When I was eight or nine years old, my parents ended their acrimonious marriage with an equally acrimonious divorce. Court dates were set, accusations were hurled, and possessions were divided. The latter included a metal ice cream container full of flawed amethyst crystals, a cheap set of serving utensils with tortoiseshell plastic handles, a wood trivet with burn marks, and me. Such treasures! And yes, they spatted and snarled over every one of them.
I went off to live somewhere-or-other with my mother. I have a vague memory of old gas wall heaters which stank of rotten eggs, sidewalks which had lost the battle with tree roots, and men loitering in stained undershirts, cigarettes dangling from their lower lips. My mother slept a great deal, so she could work shifts at the type of lousy, underpaid job uneducated women could get in those days. When I wasn’t at school, I lay on the floor in the living room/kitchen/dining area, watching television with the volume cranked down low so I wouldn’t wake her.
At some point in this mess, one of my father’s friends loaned me a cardboard box full of science fiction books. It’s now hard for me to imagine a more thoughtful act.
There were worlds inside those books, places and people and circumstances beyond anything I’d ever imagined. Instead of huddling in a dilapidated old apartment that stank of gas and mothballs, I won and rehabilitated a spacesuit, journeyed to the stars, and helped save humanity from extermination. I built robot vacuum cleaners, traveled through time, and explored an artificial world shaped like a wheel, encircling a sunlike star.
Later, when hormones bubbled through my body and I felt the first inklings of being a girl, I began to sneak-read books my father’s second wife called “trash” and I called “romances”. The covers of these books were glorious, featuring shirtless men gnawing on women’s necks, and dress bodices that just barely defied gravity. Women were constantly being “plundered” or becoming “boneless” in these books, in between being captured and heading off in sailing ships or to masquerade balls.
I learned a great deal from all of these books, despite the absence of masquerade balls and malevolent aliens in my life, and I’m grateful. Sometimes we need that. Whether times are challenging or easy, we need to let our minds go elsewhere. We need to learn, be diverted, and be entertained.
We need books.
Alas, if we have a powerful book habit, costs can mount. That can be a problem; the last few years have been challenging for many people, for reasons I probably don’t need to detail. The good news is that there are inexpensive, ethical ways to satisfy our needs, so that we aren’t stealing from the Dreaded Pirate Sites and depriving authors of the incomes they (me!) need to pay their bills.
If you’re a member of your local library, go to their website and have a look at their services. These days many libraries contract with a service such as OverDrive, a digital distributor of ebooks, audiobooks, and other media. One can borrow materials online and (at least in my neck of the woods) it’s free, free, free.
Do they have every ebook in existence? No. However, they do have a large selection of mainstream offerings.
Library Book Sales
This pertains to physical books, not ebooks, but it can also save you money. Check out your local library. In addition to the books they loan, many hold sales of donated books, with a “by the bag” period near the end of the sale. I’ve brought home shopping bags full of books for as little as $5/bag.
Authors often publicize their promotions on the likes of Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
Search on tags like #freebook, #freebooks, #freeromancebook, #freeromancebooks, #ebook, #bookstagram, #freereads, #freedownload etc.
There are tons of hashtags for book lovers; you may need to experiment to find the ones you like best.
Sometimes authors offer a few of their books free for a short period of time. It’s a good way for readers to try an author with no risk. Then, if you like that author and want to invest in their work, you can.
Romances are particularly easy to find, but most other genres are represented as well.
Some of my favorite sites:
If you see a book you like, BE SURE YOU’RE AWARE OF ITS PRICE BEFORE YOU POKE THE BUY BUTTON. It is incredibly easy to be on the “Top 100 free” list for some genre, navigate elsewhere, and land on the paid list instead.
This service sends subscribed readers a daily newsletter listing free eBooks. They offer a variety of genres.
A service which features free and discounted books selected by its editorial team.
Authors’ Mailing Lists
Authors often offer a sample book in exchange for your signing up for their mailing lists. To find such mailing lists, check in the backs of authors’ books, on their websites, on Facebook, or other social media.
If you enjoy the sample, consider giving the author some love: buy some of their work, spread the word about them, or leave a review on their book.
And, speaking only for myself, if the author’s work is a poor fit for your tastes, unsubscribe from their mailing list. Not every book or author is a good match to every person, and that’s okay.
If you read frequently and you like the offerings available via Kindle Unlimited, a membership can be a screaming deal.
You can learn more about it over on Amazon, but the upshot is that for a fixed fee per month, you get access to anything in the Kindle Unlimited library. As of the date I’m writing this, March 2022, the fee in the U.S. is around $10/month. Amazon also runs promotions from time to time, offering a few months for free or a reduced price.
Don’t have a Kindle, Amazon’s proprietary reading tablet? No problem. There are apps available for a variety of devices.
If you know of other honest, ethical places to obtain free or discounted ebooks — please, no pirate sites! — feel to let me know so I can update this post. Please also let me know if you’d like to be credited by name in the update.