To download free
Many websites offer free eBooks and audiobooks. Project Gutenberg lists over 67,000 out-of-copyright titles that can be played online or downloaded in a wide range of formats. In the same way, Librivox features over 16,000 audiobooks of past titles, read and recorded by volunteers around the world.
BookBub (bookbub.com) offers free and discounted downloads of select recently released books, especially in categories like romances and thrillers, with regular email alerts about cheap titles in the genres you care about.
E-books, audiobooks and comic books can be borrowed for up to 14 days from the Internet Archiveof the vast collection of – you need to register for free at OpenLibrary.org and download an encrypted file. Most of the titles available are recently published books from 1,100 libraries around the world.
If only one copy of the desired book is available, it can only be borrowed for one hour and must be read on an online book reading interface. It automatically renews for an additional hour if you’re still reading it.
Your local library can also loan out copies of ebooks, comics, and audiobooks through your library card and an app, like OverDrive, Libby, or BorrowBox. You can then read your choice on a compatible smartphone, tablet or e-reader like a Kobo, Nook, PocketBook or Tolino â Kindles are not supported.
Books will disappear from your “shelf” in the app the day they are returned, so you don’t have to worry about late fees.
To become an influencer
Websites such as Netgalley.com and edelweiss.plus offer “influencer readers”, such as book reviewers and bloggers, free access to review ebooks and audiobooks before they are published. These are sometimes referred to in the industry as “advanced reading copies” or ARC. It’s up to the editor to approve your request, which they’ll do based on your bio and profile on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Goodreads.
âBookstamagrammersâ and âbooktubersâ â influencers who post on Instagram and YouTube â can often access free books from publishers through these websites.
If you’re ready to review books on websites like Amazon or Goodreads, Booksirens lets you request review copies directly from authors, publicists as well as publishers.
You may also have luck directly contacting editors or authors who use the hashtag #ARCreaderswanted or #arcreaders on Twitter or Instagram.
Visit your local library
Almost 800 libraries have closed in Britain since the government launched its austerity campaign in 2010. If you want your local library to stay open, use it. Many allow members to borrow 10 to 20 books and audiobooks for free.
Look for used
Buying used is better for the environment and, often, your wallet. If you buy from a charity store, you are also supporting a good cause.
One of the greatest pleasures of browsing charity shops is that you never know what you might find. But if you are looking for a specific book, the Oxfam website sells thousands of them at bargain prices. For example, at the time of writing, a quick search for best-selling children’s author Jacqueline Wilson revealed 26 books for sale, with some newly released titles for just Â£1.49 (70% off the RRP).
There are also great deals in “used books” at Betterworldbooks.com. He donates a book to someone in need for every book sold.
Another option is to search for a title through bookcrossing.com. This lists free books that have been released “in the wild” for a stranger to find: search to see if there’s one near you. If you find it, log into the website and report it as “caught”.
To exchange with a stranger
Over 16,000 books are available on bookswap.co.uk. “There are a lot of newly published books and books that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Triin Vihur, a bookseller (@wordchild) who works part-time as the site’s social media manager.
First you need to list the books that you are willing to send to other users. You then get credits to publish them with a prepaid label (so it costs you nothing) and you can use those credits to request books from another user. If that user agrees to send you their book, you must surrender your credit and pay Â£3.85 postage and exchange fee Â£2.66 postage and Â£1.19 exchange fee for receive the book.
If you have a lot of books you want to get rid of, swapping can be fun and profitable. âOften I find it cheaper to get books from bookswap.co.uk than from other used platforms,â says Vihur.
She recommends requesting more than one book at a time from the same user because you only pay one postage, regardless of the number in each package.
The carbon footprint of a book exchange is lower, and she likes knowing that the books she no longer wants are going to someone who really wants to read them.
It’s a very different experience from buying a used book from an online seller, she says: “It brings a lot of joy.”
Many independent bookstores have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and 31 have closed, according to the Booksellers Association. If you don’t have time to physically set foot in doors, consider supporting them online through bookshop.org.
This website will manage your sale and give any independent bookstore you designate a 30% commission on the RRP of the book you buy.
âThe good thing is that the bookstore doesn’t have to touch the order. The book doesn’t come off the shelves, it comes direct from our wholesale partner and is shipped direct to your home,â says UK Managing Director Nicole Vanderbilt. “The bookstore has none of the cost, hassle, and time of packing your order and shipping it. So, in addition to giving them extra income, we give them back plenty of time to focus on the part of the job they love and are particularly good at.
She says most books sold by the site are 7% off RRP and free delivery if you spend over Â£40. âWe try to give as much value as possible to the bookstore, which often does not offer discounts, while making it attractive to buy online from us, rather than from a site like Amazon,â she says.
Second class shipping – where you get your book in two to three days – is Â£2.99 regardless of your order size, and first class, which takes one day, is Â£4.10 .
The site has generated over Â£2m for independent bookstores since November 2020 with around 500 participants.