Monday, October 3, 2016

How To Read E-Books for Free Without Spending a Dime

Authors! Raise your hand if you've found your e-book files available for free download online. 

You and you and you. Oh, and you in the back. And all of the published authors who contribute to this blog. All of them. 

I checked. It was incredibly easy. And infuriating.

When I first started publishing, a savvy author friend suggested I set up Google Alerts for my name and my book titles so I could keep on top of reviews and mentions on the interwebs. Great idea. What she didn't tell me was how often those Google Alerts would be for a listing of my book available for free download on a pirate site. The more books I have, the more pirate sites pick up my books. 

I even get alerts that Lies We Live, my FREE book -- yep, the one that's FREE on all major retailers -- is available on pirate sites. Why??? Is it the thrill of getting something for nothing? The excitement of doing something slightly illegal?

Pirating books (and movies, and music and art of any kind) is illegal. In case there was any doubt, let me spell it out to be clear. Unless you receive a free e-book from the author, as a gift (via download from a legitimate retail site) or a public library, downloading free books is stealing.

There is no way to justify it and if you try, I may cut you. Seriously. Because the thing about pirating books is you're damaging a livelihood. As a self-published author, for every person who doesn't buy my book, that's a $2 royalty I don't see. I suck at math, but even I know that when my professionally designed book cover costs roughly $400, I have to sell 200 books to recoup that cost. Add on costs for editing, advertising, proofreading and that's a lot of books I need to sell just to cover my costs. And if I want to make an actual profit? Well.

For traditionally published authors, the impact is different but certainly not less. Publishing contracts are decided on sales success and I can't even count how  many authors I know whose series were cut short by their publishing houses because they weren't making the sales necessary to continue.

"But books are expensive and I don't have any money," you say. "No way I'm spending $9.99 for an e-book. No. Way."

I feel you. I read at least 10-12 books/month and even $2.99 e-books add up. But e-books from my library are free! That's right. Lots of libraries have e-books available in Kindle and ePub format and all you need is your (free) library card. This list, although not completely current, is a pretty good resource for e-book libraries by state. 

If you're a member of Amazon Prime, you're eligible to borrow one Kindle book free per month from the 'Zon. Amazon doesn't make it easy to find the list of free books, but this article on Lifehacker can guide you through it. You'll have to search the Amazon store on your actual Kindle device to be able to borrow for free, but there are worse things (like, ahem, pirating books).

Finally -- and I'm speaking only for myself here, although other authors, please feel free to weigh in via the comments -- if you are absolutely DYING to read my books and for whatever reason you can't buy them, get in touch with me directly. I give away advance review copies of my books prior to release and, post-release, I've been known to do a giveaway just because it's Monday. I'm not saying I'm willing to give my books away to every Jane, Jo and Janet who asks for one, but I am saying I'd rather give my books away than see them pirated. I'll bet you your next Kindle purchase I'm not alone in that.

If the title of this post lured you in under false pretenses, I'm not sorry. If you've read all the way to the end, I hope you'll consider where and how to get your "free" e-book without damaging an author's career. If you've read all the way to the end and you're about to hit the back button on your browser to find some "real" info...I'm a writer with a pretty good vocabulary, but the best I can say is: That sucks.


Ann Bennett said...

Many of those pirate sites steal data or freeze computers for ransom.

I don't believe any writer should give their work away free. I guess it is my working class roots. Although, I do look for good deals, I do not try to get things for free that someone else has worked hard to provide. Everyone deserves to be paid.

Brenda St John Brown said...

I totally agree! I'm all about the Kindle Daily Deals or BookBub deals because I love a good book bargain, but I still believe in paying for books I can get by any other legitimate means.

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Brenda. And like Ann commented, many of these pirate sites harbor viruses so it's a complete lose-lose for the author and the reader. I'd also like to comment that it kind of cracks me up that many people are willing to spend $5 a day (sometimes more) for a coffee, but not a book that lasts forever... I definitely take advantage of my library for free digital loans, as well as the Kindle Lending Library. Often I find my free Kindle reads through the discount emails I subscribe to. I will look up a book that I find interesting and if it's part of the Lending Library I'll borrow it rather than pick it up for free or $0.99 - I figure this way the author will hopefully get a higher royalty from my read.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Great post, B! As an aside, I'm entrenched in Brit on the Side and loving it!!

Jonathan Schramm said...

Wow. Great info for us newbies. Thanks for sharing!

Brenda St John Brown said...

Oh yay! Thank you for reading. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

Brenda St John Brown said...

The whole Kindle lending library thing just came up for me on my Kindle after I'd clicked on a book I was considering buying for $.99 and it had the option to borrow for free. I don't usually search for books directly from my Kindle and Amazon doesn't actually make it easy to find any kind of list. But lots of self-published books are included that aren't on Overdrive, so it's a great way to read some of my wish-list items for free.

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