I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood. Before e-readers, a significant challenge was ensuring sufficient reading material to last through long plane flights and business trips. I used to stash extra paperback books in my carry-on luggage, but still sometimes needed to quickly peruse the airline bookstore for supplemental materials. My siblings and I call that fear: Lackobookaphobia. We love books.
Giving away my extensive library was one of the hardest aspects of preparing for full time RV living. It’s simply not possible to take a thousand books with you! Fortunately, we now have e-books as an option.
I was actually an early e-book adopter. Before there was Kindle, public domain e-books could be downloaded from various sources to be read on my Palm Pilot (remember those?!) or computer. But the selection was very limited and reading on such a small screen was not optimal – and reading on a computer screen wasn’t particularly comfortable or portable.
Then came the era of the tablet computer. More books became available in electronic format, although purchasing them was just as expensive as buying the hard copy. I didn’t really embrace e-books as a regular reading “thing” until we were counting down our last few years before launching our RV life. At that point, I made the decision not to buy any more hard copy books, only e-books, and begin building my electronic library.
While purging our possessions, I kept only a few carefully selected hard copy resources – a few cookbooks, crochet pattern books, sheet music, and a couple of small books that have sentimental value. Other than that, it’s all gone – given to friends or donated to charity. Now, virtually all of my reading is done on my Kindle or iPad.
Although I have re-purchased some favorite books over time, the vast majority of my reading materials are free books that are made available by authors through outlets like Amazon. Giving away books is a mechanism for authors to become more widely known. There are just so many authors and books out there nowadays, new writers get lost in the noise. However, if more of their books are downloaded, even for zero dollars, they rise higher in Amazon’s search algorithms, and will gain visibility to (hopefully) realize better sales in the future. Sometimes authors will give away the first book in a series, hoping you’ll get so hooked on the story line that you’ll buy the rest. (And that approach has worked a time or two on me!).
So, where do I find all of these free books? Read on!
First, you can just go to the Amazon Kindle e-book store and click on any genre that interests you. Then click on “best selling” books. The results screen has two tabs: best selling paid and best selling free. Click on the “best selling free” tab and you’ll find pages and pages of books that are absolutely free!
You can also sign up for a free service called Bookbub. After registering on the site, you can select the book genres you are interested in reading. Then you’ll receive a daily email with a list of several books that are being offered for free (or almost free) in your selected genres, complete with a link to an online store to purchase it. Usually, the vendor is Amazon. I’ve downloaded hundreds of free books this way.
A similar service is Robin Reads. Just like Bookbub, you sign up to receive a daily email with free or bargain Amazon e-books. I haven’t used this as much as Bookbub, but I do occasionally pick up books that way.
If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you are given one free Kindle book per month through their “First Reads” program. Each month, Prime subscribers can select one book from six Editor-selected, pre-release titles. I wouldn’t become Prime just for that, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re already a Prime subscriber. Amazon sends a monthly email with the title selections as a reminder.
A fantastic free source of e-books is your Public Library. When I lived in Broward County, I checked out dozens of books using the Overdrive application on my iPad. You have to have a library card and your library has to support e-book lending for it to work. Once checked out, you have a period of time (usually 14-21 days) to finish the book before it is automatically “returned” to the library (deleted from your device). Titles and quantities available to be borrowed are limited, but you can put yourself on the waitlist for popular books. You’ll receive an email when the title is available and granted a grace period for you to snag it before it moves on to the next person on the list. You don’t have to physically go to the library to check out books, and automatic return means you never have to worry about late fees, either!
Having access to these free book resources is great! I’ve downloaded and read books that I wouldn’t otherwise have taken a second look at. Some books have been good, others not so much. But since they’re free, it’s no risk to try them out. Sometimes, though, there are specific books that I want to read, and those I’ll pay for. Often, I’ll ask for Amazon gift certificates for Christmas and Birthdays, for this purpose. It will take quite a while, but eventually I’ll re-purchase all of my favorite authors and series.
Living this mobile life, it’s fantastic that I can carry an extensive library – and it doesn’t take up any space or weigh an ounce. Technology is wonderful!