books you’ve already read with books you’ve been wanting to read!
The classics or school books for cheaper!
Over 2 million pre-loved books you can order online. (If you’re in Maryland, you can lug your books to one of their locations and they will buy them off you.)
★ Looking to Buy or Sell Textbooks?
In college, the 2 most painful times of the semester were when I went to the bookstore to buy textbooks that I knew I’d barely crack for obscene amounts of money…. And then when I went back to sell them for pennies. Nowadays, we have this thing called the interwebs that make it a little less painful.
Back when I was a young warthog, I was silly enough to buy directly from the school’s bookstore. Don’t do it! We had an off-campus used bookstore that systematically did the buy-backs and resells, which sold it for fraction of the price and bought back for much higher rates. Nowadays, you can find much better deals online.
Well. Does what it tells you. Helps you find the textbook you’re looking for via title or ISBN, and then canvasses the web to find you the best price for it.
Basically does the opposite of the previous link. You put in ISBN of your textbook, and it’ll canvas the web to find you the website with the highest buy-back price.
This is the bookstore I used back in college, when I was no longer such a young warthog and realized I didn’t have to buy new shiny $700 textbook for every course. You can go to one of their locations for selling/buying books, or you can do it online.
★ Do You Blog? Get Free Books to Review!
If you are a blogger, you’re in for a treat! You can request copies (paper copy or digital copy) of books in exchange for reviews on your blog! Aside from the few I have listed below, you can check out this article on Authormedia to find more websites and publishers offering books in exchange for reviews.
You request a book from a list, they send it to you, you read it, you review it on your blog. Simple!
Paper copies available to US residents, and eBook copies available internationally.
Blog and leave Amazon reviews in exchange for free books!
★ Know Any Other Free Books Resources? Share With Us!
Have favorite apps, services, or websites that I didn’t mention in this post that you use? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to add more into this list!
Especially if you are from overseas, and have resources for non-American visitors… I think most of these are pretty US-Centric (naturally), so I would love to find ways that out-of-the-states people get their words in!
★ My 2017 Picks
That being said, here are some of my favorites from 2017 (in no specific order):
- The Boy Who Loved Too Much (Jennifer Latson) – The author followed a boy with a rare disorder called Williams Syndrome for 3 years, a syndrome commonly referred to as “The Opposite of Autism.”
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond) – I wrote more about it below, but I highly recommend it. Great expose and in-depth investigation into the housing crisis in America’s poorest areas.
- Better Than Before (Gretchen Rubin)- Taught me that everyone is motivated by different things, and it’s ok to need extrinsic motivation to get shit done… As long as it I can get shit done, it doesn’t matter how!
- Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) – Read this one without reading any summaries/reviews about it… Like The Boy in Striped Pajamas, you should read this one without any background knowledge for the best experience.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie) – Gotta get my manipulation skills- I mean… Social Skillz up….
- Yesterday (Felicia Yap) – Her debut novel! The premise is a world where there are “Duos” and “Monos,” where “Duos” have 2 days’ worth of memories, and “Monos” have only one. There was a murder. And it has to be solved before all the memories disappear.
I think 2017 was great in that I got to read a lot of different genres of books from very different authors, so got to get a flavor of many things I hadn’t delved into before. I hope to keep that going in 2018. It’s always great to get a fresh perspective! You can see everything I read this year here: 2017 Reading Challenge.
★ My 2017, Through Free Books
Looking through my 2017 Reading Challenge on GoodReads, you can trace my interests (read: obsessions?) throughout the year.
It started out with fiction (I love historical fiction, fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian, and “slice of life”), murder mysteries (a la Jodi Picoult or J.K. Rowling), speckled with medical novels/case studies (I love them too) and a bit of economics/anthropology.
Then I discovered Kazuo Ishiguro, and basically read every single book in the library that I can find of his (I think the first one I read- Never Let Me Go– was the best, though… Never got that into any of the other ones I read by him), while still reading some fiction/historical fiction/case studies, with some econ/finances sprinkled in. I always have to include something morbid in the mix, so I read Stiff, a history and life of cadavers (pun intended hah). I remember reading this on the Shinkansen in Japan.
And then I fell hard for the “self help” slash “get your life together!!!” genre, starting with Better Than Before, and then extending to every book I can get ahold of by the same author. I then moved onto reading a lot of biographies and autobiographies about women doing things, as well as various self-help books for realigning my mindset, especially because I was starting to suspect something was very wrong with my body, and I may have to leave NYC.
This was also when I got into my Minimalism phase, so I started reading a lot of books about minimalism, started decluttering my apartment and life, and watched so many YouTube videos that my roommate and boyfriend started screaming at me to stop when I started another one.
By end of November through December, I fell into the world of Poverty and Housing Insecurity in America. I’ve always been troubled by the statistic that more than 1 in 5 kids in America go through Food Insecurity (they don’t know if, where, or when their food is coming next), despite the fact that we like to tout ourselves as being the richest and most prosperous country in the world. One thing that wasn’t as apparent to me was the prominence of Housing Insecurity in the country (which, if you think about it, is duh… if they can’t afford food, then of course they also can’t afford a home!).
The first book I read about it was Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (I highly highly recommend it!) which turned into more binging about housing insecurity and eviction in the US and around the world, both in books and in documentaries, as well as the realities of living on welfare that no longer serves its purpose of helping vulnerable families keep afloat until they can find their footing after the welfare reform, because while food stamps are good for getting food, it can’t pay for rent or utilities.
Ironically, Bill Clinton signed this bill in 1996, and around the same time, I was reading What Happened by Hillary Clinton, which touched upon this, but the way she described it, and how $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing In America described it… well, you couldn’t tell they were talking about the same law!
I definitely read a lot more books in 2017 than I did in 2016 (apparently I only read 36 books in 2016). I guess it must have been due to the fact that I changed my job (again), which meant my commute went from 25-40 min each way to 45-1 hour each way (net half an hour extra a day for audiobook consumption), I started listening to more audiobooks (and at 2X speed), and I got sick, so I was spending a lot more time not being out and about, but more trying to distract myself at home.
In terms of the books I did manage to read in 2016 though, I’m looking through the list, and remembering liking them, like The People in the Trees (Hanya Yanagihara), and When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi).
Between discovering Hanya Yanagihara in 2016, and Kazuo Ishiguro and Felicia Yap in 2017, I’m glad I’ve been able to find more Asian writers who don’t necessarily write about the “Struggles of Being Asian in Western Culture (TM)” which is all I had growing up (queue The Joy Luck Club).
★ How About You?
What were your favorite reads of 2017? Are you looking forward to any books for 2018, or have a reading goal? Where do you get your books to read? Let us know in the comments!
Also, I’m always up for book recommendations! Give me your favorite!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.