10 Secret Ways You Can Read Free Books Online Legally—Book Blogger’s Best Kept Secrets
by Anca Antoci
Why I think you should check out these free platforms to read books
If you’re a binge-reader like me, you know you can only afford so many books. And if you’re on a tight budget but don’t want to ration your reading, there are tons of legal options you can read books free that you may not know about, but most book bloggers do. I’m not gatekeeping, so here we go! And just so you know, I skipped the obvious ones, like the library. I think pretty much everyone knows you can get books at the library. Although, a good mention here (that didn’t make it on my list) is the Libby app. It’s not available in my country, so I can’t test it and that’s the only reason it didn’t end on my recommended platforms list.
Why are these platforms secret? I don’t know. Are book bloggers gatekeeping them? Probably not. I’m guessing not many readers know about them or if they do, they don’t talk about them. The most popular recommendations I’ve read online were: Google Books, Internet Archive, Wattpad, ManyBooks, OnlineBookClub, Smashwords, and FreeBooky. I’m not saying these are not good choices. By all means, look them up. The more the merrier. But I wanted to share with you where I get most of my books as a book blogger (although you don’t need to have a blog. If a review is requested, you can post one on Goodreads or Amazon).
How I learned about them
I’ve been a book blogger since 2018 when I founded www.summonfantasy.com. That’s when I discovered the first platform you can request free books from; NetGalley. I think it was another book blogger who recommended NetGalley to me. I remember the excitement I felt when I was approved for the first book I requested. It was a paranormal mystery titled Dead Witch on a Bridge by Gretchen Galway. I loved that book and raved about it. Imagine my excitement when the author reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join her ARC team. If you’re not a book blogger and the acronym confuses you, ARC stands for Advance Reader Copy—a free copy of the book that authors usually offer to book reviewers pre-publication so they get some reviews online the day the book comes out. Yes, it’s a marketing tactic for the author, but for you, it’s a free book. So, eyes on the prize!
I poured my heart into the first reviews on NetGalley and then a publisher added me on their auto-approved list. That meant that I didn’t need to request and wait for approval from this publisher. I could just read any of their books. The idea with NetGalley is that you need to be careful not to request more books than you can read. They keep the score between the number of books they approved you to read and the number of feedback you gave. They recommend a score higher than 80% if you want to be approved in the future. I have a score of 96%.
But this post isn’t about NetGalley alone. Although this is a fantastic website to get free books to read, there are many more. If you Google search for free platforms to read books, you’ll get pretty much the same answers in every other blog post. Not that I don’t recommend them, but I thought I’ll share with you a few gems that are less than obvious. Except number 10. That is quite obvious to me, yet highly overlooked.
What you actually came here to read about
Here’s a table with the 10 platforms I promised you in the title in no particular order. You get an overview and the pros and cons of each one, but I’ll also explain more below.
1. Book Cave
Book Cave provides daily free ebooks accessible through major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and iBooks. This wide reach ensures ease of access for readers across various platforms. The variety of retailers gives readers flexibility in choosing their preferred platform for reading.
- Wide Retailer Access: Availability on popular ebook platforms.
- Daily Free Ebooks: Regularly updated with free ebooks.
- Retailer Accounts: Requires an account with the respective retailer.
BookBub offers a wide selection of free books and connects readers to top-tier publishers and independent authors. Readers can access these ebooks through Amazon, Apple, Nook, or Google after a simple and free account setup. The platform accommodates multiple devices for reading convenience.
- Diverse Selection: Books from top-tier publishers and independent authors.
- Compatibility: Accessible on various devices, including Kindle, Nook, iPad, and Android.
- Account Requirement: Requires an account with Amazon, Apple, Nook, or Google.
NetGalley allows members to request or be invited to read digital review copies of books, often before their official publication. Readers need to provide a review in exchange for the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs). It’s an excellent platform for avid readers who enjoy providing feedback on upcoming releases.
- Early Access: Access to books before official publication.
- Diverse Selection: A wide range of upcoming books to choose from.
- Review Obligation: Requires providing a review for the books received.
StoryOrigin also provides access to Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs), requiring reviewers to submit feedback on the books they’ve received. This platform is an excellent choice for those who enjoy discovering and reviewing books before they hit the market.
- Early Access: Opportunity to read books before their official release.
- Engagement: Encourages reader-author interaction through reviews.
Review Obligation: Requires providing a review for the ARCs received.
5. Book Barbarian
BookBarbarian provides daily emails featuring fantastic deals on Science Fiction and Fantasy ebooks, including many free options and heavily discounted books. Readers can easily join the platform at no cost, and the books acquired are theirs to keep, providing an affordable way to explore new reads.
- Daily Deals: Regularly updated with discounted and free ebooks.
- Genre-Specific: Focuses on Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.
- Limited Genres: Primarily caters to Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiasts.
6. Voracious Readers Only
Voracious Readers Only allows readers to become book reviewers by signing up and selecting their preferred genres. This platform offers free books in exchange for reviews, giving readers the chance to discover new authors and titles while engaging in the reviewing process.
- Genre Preference: Allows readers to choose preferred genres.
- Reviewer Engagement: Encourages readers to provide reviews for the received books.
- Review Obligation: Requires providing a review for the books received.
RivetedLit offers free YA and Teen reads through Simon & Schuster, making it a great choice for readers interested in popular or best-selling books in these genres. Accessing these free reads is as simple as registering with an email address, providing an easy entry point for readers.
- Genre-Specific: Focuses on YA and Teen genres.
- Easy Access: Requires only an email registration.
- Genre Limitation: Primarily caters to YA and Teen readers.
8. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is an excellent platform for readers who appreciate classic literature. Offering hundreds of books in the public domain, including renowned classics and fairy tales, it supports the creation and distribution of eBooks for free.
- Classic Literature: Provides access to a vast collection of public domain classics.
- Universal Access: Allows downloads on virtually any device.
- Genre Limitation: Primarily focuses on classic literature.
Tor.com offers free access to e-books through their eBook of the Month club. Readers can easily acquire a time-limited eBook for free by signing up for the newsletter. It’s a simple and straightforward process for fans of science fiction and fantasy.
- Free eBook Club: Provides a time-limited free eBook each month.
- Easy Signup: No need for a separate account, just a newsletter signup.
- Time-Limited Access: eBooks are available for a limited time each month.
10. Straight from the Authors Themselves
Many authors offer free e-books as rewards for joining their newsletters or during giveaways. Readers interested in specific authors can visit their personal author websites and often find these deals advertised on the homepage.
As a blogger, I have reached out to authors and asked them if they would consider sending me an ARC in exchange for a review. Most of them were thrilled to do so. Of course, having a good reputation for posting reviews for every ARC you receive is crucial. Word of mouth goes a long way. Sometimes authors reach out to me because someone else recommended me.
As an author, I’d be excited if a reader reached out to me for a free copy of my books in exchange for a review. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.
- Author Engagement: Directly connects readers with their favorite authors.
- Newsletter Perks: Free e-books as rewards for newsletter signups or during giveaways.
- Author Specific: Availability depends on individual author promotions.
Are These Platforms Really Legal? How is that possible?
You might wonder about the legality and the motivations behind authors offering their books for free on these platforms. Rest assured, these platforms operate within the bounds of legality. Here’s how it works:
All the platforms mentioned in this blog post operate within the legal framework provided by the respective countries they are based in. They adhere to copyright laws and agreements with authors and publishers. Many authors willingly distribute their books for free or at discounted prices for promotional purposes. I am one of those authors.
Motivations for Offering Free Books:
Authors have several compelling reasons to offer their books for free:
- Promotional Strategy: Offering free books is a well-established marketing strategy. It allows authors to reach a wider audience, garnering attention for their work and building a reader base. Free books can entice readers to explore an author’s other works.
- Building a Fan Base: By giving readers a taste of their writing, authors can attract fans who eagerly await their next releases. This fosters a loyal readership that may purchase future books.
- Reviews and Feedback: Free books encourage readers to leave reviews and provide valuable feedback. Positive reviews can boost an author’s reputation and influence other potential readers.
- Cross-Promotion and Collaborations: Authors often collaborate and cross-promote each other’s work. By offering a book for free, an author may gain visibility within another author’s reader community.
- Book Series Introduction: Authors may offer the first book in a series for free, enticing readers to purchase subsequent books in the series.
Authors choose to make their work freely available based on their individual marketing strategies, goals, and aspirations for their writing careers.
In conclusion, the platforms listed in this blog post operate legally, and authors willingly participate in providing their books for free as part of a strategic approach to reach a broader audience, gain recognition, and establish a dedicated readership.