How to read more books legally and for free – a list of alternatives to book pirating

Hello there! The ongoing discourse regarding e-book piracy has repeatedly resurfaced over the past few months, and today, another Twitter exchange has sparked a full-blown debate filled with justified outrage from authors and understandable hurt from readers who, like me, are based outside the U.S. and live in marginalized communities.

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.

Bookperk!
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!

Bookbub!
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!
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.

RivetedLit!
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.

WebComics Hub!
Are you a fan of reading webcomic series? Then you should probably head over to the directory of free webcomics housed by WebComics Hub.

Project Gutenberg!
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.

LibriVox!
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!
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!
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:

If you’re a reader living in the Philippines (like me!), here are some local online bookstores where you can shop for secondhand finds:

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:


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!

Did you like this post? (Don’t lie. I know you did!) Then support my work by sharing this post on social media (see those cute buttons at the bottom of this post!) and consider sending a cup of coffee my way.

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Published by

Shealea

First of her name. Queen of lists and spreadsheets. Protector of books. Breaker of norms. Iskolar ng bayan.

45 thoughts on “How to read more books legally and for free – a list of alternatives to book pirating”

  1. What a fantastic post. I appreciate you pointing out that tsk-tsking about piracy is only possible from a position of privilege. I’m in the US and have more books available to me for free than I will ever get to, thanks to a phenomenal local library system, but I work with a lot of kids living in poverty, and see how challenging it is to get books when a “mere” five dollar fine, much less a lost book fee, is money your family can’t afford. So to be in a place where even that’s not an option really makes it tough. Being literate in a major language is also helpful–it must be hard to get books translated into Estonian or Hmong, for example. Those of us in the US and other countries with easy access to books need to watch our tone when we talk about piracy and keep the focus on our own countries, where there is no excuse for it.

    I just started using Scribd last spring, and don’t understand why people would choose Audible over it. Unlimited book and ebooks for a low monthly fee versus one audiobook a month for three times the cost?!? They might not have every book you’d ever want, but they sure have plenty.

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  2. This is a great post, thank you so much!
    Another resource is openlibrary.org. It’s run through the Internet Archive, and while a lot of the books are just plain text and unformatted or scanned PDFs, there are a lot of books there. Their goal is to have a record of every book in circulation, not just out of print ones, so the selection is a lot broader than Project Gutenberg. They don’t have everything, but they do have quite a lot.
    It’s run just like a library with holds and a time frame for loans.

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  3. Such great resources for people who have more limited access to books! RivetedLit is a great one because you can get some of the popular books that everyone’s talking about. Every month, I host the Book Blog Discussion Challenge and the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up, both of which have international giveaways!!

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  4. Wow, you did an amazing amount of research for this post! And it really shows as well. This is a truly helpful post for a lot of readers of novels, and hopefully it will counter piracy. I am someone who loves reading books in the oldschool way (physical copies) and I can honestly say I have always bought the original books. This was a great post! Thanks for entering it in this month’s showcase. The competion is really fierce this month! I have read so many good posts that it’s becoming harder and harder to decide who will be featured lol. Seriously though: job well done on this one 😊😊

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  5. Thank you for writing this post! Book depository and Amazon (Kindle store) are the main places where I buy books from but this post reminded me to check out the discounted Kindle ebooks. And I actually ended up buying four last night! I also didn’t know all these websites that email you alerts about free books exist haha. This is a really awesome post!

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  6. This is such an interesting post! As someone from the US, I often have no idea what libraries are like/aren’t like in other countries. Too often I take for granted the huge and free selection of books available to me.

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  7. I also grew up in a so-called third world country where not many could even afford two meals a day. So we shared everything we had, including paper books. I read all the books my friends owned and my friends borrowed all the books that I had. That way we created our own private local library.

    Years later, I turned that idea into https://boocshare.com, a website for sharing physical books with lending/borrowing tracking, reminders, etc. just like an ordinary library. The idea is to save money by sharing physical books locally, especially in places where there is no easy access to libraries.

    Boocshare.com is also a good way to build local communities of book lovers and spread the love of reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been in this boat before, Shelea! I grew up in a small city the Philippines and we DID NOT have a bookstore for a long time. NBS only opened up shop in the early 2000s. Back then, there were no ebooks at all so piracy wasn’t a huge issue. We had libraries, of course, but books were older and a majority were textbooks. We had a couple of booklending libraries and then a used bookstore, but that was it. I am probably one of the privileged ones because my mom used to buy books for me from the US and send it, albeit infrequently. Of course, now that I’m here, I’m even more privileged due to library access and all the perks.

    But I NEVER forget how other countries aren’t able to get the latest books at all. Plus, there is a price issue – books are expensive! 2 of my besties are in Asia and they have problems getting books as well. I’m sharing this post to them and hopefully we will be able to do readalongs! 😊

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  9. Such an important and often explosive issue to talk about and you tackled it perfectly. As I live in India, it’s not always possible for me to have a good library around, in fact the nearest one is still stuck in the 90s so I can totally understand this. Also buying the books generally makes a huge dent in my pocket because books are just expensive here unless they are three to four years old, even then the situation is dicey.

    You offered so many good options though! So, thank you for that. I am against piracy as much as the next person but I also sort of understand why some might feel that they need to take that route.

    Awesome post!

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  10. Thank you so much for writing this post Shealea! I get why authors and people get mad about piracy, I am against it myself, but again, it’s a matter of privilege. We don’t have the library, and when we do, some books might be unavailable due to censorship and such. It’s very kind of you to put together these resources ❤ I just want to add, the last time I checked on their website, the First To Read program is still US only, but idk what about now hehe.

    Fantastic post! ❤

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  11. THIS is exactly what we need whenever the topic of piracy erupts. I know I’m not the most outspoken person on the Internet, sometimes I keep wondering who would want to know my opinions on this matter. But if I’m not writing about that topic myself, I’m definitely seeing it from the outside and the most annoying this is: libraries and intl people being SOOOOO POOR that they can’t afford reading. Like…how does “piracy” relate to these two things??

    There are ways to legally read books, whether for free or for discounted prices, and you’ve done a great job in putting together this list.

    I remember coming across RivetedLit in Jan 2018, two months of blogging, and I was so pleasantly surprised. I thought, wow, there are full free reads and that too of the “hyped titles” since they seem to trend more. It was nice to know that I have alternatives to downloading pirated books.

    I follow BookBub and Instafreebie for the day’s deals and they get some amazing ones sometimes. I’ve brought so many good ones for free and so many for just 99 cents, it’s insane–just like my evergrowing TBR.

    I had no idea about the second-hand bookstores so thanks for adding those! Now I know where to thrift shop for my books ❤ I haven't yet requested physical ARCs because I feel I'm not in my best blogging jam as of now BUT I'll definitely try those out someday.

    I loved the line you concluded this post with. It's like reading has become a privilege when it shouldn't be, and it's disheartening. But it's all a matter of showing people ways to do things correctly and this post gives exactly that! Great work, Shealea 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Books ni Tess is one of my favourite secondhand shops! That’s where I get all my classic books from! Booksale is another favourite of mine 😀 Subscribing to various publishing websites really helps with keeping up with sales. For those who enjoy crime fiction, Dead Good is an absolute fave of mine. Subscribing to author newsletters can also sometimes allow you to access ARCs. Great resources, Shealea!

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  13. This is such a fantastic post – thank you so much for taking the time to compile all of these very useful resources together for everyone! You’re the best ❤ ❤

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  14. Thanks for posting, you gave me some great ideas for places to search for free books that are legal. Do you have any book recommendations at the moment?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, thanks! Glad the list is helping folks out. 😊

      I have plenty of recommendations (😂), so let’s narrow things down. What genres are you into? If you’re in a contemporary romance mood, RivetedLit has Alex, Approximately, The Queen of Everything, The Museum of Heartbreak, and The Summer I Turned Pretty available until July 31! 😊

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  15. “Under our current circumstances, reading books is a privilege, but it definitely shouldn’t be.” This sums it up perfectly. Thank you for providing practical, legal solutions to helping those who have difficulty obtaining books. I don’t really have a horse in the race of online book piracy (read: I don’t know enough about the debate to have an informed opinion), but it was great to read a perspective different from mine.

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  16. This post is absolutely wonderful and such a great way to add to the conversation productively! Thank you for putting it together and being so thorough. I am going to share this post widely and will be sure to link to it from my blog when a new feature that I am working on comes out.

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  17. Very well said, Shealea! I believe that being book bloggers and (mostly) having the privilege of receiving review copies, we should be the ones advocating for non-piracy of books and even other arts materials! Thank you for this post! I know many people will be helped.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Being a blogger already puts us in a position of privilege compared to other readers, which is why I believe we should pool our resources together and help make reading more accessible and inclusive for everyone else. 😊

      Thank you so much for all the kind words! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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