The piracy of any media content is a topic that’s personally close to my heart as a media and communication major. Just last semester, I worked on a quantitative research paper on the digital film piracy intentions among Filipino young adults. But the piracy of books is a whole lot closer to my heart than any other type of pirating simply because I am a reader from – as the Western superpowers like to label us – a third-world country.
Hence, it disappoints and, at times, hurts me to see that the discourse surrounding such an important issue lacks important nuances and a fundamental understanding of privileges. In fact, I’d argue that more than occasionally, these online debates are considerably dismissive, as evidenced by the staggering number of (white, middle and upper-middle class) people yelling at readers like me to go to the
goddamn library that, as many of us have tirelessly pointed out, does not exist in our area. (Sorry, not sorry if that spilled tea scalded you.)
While I, as an international book blogger and reader, have more than 2 cents to pitch in regarding the issue of e-book piracy, I’m not here to argue. Instead, I’m shifting my focus from self-entitled Twitter strangers (who want well-documented receipts of how poor I am) to other struggling readers like me. I’ve decided to write this post as a subtly raised middle finger aimed at the classist, Western-centric conversation on e-book piracy. With all that said, here are a number of resources you can use to legally access books for free or at a discounted price!
Discounted Kindle books on Amazon!
Before anything else: Amazon is terrible, especially towards its own employees. While I am against the way their management works, I also understand that for a lot of us, Amazon is one of the very few means we have at our disposal in order to acquire books. The unfortunate reality is: in a profit-driven, capitalist society, someone is always losing. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Amazon’s Kindle store boasts enormous collections of e-books that you can easily read on an e-reader or through the Kindle app. There are often plenty of discounts on Kindle books that you can easily find by exploring their daily Kindle Book Deals where these e-books are $3 or less. Alternatively, you can simply visit their Kindle store and view their catalogue from the lowest prices to the highest, which is a technique I find myself doing every now and then – in fact, in one of my succeeding posts, I’ll be sharing a list of Kindle books I’ve bought for $0.99 or less!
Additionally, there are tools available in helping you find these discounts more efficiently. You can keep track of discounts, freebies, and price drops using eReaderIQ.
P.S. Right now, C.P. Santi’s Bucket List to Love is free on Amazon.
Book Depository and Wordery!
Another barrier to accessing books is that we have to pay ridiculously high shipping fees. Thankfully, the Book Depository provides free shipping to numerous countries outside the U.S. (click here to see where BD delivers). The site also has its own bargain shop with a huge selection of books across all genres.
Another online retailer called Wordery offers more than 10 million books as well as free shipping to more than 100 countries.
My Book Cave!
By subscribing to the services of My Book Cave, you will receive daily emails informing you of free and discounted e-books that match your preferences (i.e. genre, levels of heat, violence, swearing, and other content).
The mechanics are simple: you fill out a form describing your preferred books, submit your email address, and start receiving their alerts in your inbox. I’ve actually been introduced to a number of fantastic titles because of My Book Cave. Plus, their content ratings are incredibly helpful and informative! For instance, C.A. Gray’s Intangible (which you can get for free here) not only comes with a description but also warnings for moderate violence or horror, mild crude humor, mild language, and mild sensuality.
Similar to My Book Cave, Bookperk sends email alerts about daily e-book deals, too. If you want to receive emails about great e-book bargains, sneak peeks, and special offers, then I recommend that you try out this platform. You’ll also receive a free e-book just by signing up for their services!
Can you ever have too many email alerts about discounted e-books? I don’t think so. Bookbub also blasts emails to subscribers regarding limited-time free and discounted e-books which match their respective interests.
Instafreebie is another fantastic online hub for e-books that are free for a certain amount of time! You can browse through their selection of e-books (that are usually independently published) and subscribe to their weekly email blasts that will definitely introduce you to plenty of interesting titles.
Riveted by Simon Teen, otherwise known as RivetedLit, is an online community that offers readers access to extended excerpts and even full books of Simon & Schuster titles for free.
I only stumbled upon this website a few months ago, and since then, I’ve been able to read Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens, Sarah Fine’s The Impostor Queen, and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Quirky Blind Date with a Book!
If you like book blind dates, then Quirky Blind Date with a Book should definitely be under your radar! It’s a quaint online community that releases monthly sign-up forms on their Facebook page, where you give them your Kindle email address, select as many book blind dates as you want, and wait for the books to be sent to your Kindle app or e-reader.
I used to frequently take part in their activities until I eventually became busier. In any case, all my book blind dates were great reads, and I had a lot of fun! I highly recommend that you give this platform a try, although make sure to read their rules very carefully! You’re required to give feedback for every book blind date that you receive. Those who fail to submit feedback on time won’t be allowed to join in the following month’s sign-ups.
Are you a fan of reading webcomic series? Then you should probably head over to the directory of free webcomics housed by WebComics Hub.
Are you into classics and world literature? Then Project Gutenberg has got you covered! With a book selection of more than 57,000 titles, this platform offers an extensive collection of classic literature.
By the way, if you’re a huge fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery (the author of the Anne of Green Gables series), then you can easily read a lot of her works online on fadedpages.com.
If audiobooks are more of your thing, then check out LibriVox for public domain audiobooks you can listen to without spending a single cent! I haven’t tried this website myself, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Plus, LibriVox also has numerous non-English audiobooks.
Tor.com’s e-book of the month club!
As an online e-book club, Tor.com lets its club members receive free e-copies of their selected monthly reads. I’m not a member of this e-book club so there’s really not much I can say about it, but this is definitely worth looking into.
Baen Books Science Fiction and Fantasy!
There are digital ARCs as well as a great free digital library offered by Baen Books. Their titles primarily fall under the science fiction and fantasy genre – which, coincidentally, happens to be my all-time favorite!
Scribd is a popular digital library and e-book subscription service that has more than a million titles on its digital shelves. For a monthly fee of around $8, you get unlimited access to their e-books and audiobooks. Scribd also offers a 30-day free trial that you can definitely take advantage of.
Swoon Reads is an online community and imprint of MacMillan publishing that releases young adult and new adult novels. Writers submit their original, unpublished manuscripts to the website, and the readers rate and comment on them, which helps Swoon Reads decide which titles to publish. Some books published by Swoon Reads include Kate Evangelista’s The Boyfriend Bracket, Chani Lynn Feener’s Between Frost and Fury, Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love, and Jen Wilde’s The Brightsiders — which just goes to show that there are a ton of good reads available on this platform.
Diverse Book Bridge!
Diverse Book Bridge is a lovely Twitter account that aims to bring diverse book donations to marginalized teen bloggers. The team is currently on hiatus, but I still suggest that you give this account a follow and wait until Diverse Book Bridge is ready for operation. Additionally, you can support their work and their cause through their ko-fi account.
Online secondhand bookstores!
Pre-loved books are significantly cheaper than brand new books, and now, you can shop for these secondhand treasures online with ease! There are so many options out there, but here are a few to help you get started:
- ThriftBooks (7 million used books, free shipping + 100% recycled packaging)
- Better World Books (free shipping)
- Abe Books
If you’re a reader living in the Philippines (like me!), here are some local online bookstores where you can shop for secondhand finds:
- Book Duke
- Books Ni Tess
- The Book Snopp
- Porch Reader Philippines
- Yumi Thriftshop
- The Bookshelf
Bookbed, a blog and Filipino reading community that I am personally fond of, has its own quaint online store of reasonably priced books and bookish merchandise. Check out their selection on Instagram and Carousell.
Of course, outside of these helpful resources, there are other legal means to access and acquire books. A number of them seem pretty obvious, but in the past, I have encountered more than a handful of bloggers who aren’t very familiar with some of these ways. Since we’re already on the topic, let’s breeze through these other ways that you can do to get your hands on more books!
1. Requesting for review copies
Yep, Advanced Reader’s Copies or ARCs. There are third-party platforms such as NetGalley, Edelweiss, Reading Alley, Booktasters, and First to Read that allow you to browse through catalogues of available digital review copies and to request for the titles you’re interested in reading and reviewing. In some cases, you can still wish for e-titles that have already been archived.
Of course, I don’t want to deceive anyone into thinking that these websites, especially in the case of NetGalley, offer everyone equal chances to have their requests approved. They don’t. There are plenty of factors that play into this. Although establishing your brand as a book blogger/bookstagrammer/booktuber/book reviewer can help turn the tides towards your favor, there are also other restrictions or circumstances that might hurt your chances, too.
There’s another online hub called The Book Robin Hoods where you can also request for review copies from authors – a lot of whom are self-published. This website is a lot more inclusive because it primarily serves as a friendly community for authors, book bloggers, bookstagramers, booktubers, and readers. While book bloggers can reach out to featured authors and request for a review copy, authors can likewise contact the featured bloggers and send them review requests.
Aside from third-party sites, you can also try reaching out to publishing entities and directly asking them for specific titles you’d like to read and review. Even with years of blogging experience, this is a practice I’m still very terrified of doing – but if you want to give it a shot, you can refer to Ashley’s post and Austine’s post for tips and tricks on how to request from publishers and third-party sites.
2. Participating in book blog tours
Surprisingly enough, not many bloggers know about blog tours. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to explain what a blog tour is and how it operates.
Essentially, a blog tour is a virtual promotional tour for a particular book where book bloggers sign up to have their blogs as virtual tour stops. Each virtual tour stop is assigned a date to release promotional content (e.g. reviews, author interviews, excerpts, giveaways), and all participating book bloggers receive copies of the featured book to read and review.
I can confidently say that your odds of being accepted are more favorable in blog tours than in third-party sites that offer ARCs. I have organized multiple blog tours, and I always do what I can to accommodate as many participants as I can. By the way, if you’d like to receive invites to my blog tours, just fill out this form.
Other popular blog tour organizers include Xpresso Book Tours, The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Rockstar Book Tours, and a personal favorite of mine, Aimee, Always. There are more organizers that you can find through a quick Google search!
3. Trading books and ARCs with other readers
Thanks to the internet and other technological advances, trading books and ARCs is now a whole new different game on a much more evolved landscape. You can easily trade with readers from other countries (as long as the shipping fee is bearable), and this opens up more opportunities for you to get your hands on books that might be rare or are entirely unavailable in your area.
One of the most common grounds for book swapping is unsurprisingly Twitter. Using the hashtags #booksfortrade and #arcsfortrade, you can almost instantaneously browse through a wide array of books while letting other book traders know what titles are on your wishlist. Book trade is also conducted on third-party websites, including PaperBackSwap.
4. Participating in reading challenges
When I was relatively new to the whole blogging scene, I signed up for way too many reading and blogging challenges that I ended up completely abandoning. Still, not only are these challenges tons of fun to do (and give you that extra motivation to get more reading done!) but some of them conduct giveaways, too. Here are some examples: The Backlist Reader Challenge 2018, 2018 Library Love Challenge, 2018 Discussion Challenge, 2018 Debut Author Challenge, and 2018 A to Z Reading Challenge. I’m sure I missed out on numerous fantastic reading challenges, but no worries, you can easily refer to this master list compiled by Kim and Tanya.
You weren’t able to sign up for any of these challenges? Again, don’t worry! A lot of them are still open to new participants at any time of the year. You just have to carefully read the organizers’ rules and established mechanics.
5. Joining street teams and subscribing to author newsletters
An author’s street team is composed of a group of volunteer fans and readers who work together to help them in promoting their books. Being a part of a street team usually comes with perks such as exclusive content, review copies, and of course, getting to develop a great relationship with the author! You can usually find information regarding street teams on author websites.
(P.S. At the moment, the only street teams I’m a member of are Helen Scheuerer’s Mist Dwellers and Elise Kova’s street team! I am happy to say that I’ve become good friends with Helen, and I’ve been given many opportunities to work with her. In fact, I’m in charge of organizing a blog tour – check the #MistPH hashtag to take part in our shenanigans – for her upcoming release, Reign of Mist. I also wouldn’t have been able to read one of my all-time steampunk favorites, The Alchemists of Loom, if it weren’t for Elise’s generosity! In summary: authors are awesome.)
Aside from street teams, author newsletters are a great source of book information and opportunities! These newsletters aren’t just a bunch of updates. Instead, sometimes authors use their newsletters to reach out to their readers and to offer them opportunities to receive their books for free. Newsletters can also contain book freebies, which is something I’ve seen many authors do!
I’ve subscribed to so many of them, but my personal favorites are Elise Kova’s (her emails come with free gifts, giveaways, and free downloads!) and Helen Scheuerer’s (after signing up, you’ll receive five – soon-to-be six – prequels of her debut novel, Heart of Mist).
6. Entering book giveaways
There are plenty of book giveaways on blogs, Instagram, and Twitter that you can try your luck in! Speaking of which, for Filipino readers, I am currently giving away two beautiful ARCs – the details of which are located in my previous post. But I digress.
Personally, Twitter is my favorite platform when it comes to giveaways because they’re very hard to miss (on account of the ridiculous frequency of my feed scrolling habit). While a sizable number of the giveaways are typically exclusive to residents in U.S., U.K. or Australia, there are still plenty that accommodate international readers.
In fact, in light of all the online squabbling about e-book piracy, several generous Twitter individuals have decided to conduct book giveaways that cater to international folk! Here are some that you can try joining:
Other international giveaways:
- Mars (@wildmoonchildz) has a thread of ARC giveaways for international teen readers.
- Fay is giving away copies of The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and Love At First Run by Angel C. Aquino on her blog.
- Ashleigh (@edwardanddamon) is giving away one of her most anticipated August releases.
I hope that these resources, along with a handful of tips and tricks from me, could be of some help to you!
I would like to thank everyone who helped me in compiling this list, especially the very helpful threads from Lia (@lost_in_a_story) and Demetria Spinrad (@dspins). If you know of other legal ways to access books, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments section! I’m sure other readers would really appreciate the information.
Under our current circumstances, reading books is a privilege, but it definitely shouldn’t be. Let’s all do what we can in making books more accessible to all readers (and non-readers!) from different parts of the globe!
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