Think of your favorite author. No matter what name just passed through your mind, chances are that at least one of that author’s books has been pirated. A lot has already been written about the impact of e-book piracy on author royalties and the publishing industry in general. Some arguments about it have even gotten quite nasty. I’m not going to tackle that issue here, but I do want to suggest alternatives to downloading pirated books. There are ways to download literally hundreds of e-books for free that are perfectly legal and do not hurt authors, but actually help them.
Almost every author I know does a giveaway of one of their new releases at some point. Sometimes these giveaways are done through a blog or guest blog in which you just have to leave a comment to be entered to win. Entering these contests boosts traffic and gets the word out about these books. We authors want you to comment and enter. And the odds of winning are often really good—sometimes a 100% chance of winning when only one person enters, and yes, that does happen. Check the author’s website frequently for announcements about their giveaways.
A blog hop, in which multiple authors participate in giveaways, offers dozens of chances to win and usually has a grand prize like a gift card or even a Kindle in addition to the book giveaways. Again, you’ll see announcements for blog hops on the authors’ sites.
Review sites like Long and Short Reviews (LASR) (www.longandshortreviews.com) and The Romance Reviews (TRR) (www.theromancereviews.com) do giveaways to commenters on their site and/or contest announcements about how you can win free stuff. TRR hosts “parties” where you play games to try to win books and swag and gift certificates. The last party had some 400+ authors all giving away free stuff!
2. Free Reads
Some authors have free reads posted right on their sites. This is a great way to check out an author’s voice and style if you aren’t familiar with them, or to enjoy some bonus material from a writer you love.
Many authors offer free works, from short stories to full-length novels, through sites like All Romance eBooks (ARe) (www.allromanceebooks.com). Once you set up a free account, you have access to hundreds of free downloads. The more downloads a freebie book gets on ARe, the better its ranking and the more visible that author’s name becomes. So, again, we authors want you to download our free books at legitimate sites like ARe.
Amazon.com is another great place to get free books legally. You can just enter “free reads” in the search for e-books to see hundreds of free books you can download. What’s more, Amazon has freebie days for some author’s books—certain dates when that title is downloadable for free. This is not to mention the 99-cent books, which are a real bargain. Since Amazon makes most of its profit on the sale of the Kindles, rather than the e-books themselves, their prices are already extremely low. Each sale on Amazon boosts an author’s ranking, either among the free e-books or among the paid books.
Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) is another site with lots of legitimate free reads. You can see the Price section right on the front page: “Free,” “$0.99 or less,” etc.
3. Ask Your Library
With the advent of the e-library, there’s another option for accessing free e-books. If there’s a title you want, ask your local library about acquiring a copy. Not only is this method legal, but it has the added benefit that you don’t have to worry about downloading a virus or losing your hard drive to a malicious site.