Feed Your Reading Habit for Free…Legally

We all love books and we love to read. That’s why you’re here reading a book blog. Well, maybe you just stumbled upon this post and weren’t expecting it to be about books. I hope you stick around.

Having a reading habit is possibly one of the healthiest habits to have. However, with the benefits of a good book, comes financial burdens that put limits on what we can read or what we can eat. There is a light at the end of this tunnel though. Books don’t have to break your bank account!

It’s not a new concept to be able to read freely. Ever since the cost of producing books drastically decreased and they were made widely available, libraries of all kinds started popping up. In today’s world almost all of these libraries offer patrons the chance to read books for free. This is common knowledge, but there’s a point I’ll get to…

The great thing about living in the digital age of books is that readers aren’t tethered to the physical library any more. While the actual library is an important institution for any community (they aren’t there just for holding books, but offer many programs and events essential to their community), having libraries offer digital collections expands access and ease of patronage.

You may recall that earlier this year I finally got a library card, after being without one for many years. How many books have I taken out of the library so far? None. But, I have borrowed a handful of both ebooks and audiobooks from them. Without getting into the politics of libraries, for me, this is supporting my local branch as much as I can without transport to the building itself being easy to obtain. And at the same time, it’s access to free books to feed my reading habit.

An offshoot of the library that’s becoming more popular around the country, and I’m sure the world, is little free libraries. These are normally small enclosed bookshelves on sidewalks near a person’s home. You walk by and borrow a book and maybe add one of your own to the collection, or bring one back when you’re done reading. It’s a great way to get people reading a variety of books, and to maybe give away some books from your collection you think can find a better home through a free library. I found out that there’s one not too far from my library, in town, and while it’s out of the main flow of foot traffic, I hope it has a steady flow of readers visiting it.

Maybe libraries aren’t the way you want to go. Maybe you want to “own” books and go back to them whenever you want. Here’s where ebooks and audiobooks come back into the conversation. There are many resources online to obtain free digital books and I’ll list out a few for you to check out. And don’t worry. These are all legal sites. With a combination of using sites from this list and use of your local library, there’s no reason why piracy should look appetizing. The resources are there to read at little to no cost, so why not keep it legal.

  • PROJECT GUTENBERG – I’m sure many of you have heard about Project Gutenberg. This is the ultimate site for free ebooks online. The only limitation is that the books are all from pre-1923 (with a few exceptions). So if you’re looking for a classic book, 99.999% of the time you’ll find it here. It’ll also be in any digital format you need. The reason these are all free, and legally so, is because PG is populated with public domain (out of copyright) books. Many libraries, Amazon, and other major retailers will also have these versions loaded onto their sites. (note that this is for public domain books in the US. Each country has their own laws and I think a site for themselves. I know Australia has one with different titles than the US site.)
  • LIBRIVOX.ORG – Think of this as the audiobook equivalent of Gutenberg. This site is filled with all the public domain books narrated by volunteer readers. It’s one of the ways I’ve gotten through many classic books. And we all know how expensive audiobooks can be. Free narrations are a blessing, and these volunteers are doing readers a great service.
  • AMAZON, B&N, KOBO, SMASHWORDS, ETC -I already mentioned that these sites are loaded with the public domain books for free. And we all probably know what I’ll say next: There are THOUSANDS of free books from legit retailers, like those listed above. I didn’t bother with linking because it’s easier to let you search for yourselves. Want a book in a specific genre? Search it, and sort low-to-high by price. Want to see if an author’s offering books for free? Search the author, sort, again. It’s simply and a great way to discover new authors. I know many of my favorite authors came from discovering them randomly like this. Yes, you will have to weed through a lot of duds, however you’d like to do that is up to you. I’m not being judgmental in this post. Helping weed the garden of books is a topic for another day.
  • (Another topic for another day is subscription services. For example Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Just to touch on it briefly…don’t come to me telling me your book is “#Free on #KU” because it’s not. It’s “free” because someone paid the $9.99 each month to use the service. Don’t falsely advertise that. Just tell is like it is. *rant over*)

Are there more places to get legal free books? Of course. I only touched the major ones that I use almost every day. I barely have an income. I make a few cents a month by selling my books, when I sell them. We all need a little help sometimes, so go out and explore the free book world. I know it’s the only way I was able to jump into the book world as deep as I have. My print collection may be massive, but it was also years of work, and filled with mostly cheap used books. Nothing to be ashamed of. Reading is reading. And if we don’t feed our habits, we might do something drastic…like turn on a TV *gasp*

I went to the #library yesterday…

Yep, that is correct. I stepped inside of the local library yesterday…and I got myself a library card. This is something of a biggish deal because in the past I was never a big fan of libraries.

Don’t get me wrong. Libraries are great. They’re great for book lovers. They’re great for communities, etc. It’s just that I have this thing about not owning a book that I read. Need proof? Check out my book collection. I don’t like getting rid of them or even sharing in most cases.

Despite this, I’ve been pushing the use of libraries on many friends in recent months when spending money becomes an issue for them. I’m not a total stranger to libraries, anyway. I used them in college…to get work done, but never actually checked a book out. (Thank you internet for your research capabilities.) Now with ebooks and digital audiobooks, libraries are in our homes, and I wanted to take advantage of what more and more people are already doing.

Ebook prices for traditionally published books are out of my budget most often than not. Audiobook prices are out of everyone’s budget. (I don’t know many people who can afford to feed their book need through audio.) Libraries are our way to cut down on our book spending while reading the books we want and supporting our libraries. And don’t forget that libraries have many other resources aside from the books. Go to your local library and find out what they offer.

So now, I have a card:

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Whited out the signature just in case someone wanted to try something fishy. Not that I really needed to do that, lol. And how’s that for a well-placed sticker? Convenient for the info at least.

And now I’ll be (hopefully) reading even more of a range of books since I don’t have to worry about the financial burden of buying books I don’t end up liking. I think I’ll start testing my reading boundaries more. I have been more conservative in what I buy in recent months, which is probably for the best. There are probably books on my shelves that I won’t end up liking. Those could be viewed as wasted money, but whatever, right? I’ll find someone to enjoy them somewhere down the road, and I’ll just get less random pics from now on. I’ll leave that up to my library reading instead. And I’ll be doing even more audio that I’ve already been doing.

Sounds like a win all around, to me. And I don’t even have to step into the library again unless there’s a physical book they don’t have in ebook form that I really want to read. Another win.

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Now, how about you go check out your local library (if you don’t already). They’ll be happy to have you stop by. Mine seemed happy to have me when I walked in. And if it’s just to get a card to borrow ebooks with, that can only be good for your reading life.

If you need more info on how to borrow ebooks (and audio) from your library, go to their site to find how to do so, or walk in next time you’re around. It’s fairly easy, even if Overdrive (the way most set up their borrowing) is a little cumbersome at times.

Let us hear in the comments your thoughts on libraries, borrowing books, and anything that might help others get the most out of their library experience. I barely touched on the positives that can come from a library in this post.

 

Audiobooks – Like ’em, Hate ’em?

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Audiobooks…

Have you tried out audiobooks? Have you stayed away from them for one reason or another?

I was once hesitant to read books through listening. I never thought I’d be able to get the same thing out of the words as directly from the text. The narrator(s) would sound like a completely different person than I’d have imagined myself. (Add in all the other “cons” to audio, if you’d like.)

I was wrong…

I tried my first audiobooks a few years ago when I got my dog. I figured that now that I have to take time to walk him that I could spend reading…I could combine the two. It took a few walks to get used to, but I started enjoying it. I found that doing basic chores and activities allows for the mind to wander. When you put headphones on, and start reading a book instead, my mind can focus on the words/book. Dog walking’s a pretty simple thing to do. I’ve also done this while riding my bike (sounds dangerous, but I don’t go on many roads, just trails through the woods around my house).

My most recent audiobook reading has taken place while shoveling my driveway. For hours a day, I can be reading, all while making sure I can get out of the house and to the store the next day. Since about November, when the snows got enough to shovel, I was able to read the rest of the Pendergast series, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. I’ve also taken some time to read a few shorter books while doing work around the house. My reading time increased greatly.

So, who wants to try out audio now? I know it’s not for everyone. And there are some books that I’d rather read from the text to enjoy it in a different way. Also, there’s the fact that for a review, I’d rather read the book than listen. Audio doesn’t really factor in formatting or editing/proofreading. Those factor into my reviews though.

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I have a few resources for those who want to try out audiobooks , but can’t afford them. I know I can’t afford most audiobooks. I’d rather spend less than $5 on the print or ebook, than $20-25 for the audio. So instead, I got to the library!

It seems like many libraries have started getting digital collections in ebook and audio formats. Instead of going to the library and borrowing the book or CD, you can now download files to your computers or tablets/mobile devices, then listen or read the books. Great what technology can do right?

There might be a few apps to help you link up with your local library. The one I use is Overdrive. That’s where I first found out about this option for borrowing library books.

Another place to go, the first place I went, is Librivox. You won’t find new books here, but you’ll never pay for one either. Librivox is a place set up for volunteer narrators to record audiobooks for public domain works (most books published before 1923). Have you wanted to read a classic, but it’s a little slow to read or grasp the older writing style? Try the audio! For me, listening to many of the classics has gotten me past my hesitations about them…and I’ve started enjoying them. Just keep in mind that since they are read by volunteers, you might not get the best quality recordings of a professional studio. But there are some narrators that are also professionally employed and seem to have better equipment and also some great voices for the job.

You can also check Audible. I did mention that most books are expensive, but there’s always some discounts going around. Many audio books are discounted to anywhere between $0.99-4.99 if you own the ebook (if the Whispersync option is set up for the book. Find out more on that here.

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I think now, I’ll end the post. There’s more to discuss regarding audiobooks, but I’ll save that for another time. (Like, is it really reading? I know some people have mixed feelings about that.)

Now it’s time to hear your thoughts. Do you already read audiobooks? Do you want to try one out now? Still against it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And remember, like I just said, some time soon, I’ll be revisiting this discussion to expand on the “morals” code of books, and whether or not listening is still reading.