I had a disheartening social media experience this week - a popular bookstagrammer was sharing book pirating sites as a way to get free e-books. As you might imagine, this went poorly for her both on Instagram and TikTok. She ultimately took the post down. I shared my thoughts about it as well–not attacking her, but sharing how those pirating sites hurt indie authors and why you should NEVER frequent them.
A little bit of context:
Books that are available on Kindle Unlimited CANNOT be sold anywhere outside of Kindle and the KU platform. If you see a Kindle Unlimited book on a third party site like EPUB (not gonna bother linking to them) that book is PIRATED. It's an illegal, stolen copy, that they are sharing without paying authors for it.
What's super crappy about this situation is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), which allows authors to request their books be taken off pirating websites, isn't applicable internationally. So, those sites have no real reason to comply. Not only that, but having your book available anywhere but Kindle/KU is grounds for termination from the KU platform.
TL;DR: If Amazon finds your book available on any other site, you're violating their Terms and Conditions and they can and may shut the author's account down.
This is a big enough deal that authors often pay services like Muso or Pirat.io to send takedown notices on their behalf–simply to prove to Amazon that they are not the ones posting their books on those pirate sites! It's a bunch of BS.
TL;DR #2: Never ever read an ebook off an external website if that book is in KU. It's illegally pirated and the author is not being compensated for their hard work.
Which brings me to the main point of today's post. Ebooks aren't expensive, but if you're a voracious reader, even $2-$5 per book can add up quickly. What I'm sharing today are tons of ways to get free and/or discounted ebooks to scratch that itch without breaking the bank.
The most important thing to note is that these are all services authors are aware of and are allowed to use. They're being compensated, or at the very least, aware the book is free.
To make this quick and easy, I'll share these resources in two categories:
Resources for the casual reader
Resources for bookstagrammers
Let's get on with the freebies, shall we?
RESOURCES FOR THE CASUAL READER
Follow your favorite authors on their socials - Authors almost always post when their books are available for free, because they want to encourage you to try their work. I saw five free book posts just this morning when scrolling my feed. Following on Instagram, Facebook and/or TikTok are great ways to learn about current deals.
Follow bookish PR firms on their socials - PR firms almost always post when their authors are running free and discounted book deals. This is a great way to grab your fave authors' books for free or a lower-than-usual price. Social Butterfly is a great example. Check them out on IG and follow the pertinent hashtags to find PR firms that work with authors in genres you love.
Kindle Unlimited - this is the very best way to get access to unlimited ebooks for a very low price. They're currently running a two months for $4.99 special here, and you can literally read ten books a day, everyday, if you want. That's the unlimited part. KU is fabulous and very inexpensive, although it's not free.
Wattpad, Inkitt and fan-fiction sites (AO3, Commaful, Fanfiction.net) - These aren't traditionally or indie published books, but books published as serials on alternative platforms. I've discovered some of my very favorite stories on Inkitt, personally, and I read on there super regularly. There are years-worth of free content and Fan-Fiction on those sites, all placed there by the authors and able to read legally.
Subscribing to author newsletters - it goes without saying that if you love an author, you should subscribe to their newsletter. Not only will you hear about freebies, but they'll often promote other similar authors' freebies too!
LibbyApp connects you to thousands of public libraries to borrow ebooks and audiobooks for free. Sign up here. Libby and Overdrive work together to provide this service, so don't fret if you see Overdrive listed as the provider sometimes.
Little Free Libraries - This might be a purely American thing, so I can't speak to this being available anywhere else, but Little Free Libraries are all over the place around here. You can visit them to share and take books that are placed there by anyone. There's almost always romance in my local LFL. Locate any near you here.
Sales at your local library - One of my Australian buddies reminded me her library often does a sale table where you can snag paperbacks super discounted. I highly recommend asking your library if they do something like this. My local library (and many others) hold annual sales and nothing is more than $1!
FB groups - you'll have to search a bit for this one. But many folks have recommended author and romance novel Facebook groups as a great way to find currently free books
Kindle Free Books list. Click here for romance, then you can drill down, into the subgenres, if you like.
Book club newsletters - I love Big Library Read for a free book each week and all the usual book club fun surrounding it. Search for free book clubs in your area. You'll want to do some homework to make sure they're offering the books free and legally, but this is a great way to get access to books you might not hear about otherwise.
Bookbub - BookBub not only list currently free books, but you can subscribe to their email too. Bonus points for following authors you love on Bookbub (where you can also review, which really helps authors a ton). When your followed authors do a sale or freebie, you'll be notified via email! IT'S LIKE MAGIC.
Hoopla - Hoopla is a free digital service connecting you to public libraries. It's a great resource recommended by many of my author friends.
Bookfunnel promotions - BookFunnel is one way that authors deliver free books to their readers. BookFunnel also does hundreds of monthly promotions where you can get access to free novellas and full-length novels in exchange for providing authors with your email address to add to their newsletters. It's a great give and take, and you can always unsubscribe if an author turns out not to be your jam.
Freebooksy - Freebooksy is a marketing site for authors where they can share their freebies. You can find the romance freebies aggregated here, but I highly recommend signing up for their genre-specific emails, so you get the freebies you want sent right to your inbox!
Fussy Librarian - FL works the same way Freebooksy does. Authors pay to have their freebies and discounted books shown to readers through newsletters and the FL website. As a reader, you can browse free books here or sign up to receive genre-specific newsletters about freebies!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR BOOKSTAGRAMMERS
BookSirens - BookSirens allows authors to publish Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of their books that you read in exchange for an honest review. It's a great way to get eyes on books before they go live on publishing platforms. Learn more at the link above.
BookSprout - BookSprout is another ARC delivery site like BookSirens and BookFunnel. You can sign up to become a reviewer and find ARC copies to read for free, in exchange for an honest review.
NetGalley - NetGalley is an ARC delivery site, but to my understanding it's a little harder to use unless you've got a larger bookstagram social media presence. You'll apply to read ARCs of highly successful and popular authors, and you may or may not be approved. Still, it's a great way to get early access to future bestsellers!
ARC teams - It goes without saying that social media is full of authors looking to find bookstagrammers to join their ARC teams. You can search ARC hashtags and indie author hashtags to find those folks. Ask bookstagrammer and PA budies who they recommend. Once you find authors you like, I recommend following the pertinent hashtags so that you see ARC posts and can respond in a timely manner.
Beta reads - If you're super into feedback, and love reading unpublished works, beta reading might be for you. Beta reading means you're reading an unpublished work in order to give critical and helpful feedback for the final edit. Typically this means you've got some relationship with the author already, and can function as a trusted advisor. It's a great option for free books too, if your goal is to spend more time in the nitty gritty details.
Audio ARC teams - I don't profess to have a ton of knowledge about audiobook freebies, but when I did a quick google search, BookRiot had a lot of good info on how to get legal but free audiobook ARCs. I highly recommend giving this post a read if audio is your thang.
PHEW! This may be my longest blog post yet, but arguably the most important. I don't rant on social media, and I try my very best to steer clear of the occasional drama. But book theft and piracy is a huge issue, and I'd be remiss if I didn't try to combat it where I can.
I hope this list is helpful. Feel free to share widely to spread some (legal) book love!