With the younger generations headed off to school, it’s natural to feel a tad nostalgic for No. 2 pencils and a backpack. Only hitting the books, adult style, is way more fun. As you send the kids back to the classroom, why not look into increasing your own reading time — and at a budget that can still afford their notebooks, erasers and earbuds.
If you’re a paper person, libraries are still the best way to get your hands on a hardback (or paperback) version of a good novel for free. If you don’t have anything specific in mind to read, Living on the Cheap readers report that Goodwill stores often have a nice selection of nearly new titles for a song, and Half Price Books always has a clearance rack to save even more money off their discounted prices. Sign up for its mailing list and you can get a 10% off coupon for in-store purchases, too.
If you know the title you want, take advantage of the price war brewing between Amazon and Overstock.com. Thanks to this battle, Dan Brown’s hardback version of Inferno has dropped as low as $10.48 — a 65% savings.
For those who’ve gone digital, the world of free or beautifully cheap titles is a world of its own. Amazon fans love its Kindle Daily Deals, a daily offering of books with good reviews and some solid buzz for as low as 99¢. The sale lasts only 24 hours, so you need to check in regularly to avoid missing these gems. Amazon’s email reminder is a big help in that regard. Amazon Prime members may borrow select books for Kindle (sorry, iPad owners) at no charge, too.
Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble also has its own sales culture built up to sell books at rock bottom prices for its Nook devices. It has Free Fridays, BOGO weekends, and the daily find for $1.99 (as much as an 85% savings on some titles). Again, you can sign up for daily reminders on what’s for sale.
Kobo is a lesser-known e-book competitor, but no less serious. You can watch its daily list of freebies here.
Or, you can join free service BookBub, set your choices to the types of books you like to read, and have Bub email you with an aggregate of no-cost and low-cost options from all online retailers in one email. Click the links to access the sale’s buy page and you’ll be reading in minutes flat.
If you’re a classic or academic kind of reader, definitely check out Project Gutenberg’s catalog of free e-books. There’s no sense paying for Pride and Prejudice or Dracula when the same words are available at no charge. There are 42,000 titles at this legitimate site — emphasis on the legitimate.
Yes, sadly, some folks think it’s OK to steal a book and use that as bait to trap unsuspecting readers who line up for the goodies thinking the site is merely a new competing online store. Christopher Duffy, contracts and royalties manager at Adams Media, estimates 98% of the free download sites on the Internet are not actually free; in fact, they are merely claiming to have content they can’t actually produce. The real game is to get folks to sign up for a bogus or useless service, unintentionally download viruses or malware, or simply steal credit card information.
“A good rule to remember is any legitimate e-book will likely have the file suffix .pdf, .epub, .mobi or .rar. Any download that ends in .exe is definitely not an e-book and almost certainly malware,” he says. A site looking for money without at least offering a free preview of the file is another red flag, as is the URL suffix: .ke (Kenya), .cn (China), .me (Montenegro), .ru (Russia) are big offenders. Another way to detect a fake is to search on a bogus title – if it pops up as available, run.
After all, with prices like these, you don’t need to borrow trouble. Which brings us back to our first suggestion: libraries. It’s very possible your local bricks-and-mortar library will lend you an e-book at no charge. Your search starts here.