Quick run-down on where to get free and cheap ebooks, and how to sort through some of the clutter to find the books you want.
The self-publishing revolution is in full swing. Authors with out-of-print titles whose rights have reverted are issuing them as ebooks. Authors who’ve been ill-treated or abandoned by their publishers are going it alone. New authors who don’t want the wait and the hassle and (most likely) ultimate rejection of the traditional publishers are issuing their books themselves. It’s a tidal wave of books, some good, some bad, some every bit the equal of traditionally published fare. (I’m slowly highlighting my favorites in my “Recommended Reading” blog.)
With competition for eyeballs fiercer than it’s been in decades, it’s never been a richer time for those who read voraciously. Prices are low, sales are frequent, and many authors are happy to give their work away, particularly the first book in a series, if that’s what it takes to lure you into the fold. The gates are wide open. Now the problem becomes sifting through the overwhelming mass of material to find the book you want, in your genre, at your price.
BookBub is the leader in the field of targeted recommendations to readers, with an emphasis on free and bargain books. Like other sites, BookBub lists free and on-sale books in various genres. Unlike most other sites, they don’t overwhelm the reader with choice. They qualify candidates for inclusion and can be, for authors, frustratingly picky. They require full-length books, a good (unspecified) number of positive reviews, and a professional cover. Their editors will review your book and decide if it’s professional enough to feature.
You (the reader) can browse the BookBub site by category, or you can specify the categories you prefer–say, “literary fiction” and “historical fiction”–and create a personal profile, then browse only those books. You can sign up for daily emails to alert you to sale prices on books in your categories, and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
BookBub provides links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobobooks, iTunes, Google Play and Smashwords.
BookBub is the 400-pound gorilla of book recommendation sites, but there are smaller sites that individuals may prefer for one reason or another… usually because other sites are less picky and offer a larger selection. I’ll run through a few of these sites quickly.
Ereader News Today is a well-established book service specializing in ebooks for the Kindle. They have a website, an email list and a Facebook page.
Book Sends is Amazon-only. Book Sends requires that a featured book be priced no higher than $3.00 and be at least half-off the regular price.
Kindle Books and Tips specializes in ebooks for Kindle. You can read the daily blog or have it sent to your email or rss feed.
Fussy Librarian adds the ability to filter your book suggestions to exclude profanity, sex and violence, or any combination thereof. Their recommendations are multi-platform.
eBookSoda is a service geared towards our friends in the United Kingdom. It’s multi-platform.
Bargain Booksy offers a website and email service and a Facebook page, refers all sales to Amazon.
Pixel of Ink is Kindle only, offers a website, Facebook page and email subscriptions.
eReaderIQ monitors prices on Kindle books and publishes the day’s price drops. You can put books on your Watch List and eReaderIQ will drop you an email when the price goes down. You can track favorite authors, too–eReaderIQ will notify you when one of that author’s books is on sale. You can also enter books that aren’t yet on Kindle and they’ll email you if and when they do show up.
I tracked The Summer We Lost Alice when I was putting it on sale for $0.99 for a couple of weeks. I changed the price on Amazon and waited to see when it actually updated. eReaderIQ sent me a price reduction notice twenty-two minutes before Amazon did.
I’ll note that even when a site is “Kindle only” you can generally find the recommended books on sale at bn.com and kobobooks.com. Apple iTunes and Google Play are harder for authors to get into (not that they’re selective, their interfaces just suck), so many books that are available elsewhere never make into the iTunes bookstore or into Google Play.
Thanks to sites like these, it’s now easy to find the books you crave and cheaper than ever to feed your reading habit.