The Sunday Salon: Free Books

There is no better price than free, as the saying goes, and when it comes to books, it’s a blessing. Were I limited by my own funds, I wouldn’t be able to read all the wonderful books that I do. So it astounds me when people don’t take advantage of the sea of free books around them, especially when they turn to book piracy instead. Piracy is bad, y’all. It’s not equal to stealing (it is, in fact, copying rather than depriving), but it’s still incredibly rude. To rectify this situation, I have compiled a short list of where to get your free books.

Your Local Library

The simplest choice with the most selection is going to be your local library. Now, not all libraries are glorious bibliophile wonderlands, but, if you haven’t for some reason, check out your local library and see what they offer. A lot of libraries now offer digital books and audiobooks for their patrons to download online, so look into that. If you’re worried about forgetting to turn in your library books, most libraries will actually rent books to you for six weeks if you renew it as much as you can, although you obviously can’t do this for books that are on hold. Additionally, some libraries offer “honor books”. It costs libraries money to laminate covers and tape on bar codes, you know, so used paperbacks of interest but in not so great condition are available via an honor system. They’re not listed in the system, but you can keep them for as long as you want—as long as you take them back.

Additionally, if there’s a university or college near you, see if their academic library offers any services for visitors. You may have to pay for this privilege, but if you want to read a lot of obscure academic texts, it’ll be your best bet. Not every university does this; mine certainly doesn’t. But it doesn’t hurt to take a look.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a godsend, quite frankly. If you live in the US, anything published before 1923 is fair game; if you love classics, this is the place for you. Anything available on Project Gutenberg is usually (but not always!) available for free in the Kindle Store, for us Kindle users, but Project Gutenberg offers their texts any format you can imagine. Project Gutenberg is also partnered with LibriVox, a volunteer-run organization that produces free audiobooks of public domain texts.

Kindle Store Limited-Time Offers

Occasionally, the Kindle Store offers titles for free in the hopes of interesting you in purchasing other books, which is essentially what their Special Offers section is. This option is hit or miss; primers, selections, first few chapters, and some frankly dinky-looking titles make up the majority of their offerings, but sometimes you can get lucky. Over the past year, I’ve gotten Outlander, A Tailor-Made Bride, Septimus Heap, She Walks in Beauty, and The Greatest Knight for free in promotional tie-ins, which is great.

Publisher Limited-Time Offers

Several publishing houses do much the same thing, with more or less the same rate of good content to filler content. This is how I read Uglies in 2009. This is actually pretty rare, but it’s worth it to see if a publisher you like does offer something.

And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg! eBookNewser has a category devoted to compiling both publisher freebies and Amazon freebies, if you want the information to come to you rather than you come to it. (It does make life easier!)

Well, this was my last week before going back to school. I didn’t get much writing done, sadly, but I’ve been packing and putting the finishing touches on my costumes for Dragon*Con. (Éowyn, Zelda, and Thor, if anyone’s curious.) I also read Kushiel’s Dart, which was amazing, as well as finished the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (More in my review—which will go up in December—but essentially: Snape, grow up.) I’ve started on March by Geraldine Brooks, hoping I can blast through it and finish it today, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’m giving away a copy of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex until the 26th! Tor.com is giving away 10 ARCs of How Firm a Foundation by David Weber until Monday. Heather at Book Addiction is giving away a copy of The Leftovers by Tom Perotta until Saturday. Splash of Our Worlds is giving away several books and some swag until September 8th. Tor/Forge is giving away a Mistborn prize pack of all four Mistborn books—including The Alloy of Law—until September 6th, and a young adult bundle until September 12th. You must sign up for their newsletter to enter. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

Where else do you get your free books?

8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Free Books

  1. I have close to 200 books on my e-reader, but I think I’ve only bought 3 of them, and it’s mostly because of Project Gutenberg. Girlebooks and Manybooks.net are also good resources for free e-books. And of course book bloggers and other reviewers can get new, prerelease e-books at Netgalley.

    I love the library too. Mine is good about sending e-mailed reminders of due dates, and I can then renew online, which is very handy. And I only recently learned that some of our neighboring library systems allow people from nearby communities to join their system, so I joined the library from the country next to my own for their wonderful e-book selection. Plus, if there’s something my library doesn’t have, they often have it, and I’m happy to make the short drive over for a special hard-to-find book. Browsing the library also helps me stave off book-buying cravings when I’m short on funds or space.

  2. There’s also OpenLibrary.org. It’s got a lot of overlap with Project Gutenberg, but it’s got other stuff as well, and I like their search interface better.

    For Kindle freebies, I get the daily e-mail from eReaderIQ.com about the stuff that’s become free at Amazon in the past 24 hours. Beats having to go scan through the list yourself.

    But I do love my local library as well. 🙂

  3. Yes. This.

    It amazes me that so many bibliophiles ignore their local library. I mean, free books. Sure, you’ve got to give them back when you’re done, but you can always borrow them again if you want to reread them. They also work great as a try-before-you-buy scheme. I often borrow books I’m interested in but wouldn’t necessarily buy. If I like them, I do seek out personal copies for my own collection.

  4. I checked at NYU and Columbia to see if you can buy library card privileges there, and you can’t! They’re so mean, they are greedy of their books! The New York Public Library has some of the obscure nonfiction I want, but by no means all of it, and the obscure — and even the not very obscure at all! — nonfiction doesn’t circulate. You have to read it in the library. New York so did not live up to what I was hoping for, library-wise.

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