Post updated February 2021
I’d like to share with you some ideas about how to get free and cheap books legally.
Buying a book is such cheap entertainment when you think about how many hours it will take you to read, even if you are a fast reader. Nowadays, authors make very little, if anything, from selling their books. Can you imagine how much skill and how many hours go into creating a novel? Buying a book at its retail price is really good value.
However, as much as we would all love to support authors and buy new full priced books all the time, lots of readers do not have unlimited funds to do so, especially those with young families, and sometimes it is good to get a freebie.
Your local library
Little Free Libraries
Newsletters & Social Media
Charity Shops & Car Boot Sales
Book Swaps/Community Groups
Amazon Daily Offers
As a former early years educator, I’ve seen that more and more children are coming into school with speech and language delays. I truly believe that children benefit in so many ways from a house full of books. Seeing their parents read and being able to access a wide variety of books themselves, can promote a life long love of books and improve children’s development significantly. Physical books are good for children’s physical development too as they learn how to hold books properly and turn pages.
As adults, seeing books on special offer or even free might sway you into trying something new. Maybe you’d like to try a book by a different author or genre, but don’t want to risk spending out in case you find that you don’t like their style after all. I know I always try new books that are free on Kindle and have ended up buying many more from authors I like.
This post is in no way meant to indicate that readers should expect free or cheap books all the time. Authors obviously need to earn a living too. I would urge you to buy new whenever you can, but here are some ways that you can get very cheap and free books legally.
In the UK, local libraries still offer a free book lending service to its residents. Many now offer free ebooks, audiobooks and magazines in addition to print copies.
I remember trips to the library with fondness both as a child, and then as a parent with my own children. It can double up as a free outing too as lots of libraries host free activities such as storytime and singing activities.
The added benefit of getting your free books from libraries is that authors will receive royalties, and whilst they might not be as much as a purchase, they will get something.
The second week in October celebrates Libraries Week in the UK so be sure to see if your local library has any additional events on.
LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES
I first came across one of these mini lending libraries in Seal Beach, California and have since heard of them all over the UK too. People are setting these up in old phone boxes, bus shelters, in shop corners and at the end of their gardens. If you don’t have one near you then think about building your own.
Sarah from Poutine & Prada told me that the book swap shelves that she came across when staying in hostels were so useful. You really can set them up anywhere.
Ruth Mini from Texas did just that. After seeing her post on Twitter I was keen to know more. She told me:
” I started my mobile library because there was no library near my house. I bought the books at library sales and the rest were donated.
During my first year, I would go to the park and set up some boxes with a sign that said free books. Now I go to festivals and community events and I set up a table with portable bookshelves.
I do it so that people who can’t go to the library can still have access to free books.”
How wonderful is that?
Some authors and publishers have special offers on Amazon. Maybe they are a new author and want to encourage some reviews, or an established author looking to reignite interest in an older title. Sometimes authors write a series of books and the first one will be free to start you off. Whatever the reason, this is a great way of finding out about such books.
Bookbub is a wonderful free daily email newsletter that shares books that you might be interested in. When you sign up, you chose the genres that you prefer. Each day you get an email telling you which books are free or on offer for 99p that day. You then click through and purchase through Amazon. There is no spam and just one email per day.
NEWSLETTERS & SOCIAL MEDIA
Follow all your favourite authors and publishers on their social media channels, and sign up to their email newsletters too. Many run competitions, special offers and freebies. I have a couple of other posts where I recommend books that I have found through author newsletters (links at the end).
BOOK SWAPS WITH FRIENDS/NEIGHBOURS
Why not try a book swap with your friends, it’s another great way to try a new author or even a new genre. Many neighbourhoods have their own local Facebook group, try advertising what books you have that you’d like to swap. We have had lots of swaps going on in our area during the recent lockdowns. It’s been particularly helpful whilst libraries are shut and for those shielding.
There are always shelves full of books of all genres in charity shops, usually priced between 50p-£2. Whilst it may not benefit authors, you can ease your conscience a little knowing you are helping out a charity. You can always donate back once you’ve read it too.
CAR BOOT SALES
I have bought many books from car boot sales from as little as 10p each to a top price of £1 for a new release. By buying cheap, I have found loads of new authors that I wouldn’t have read before. I have then gone on to buy their entire back catalogue and new releases at full price.
Just like buying from charity shops, you can always donate them on afterwards too. This is a great way to get children to choose their own new books and buy with their pocket money.
Netgalley is an online community where publishers and authors offer ebooks of their new releases in exchange for a review. They are particularly keen to give books to book bloggers and readers who already review books on Amazon, Goodreads and Bookstagram (Instagram’s own book community), so if you’ve set up a Netgalley account and aren’t getting approved, you might like to set up a blog, specific book accounts on social media and/or review accounts.
Also be sure to not request too many books in one go, and to leave a review after you’ve read. Netgalley like your reviewer score to be 80% or above. You don’t have to leave a long or favourable review, but try to include a brief synopsis with no spoilers and what you liked about the characters, setting or writing style.
Kindle Unlimited is a monthly subscription from Amazon currently priced at £7.99 per month. Ok so the subscription isn’t free, but once you’ve joined you can choose as many books, magazines and audiobooks as you wish during each month.
It covers all genres and includes 1000s of titles, but be aware it is not all Kindle titles.
You can cancel at any time and there is usually a free month trial offer available.
Authors do get royalties from Kindle Unlimited books but you do have to read a good proportion of the book for it to count. Just ordering and opening it is not counted as a sale.
AMAZON DAILY OFFERS
There are 100s of free books to read on your Kindle without having to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. You can look on the Amazon Best Sellers list and choose Top 100 Free which lists all the current most popular titles.
Alternatively, just search in your “store” on Kindle and type “free chick lit/horror/thriller” or desired genre and it will bring you up a list to choose from. (This list does include some Unlimited but most are just free purchase.)
If you are an Amazon Prime member, there are numerous books and magazines available to download free. These are in addition to the Amazon daily offers mentioned above.
AMAZON PRIME CREDITS THROUGH NO RUSH DELIVERY
Up until December 2018, Amazon offered a “no rush credit” where Prime users could choose to have a slower delivery and get a £1 credit to use against digital music, books and films.
Sadly, this service is not available at the moment, but you can read more about how it worked on my older post HOW TO GET NO RUSH CREDIT FOR FREE BOOKS, MUSIC & FILMS ON AMAZON.
This was a perfect solution for everyone as buyers get free books and authors got full royalties. Let’s hope they bring it back.
WAYS TO HELP SUPPORT AUTHORS
Aside from buying full priced books, there are a few ways that you can help to support your favourite authors:
* Leave a review on Amazon and other online stores. We are a nation that checks reviews for everything now and having lots of positive reviews helps sell. A line or two is sufficient. You don’t have to write an essay for it to be worthy. (You do not have to buy the book from Amazon, it can even be a book you’ve borrowed from the library.)
* Leave reviews on Good Reads.
* Follow authors and publishers on all their social media channels and interact on their posts, even if it’s just giving a thumbs up as an emoji comment. Algorithms mean that the more popular a post is, the more people will see it.
* Sign up for author/publisher newsletters.
* If you’ve loved a book, share a photo and a couple of words on your own social media.
* If you like writing longer reviews, consider becoming a book blogger and share your reviews on your website and in relevant groups.
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