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How To Read For Cheap Or Free Without Pirating!

I've been thinking about this post for a few months since I've been watching a lot of pirating of my books and my friends books happen online. I know that times are tough for people. Readers want to read and they see all of these amazing books online, then they realize they can just download them from a torrent or a free ebook site, so they go the cheapest route possible and do that. I can't tell you how heartbreaking this is for authors, to know that people justify downloading pirated ebooks because they're “broke.” Most authors are starving artists too. We barely scrape by. And our income drops when more people download our books from pirate sites instead of paying for them or getting them legitimately for free.

But here's the awesome news for most readers. You could probably go an entire year or two or five reading quality books for FREE (or super cheap) without pirating or stealing. And you could also “pay back” those authors by leaving reviews on those books when you're through.

Here are my top resources for acquiring books for free or cheap. They should be applicable to just about ANY region of the world. If you can't find one way on this list to read books for free or cheap, please leave suggestions in the comments and I will get to researching for you.


First and foremost, join your local library. If your local library is on top of things, they not only have hardcovers and paperbacks, but they acquire new titles frequently. If they don't have something you want, ask them to help you out and order it, either for them or from other local libraries. Be sure to stop by your local library often. Many of them sell used books once or twice a year for dirt cheap in order to raise money for the library. You want to get in on that. Plenty of people, myself included, donate good quality books to the library for these sales. Sign up for their newsletter and, if you have an eReader, see if you can get ebooks too.

Little Free Library

Search the Little Free Library and see if there's one near you. None close by? Consider starting one of your own, loading it up with the paperbacks you already read, and see if others will come by and exchange books!

Borrow Books From Friends

Set up a book swap with friends a few times per month or start a Facebook group with local friends and swap in there. This is one of my favorite methods of reading more because this way you get to hear about new authors from a trusted source!

Use Amazon's Lending Feature (or Amazon's Prime Lending Library)

Ask friends to loan you books from Amazon using the lending feature. This is not always turned on for every book, but many do have it. Amazon also gives you a free book per month if you're a Prime member (though I'm not sure you would be a Prime member if you're broke, but it's worth pointing out this exists.)

Paperback Book Swap

This one is for all the people who love their paperbacks and have a little money for shipping. I love Paperback Book Swap. Put your books up there that you want to give away. When people claim them, you send them their books and you get a credit. You can then use your credit to request books be sent to you. All you pay is shipping and a small site fee to PBS for helping out in the transaction. This is a great way to find new books and get rid of old ones.

Ebook Newsletters

Subscribe to ALL THE NEWSLETTERS! These are so worth it. These companies will send you a newsletter every day with ebooks that are discounted, 99¢, or free. Please remember to leave reviews if you get these books for cheap! They really help out authors and publishers.

Here's a list of many newsletter (but not all because there are SO MANY) Kindle Daily Deals, subscribe on the right sidebar (I believe this is an app on your phone)

There. That's enough to get you started. In no time you will have so many free books, you will probably cry with joy.

Author Newsletters

If you love a particular author or many, sign up for their newsletters. They will often send out alerts about their books being on sale or free. SOMETIMES, if you open emails often, you will be more likely to get asked to read their books for free. Now, NOT ALL AUTHORS DO THIS, but many do. Many will open their newsletter lists, look for active subscribers, segment them off, and offer them Advanced Review/Reader Copies of their books in exchange for an honest review. Maybe you'll get lucky and be invited. Whatever you do, though, don't press the issue. Nagging an author for free books is a big NO-NO. We work hard to bring you the books we write. Giving our books away for free is AT OUR DISCRETION. Advanced Review Copies are a privilege, not a right. Please respect that.

Google Surveys

This is a hidden gem! Did you know that if you answer Google Consumer Surveys you can earn rewards in the Google Play Store? Which can then be used to buy books? I know tons of people who do this. They answer a few surveys, make some virtual cash, and then go spend it on books. Is that genius or what? I have an iPhone so I've never done this because everyone I know does this on Android. BUT if you do have an Android phone or tablet, you should totally do this. There are lots of books in the Google Play Store! (Mine are there!) And I've heard the reading experience on Google Play books is great too.


One of my favorite new sites is Instafreebie, a platform for authors to give away books to readers, while also getting the chance to invite those readers to join our newsletters. Here's my suggestion. Go to and sign up on the homepage. You'll get regular emails with books they are giving away for free. Many of them require that you sign up for the author's newsletter as well to claim the copy. Do it. And don't unsubscribe. You'll get the free book AND, if you end up loving that author and their books, you'll hear more about them in the future via their newsletter! This is a win-win situation. And the Instafreebie staff do an excellent job of curating books for their giveaways. There's something here for everyone.


Check it out at and sign up as a fan. This site is new to me but it has a great premise. Free music AND books to users, AND if you love what you download, you can leave a tip for the artists. It's not required, but hey, if you have a $1 or two, you can make a difference in that artist's life by leaving a tip. I have REMOVED up there and I've gained a few newsletter subscribers this way too. New fans I can send deals to! :)


Patreon is a little bit more work and money, but the pay off can be rewards. Find out if there are authors you love asking for donations via Patreon. Sometimes you can donate a very small amount, less than a coffee a month, and get some great rewards, like more books, podcasts, audiobooks, music, etc. It's definitely worth checking out if you've found an artist you really like.


Wattpad has TONS of books, fan fiction, and new fiction to read. Seriously, there's something for everyone on Wattpad. And they have an app for both iOS and Android so you can read on your phone on the go. It costs nothing and you may read the next up-and-coming best seller. You never know!

Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited does cost money, yes. But if you're a budget reader, and can read a lot in one month, $10 for unlimited books is right up your alley. You can read a whole lot and get plenty of books for the price. There are lots of books that are NOT in Kindle Unlimited (I personally have no books in Kindle Unlimited right now, but I may someday, you never know) but by saving money reading lots of books IN Kindle Unlimited, you have more money to spend on books outside of Kindle Unlimited. Amazing.

Project Gutenberg

Love the classic? Drop by Project Gutenberg for some free books! I've read Sherlock Holmes through Project Gutenberg and plenty of others. It's rich with material. Go for it!

Become a Book Blogger

This is probably the biggest undertaking so that's why it's last, but if you REALLY love books, love reviewing them, love promoting them, then you should give book blogging a try. You can get a blog for free, and you can review books you already have to get you started. You can make friends with other book bloggers, follow them online, and promote them too. And you can set up a contact page on your blog for authors to contact you and ask you to review THEIR BOOKS for free! But this is something you should only do if you can handle the responsibility of reviewing on a deadline. Because getting free books in this manner means you're willing to read and review, and people will be counting on you. But perhaps you really want to do that! More power to you. Go get 'em!

Aaaaand, that's all I've got for you right now. But if you have other LEGAL ways to read for cheap or free, please drop your links and suggestions in the comments. I want to make this a comprehensive list so that people can come here and find free or cheap books for years to come!

15 thoughts on “How To Read For Cheap Or Free Without Pirating!”

  1. I’d been thinking about doing a blog on this subject for a while and you beat me to it! Good list of options. I would also add a few more.

    If readers are willing to review the books they read, they will get a flood of free books. If you review it, the books will come….

    First, readers can join NetGalley as a reviewer/reader and then download free books in exchange for an honest review.

    Second, check out various book blogs. Many bloggers need more reviewers! Or start your own book blog. You’ll have more books than you know what to do with.

    Third, join your favorite authors’ review/street team.

  2. Love this post! Yes I don’t have a lot of money and it’s frustrating not being able to buy every book I want, but that’s life. And I love that through reviewing and legitimate free books I can still get so many awesome books for cheap or free and still get enough new books to satisfy my urge for new books.

    You really did a great job listing all the different ways to get books for cheap and free. I actually lend the calendar girl series books that i read so far from someone who had bought them on amazon. I never realized you could lend people books like that and it’s pretty neat!

    If I find an authors who’s books I am interested in i sometimes start following on social media or their newsletter as I know there is a chance they might be looking for reviewers for their book. Or if they discount their book I might hear about it there as well :). I don’t expect to get review copies and I still rarely dare ask for them unless the author mentions they are looking for reviewers, but if they are looking for reviewers their site, social media or newsletter is most likely the place to hear about it.

    Except from becoming a book blogger, there are also people who only review on amazon and goodreads and I know you can get some free books that way as well. I got a few books for review through a goodreads groups that way before I started blogging. And I also made that a rule for my review opportunities that a goodreads and/or amazon account is enough. Ii think you can even get some books from netgalley and edelweiss if you are a reviewer, even without a blog. So that might be a slightly lower key option for those who aren’t ready to start a blog, but do want to review books.

    1. Thank you, Lola! And yes, all of those are good options as well. Sometimes you can find read/review groups on Goodreads and Facebook and join them as well. Of course, that comes with a little more work because then the reader is expected to review at some point in the near future, but maybe the extra work is worth it for a book someone really wants! You just never know.

    2. Oh, I do that too! I sign up for newsletters sometimes to see if maybe the author will send something about looking for reviewers since I’ve seen that numerous times—authors didn’t mention anything on their site, but they did in their newsletter.

      1. Yeah, I tend to keep my calls for reviewers to my newsletters only, mainly because those people know me, know what I write, and are less likely to take on a book they may not be interested in. :)

  3. And I want to point out one other thing that people may not understand. “What’s the difference between downloading a book for free from a torrent site and downloading it for free from Amazon?” With every book downloaded from Amazon, that book has the chance to rise in the rankings on the Free charts, therefore giving the book more visibility to other people who may have never heard of it before and then they can download it, and the downloading snowballs into the book gaining popularity.

    Even if a reader vows to never buy a book again, it’s still to the author’s advantage for them to download the book from Amazon because then the book may catch the eyes of actual PAYING readers. The more paying readers, the more profit the author can make, who can then turn around and write more books. Books do not get published for free. They take time and money. So even this little gesture of downloading the free book from Amazon or other authorized retailers can have a large impact.

    1. This is such a good point that the average reader just doesn’t understand. They think that if they can get it free one place, it shouldn’t matter if it’s free other places. Some people probably even use this as justification for pirating. Helping readers to understand these points is key!

  4. Excellent post! I’ve never understood why people think it’s okay to download a stolen book. Most of my review copies come from NetGalley, but I’ll usually buy a finished copy later in order to support the author.

    And both Amazon and have a ton of free ebooks, you just have to look for them. That’s how I found the latest series I just finished. Got the first book for free, loved it, so downloaded the rest and binge-read them all.

  5. I’m not a book blogger I do blog but I post reviews of books, and products that I’ve been given for free to review. But the best way I’ve received free books is to enter book blog contests and author giveaways. I have 20 books on my tbr shelf right now that I won this year that I still need to read. There are a lot of blogs out there that hold giveaways on their blogs for the books they are reviewing or they just go to book conventions and give away some of the books they got while there. There are also countless books on Amazon that are free. Netgalley also has given me a few books for free that I have reviewed.

    1. Yes there are literally dozens of giveaways per day anyone could enter to get free books, and this is also a great way to find new authors too! And yes NetGalley is a great resource too.

  6. Along the lines of Little Free Library and Where’s George?, there is a project called BookCrossing at This project assigns a unique ID to a book, which you then label the book with and then leave the book in a public place. Someone who picks up the book can then go to the website and enter that unique ID to say where they found it and comment on it. After they’re done reading the book, they can also place it for others to find.

    In some areas, it looks like a Little Free Library is one of the more popular places to release BookCrossing books.

  7. I think you’ve just about covered everything! I actually have gone this whole year reading mostly free (legal) books, between the library and review copies. The only problem with signing up for newsletters and those free book emails is that yeah, the *first* book is free in a series, but then I can’t afford to buy the rest. And I get it, I really do. Authors need to make money too. I’d love to support authors as I love what they do and they deserve to be paid, but it just isn’t really something I can afford right now, so I do what I can by writing reviews and spreading the word!

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S. J. Pajonas