Watch this video on how to get free or cheap books plus other bookish videos on my Read Remark booktube channel.
Reading is wonderful! …and sometimes expensive.
Keeping up with the latest books can be tough on the ole’ wallet.
Fear not! Reading and even booktubing doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Here are some easy way to get free or cheap books.
I would sing the Overdrive’s praises from the hilltops like Maria in the Sound of Music if I could get away with it without being labeled a weirdo.
I can and will always praise libraries and how they make reading accessible to everyone, regardless of income. The Overdrive app takes it to the next, digital level.
Step 1: Download the Overdrive app to your ios or Android device, including smartphones and tablets.
Step 2: Enter your library info (you need a library card for this step).
Step 3: download audiobooks and e-books straight to your iPhone, Kindle, or other device of your choice.
If you’re on the go, which describes pretty much all people these days, this app will save your bacon. It’s made such a difference in my reading life. Libraries already have a special place in my heart for making knowledge freely accessible to everyone, but they’ve really upped their game in terms of accessibility. And I’m so, so thankful.
Sometimes you’ll see people getting advance reader copies (ARCs) of books. These are special, unpolished versions of books that publishers send out ahead of time to get reviews and buzz building before the official go-live date.
If you’re a popular, big-time booktubers or book blogger, publishers will send these ARCs to you automatically, oftentimes as physical books.
If you’re small-time like me, this just doesn’t happen. You have to go out and seek it. Enter NetGalley! You can browse through upcoming books and request to read one for yourself. And it’s free! The only thing they want in return for an honest review.
Step 1: Go to netgalley.com and create an account. Link to as many of your bookish accounts as you can to make yourself look legit, such as your book review blog, YouTube channel, booky Twitter account, Goodreads, etc. They want to know that if you read a book, you’ll be able to publicize your review.
Step 2: Browse the titles and request books you want to read.
Rookie tip: don’t get excited and request a bunch of books right out of the gate. They want to you to keep an 80% rate of reviewing the books you get, so you could create a deficit for yourself if you get approved for too many too quickly.
Pro tip: learn to not take rejection too seriously. You won’t get approved for every book you request. Worst case scenario: wait until the book comes out and request it on your Overdrive app. Still free!
Step 3: Read and review the book! Do it as soon as you can so you can help get word out before the book is published. Don’t feel like you have to gush. If you hate the book, say so. If you love it, say so. Be specific. Be sure to put links to every place you reviewed the book in your NetGalley account.
Kindle and Amazon Prime
I know this isn’t free and the initial investment certainly isn’t cheap. Between buying a Kindle (I highly recommend the Paperwhite as opposed to Fire for reading) and the annual Prime membership, you’ve invested $200-$300 before even buying any books.
Sorry. This one is probably cheating.
The Prime lending library lets you read selected books for free, one at a time. Here’s an easy way to get there on your desktop:
Step 1: go to the Kindle Store.
Step 2: check the box on the left sidebar to show results for “Prime Reading Eligible.”
Step 3: filter further, or just browse to see what grabs your interest. I won’t lie; you’ll have to do some digging, but they have some good finds, such as A Dark Lure and Harry Potter books.
Kindle First is a new feature that lets you read books on your Kindle before they’re published. Without Amazon Prime, it costs $1.99 to read one new book per month. With Prime, you get to read an upcoming book free each month.
I’ve also noticed that the Kindle version of a book is usually a few bucks cheaper than the paper counterpart. You can also follow special flash deals on Kindle books, where you can buy them for under $5 if you catch them at just the right time.
So, with this option, you’ll spend money up front and save quite a bit on the back-end.
Clearance section of bookstores
Here’s a special bonus. I didn’t mention this one in my video because I like to keep my lists to a nice trifecta when possible (strange semi-OCD thing), but I have to include this one, too.
You might notice a lot of hardback books on my bookshelf. 80% of those hardbacks came from the clearance section of Barnes & Noble.
Check it out and you’ll find rows and rows of previous bestselling hardbacks for $5 – $7. It’s additional stock they need to get rid of, and allows you to pick up some extraordinary titles on the cheap.
Don’t go to the clearance section looking for new releases; you won’t find them there. Go instead to find the book that was hot stuff a year ago and has been lingering on your TBR list.
Librivox and Project Gutenberg
This should get you started on your reading journey with free or cheap books. Let me know if you have additional tips and tricks for reading at low to no cost – my wallet will thank you for it. Enjoy!