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*

#Classic Read: #Dracula by Bram Stoker

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DRACULA by Bram Stoker
Rating: 4/5 stars

In a huge, desolate castle in the dark forests of Transylvania, an Englishman is held captive and awaits his terrible fate. In a suburb of London, a beautiful young woman is plagued by a mysterious illness that seems to suck the very blood from her veins. it is an unspeakably evil force that threatens their lives: the centuries-old vampire, Dracula.

The extraordinary horror of this tale in which the restless dead are pitted against the living has held generations of readers spellbound (description from Goodreads)

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I’ve finally read it. It only took me about three attempts, but I’ve read the classic horror/vampire novel Dracula. I attempted the book a few years ago by both reading it and listening to it. At the time it just didn’t work for me. The epistolary novel isn’t always my cup of tea, even though the concept always gets me to check them out. I think when you throw epistolary and classic together, it’s almost certain to be a struggle for me because I always have trouble reading classics (nothing against them, the language, style, etc is normally just hard for me to enjoy a story through).

This third time, I have an audiobook version with a great cast and production value. I think that was the key to success for me. I was able to enjoy listening and be into it enough to get how the journal entries and letters made the book what it is (even if I feel it could have worked from one narrator as well with a slightly different way of bringing all the stories together, but I’ll save that for another day). The only thing I was disappointed with for the audiobook was that Tim Curry was listed high on the cast list…but we don’t get much of a performance from him. He does the narration for Van Helsing’s parts, and there aren’t that many of them. At the same time, I do think he was a good choice for that part.

So to the story, we all know the basics. I’ve seen a few of the film adaptations, I’m sure many of you reading this have as well, and maybe even read some adaptations. Many of us also know of the modern vampire mythology, whether it’s Twilight, Buffy, or any of the other vast interpretations (one of my favorites comes from Thomas Winship’s Vaempire’s series). How does Stoker’s early vision match up for the modern reader? Well, it was interesting how much has been taken from this mythology, and also how much seems to have been left behind. Yes, we’re still using stakes and beheadings. Garlic is even still a thing. But what about the deal with the tides and crossing bodies of water? For me, I haven’t seen that anywhere else. It was also interesting to see Stoker take a literary figure we seem to hold high up as a cunning, strong, and dangerous creature/man in the horror world and have Van Helsing say he has the brain of a child, compared to their “man brains”. There’s more to that than I’ll get into, but on the surface, it seemed strange that he’d feel the urge to write that this man, centuries old, would not have matured and become powerful in mind in order to overcome our heroes. He was too easily “outsmarted” in my opinion. From the beginning Dracula seemed to be the figure we all conjure up and able to outwit many.

How did I feel about the story overall? I was surprised to found that I enjoyed it almost completely. Yes, there were parts I felt had no need to be in there, and I also thought Renfield was somewhat unnecessary, even though I enjoyed his character. But after all, all readers have opinions on what is and isn’t “needed” in a book. All that matters is that the story was enjoyed and that this one in particular has continued to reach readers even 100 years later. Would I read it again? Probably not. But I’ve gained an appreciation for another classic (doesn’t happen every day).

What’s next? I don’t know yet, but I have a few books to follow this one up with in time. Should I read Dacre Stoker’s Dracula: The Un-Deadthe sequel from Stoker’s descendant? Or maybe I should read the copy of Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (by Loren D. Estleman) that I picked up recently? The possibilities are almost endless. What I do know is that I won’t be leaving vampires behind any time soon…as long as non-of them sparkle 😉

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If you’d like to grab a copy of Dracula to read yourself, it’s a public domain work and can be found free in ebook form from most stores and other resources online. Here are some of them:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Project Gutenberg

And if you’d like to grab the audiobook version I read it’s over on Audible here. (note that there is a DRASTIC discount if you own the Kindle ebook version posted above.)

But if you would like a free version, Librivox has it:

Version 1 | Version 2