If you don’t live near a library then this is the post for you. Whether you’re a cash-strapped student, you’ve overspent, or you’re miles away from pay-day, there are ways to indulge your bookish habit without spending more than you’d like to. This post is going to clue you in on five ways to read from five different genres, at no extra cost at all.
ONE- If you’re just looking for a novel to pass the time … Download a free e-book online.
I have a kindle account on my phone and tablet; I’ve never paid a penny to use it and I’ve read lots of full length, good quality novels on each.
Sometimes up-and-coming authors might make their work free for a short time, to try to get you hooked on their style; sometimes a publishing house realises that giving you the first in a six-book-long series is a good moneymaking scheme; sometimes established authors want to give you a little taste of what they’re up to, in order to get you to buy the rest of their works. Essentially, e-books often fall into this ‘try before you buy’ scenario, and you can absolutely make the most of it.
You could use Amazon’s Kindle store, or iTunes, or Google- there’s lots of purpose-built online repositories of ebooks. Search by category or genre, and look for stories that you might otherwise have never seen. The best advice I can give you is:
- Check the word count to make sure it’s a whole book, not a sample
- Make sure it’s not a book from the middle of a series
- Check the reviews to estimate the quality. If it’s a one star novel, then that’s probably why it’s free.
TWO- If you want to read the latest hit novel … Review the book in exchange for a free copy
Have a look through amazon or Goodreads reviews; lots of the people writing them cite the fact that they were given a free copy in exchange for their thoughts. If you read quite quickly and you’re full of opinions, this is a really good way to get brand-new books for nothing. There are companies out there that will send you a free copy of a new release in exchange for an honest review. If you follow this kind of company on twitter or elsewhere, they might send you a direct message, or you might have to seek them out. I reblog and retweet these offers occasionally on twitter and tumblr, so look out for The Slow Pulse’s social media, if you can’t find anything online yourself.
It’s a really good way to keep up with hot new releases without having to pay for a brand new hardback. My best advice is:
- Find out what the terms of the review are; do you have to post it on your personal blog, or is amazon okay? How many words do you have to churn out? What happens if you don’t finish it, or take ages to read it?
- Check the company’s credentials online, and see what other users say; if there are lots of bad reviews, then go somewhere else.
THREE- If you love non-fiction … Find some open access articles
Lots of academic journals are still behind paywalls, which is an old-fashioned and snobbish attempt to protect the sanctity of the ivory tower. However, the tide is slowly changing and you can find a good amount of open access material out there. ‘Open Access Journals’ are basically journals that find a way of funding their work without charging readers to access published materials. It typically includes reading, printing and distribution, but it’s always worth checking the unique usage policy.
A good place to start is the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you can search by subject. For example, I selected ‘Language and Literature’ and was immediately presented with two gloriously bizarre articles about ‘Queerness and Heteronormativity in Pirates of the Caribbean,’ and ‘Distortion, Messianic, and Apocalyptic Time in the Satanic Verses.’ Who says learning isn’t fun?
FOUR- If you’re still in love with the last thing you read … Try Fanfiction
Lots of you will have written fanfiction as children without even realising it. If you ever daydreamed about being a character in your favourite book or film, then you’re already wading knee-deep in the murky waters of coffee shop AUs and self-inserts. Interestingly, it’s not the niche world that has been portrayed by ‘serious’ journalists; it has actually been estimated that around a third of all content about books on the internet takes the form of fan-written stories.
Good places to start are Fanfiction.net (the digital mainstay with the broadest selection) or ‘Archive of Our Own’ (abbreviated to AO3, often much better quality and lengthier fics) which each host millions of fan-written stories about all kinds of popular media. There are also fandom-specific websites; Harry Potter fanfiction, Star Trek fanfiction, Doctor Who fanfiction… as well as communities on Live Journal and Tumblr.
It’s a great way to open your mind and explore your favourite characters and settings. Whether it’s by finding a weird new ship, or by reading another coffee shop/high school/musical theatre AU, it’s a wonderful way of reading fresh content from talented writers just as passionate as you. Just remember to leave feedback- fanfiction may be free, but it’s certainly not worthless.
FIVE- If you want your freebie to be of a certain quality … Download a free classic
Okay, if you don’t want to waste your time downloading file after file of misspelled fanfiction, or ebooks that just don’t suit your tastes, then why not download one of those classics you’ve been meaning to read forever?
Due to copyright expiration, there are huge numbers of classic novels, short stories and poetry that you can download for free online. You can do this via the Kindle store, or any other store, or you could go to websites like Project Gutenberg or ‘Free Classic Ebooks.’ Gutenberg is great, because you can search by author, genre or period; so if you looking for Crime Fiction, for example, the website recommends you books by Dostoevsky and more. You could plow through the works of Austen or Eyre, or visit Wonderland with Lewis Carroll, or travel to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea with Jules Verne without ever spending a penny.
How do you find things to read for free? Do you use an online community like Goodreads or Tumblr to trade stories and tips? Leave comments and feedback in the comments below, or contact the blog on social media or at firstname.lastname@example.org.