Book piracy has been a really hot topic on Twitter for the last few days. I have seen so many people shout why it is wrong (and it totally is) and I think expressing my opinion about it won’t add anything to the matter. I want to stay on the positive side and share some tips and ways to get free or (relatively) cheap books as an alternative to pirating and still support the author. I have tried to keep the ways and tips mentioned possible for most people worldwide, so the most people can benefit from them, but if I have forgotten anything important, just comment below and I will add it to the list. I really hope these tips are helpful for people and the book community will share these tips with others so as many people as possible may refrain from pirating books in the future.
I hope you enjoy reading this and I’d like to know your thoughts in the comments!
1. Visit The Library
I wanted to start with this one for an important reason: they are getting scarce. Libraries are a huge source of books for a ton of people and besides bigger and popular book (web)stores, piracy is one of the reasons they aren’t all able to stay open nowadays. I know not all countries or cities have libraries, but I want to encourage the people that do have access to use them more often so that a part of the threat of piracy can be converted in support of libraries. Library subscriptions are quite cheap in most countries, atleast a whole lot cheaper than buying those books instead of borrowing, and a ton of libraries also have e-books or audiobooks you can borrow online if you can’t physically go there yourself all the time.
2. Borrow Books From A Friend
You can always ask your friend, their sibling or maybe even their parents if you can borrow a certain book if you see it in their bookcase, big chance you may if you ask nicely. This is a great way to read more titles on your TBR. Ofcourse, you do have to be careful with it. Even if you don’t care much for dog ears or broken spines, most people do. If you bring it along in your bag, be careful or use some sort of booksleeve. If you return it unharmed, the chance is bigger you may borrow something another time.
3. Trade books
Instead of just borrowing books, you can also trade them with others. Ask a friend, family, people at school or anyone else if they want to trade a book. This way you don’t have to spend extra money to read a new title.
On Twitter, there is a whole book trading community behind the hashtag #booksfortrade. It can work two ways: you go to that hashtag and look for an offer you are interested in and tell them what you have. Or you can tweet what you have for trade and include a wishlist of titles you’d like to have one from in return. The only thing you have to pay is the shipping of the book and they pay the shipping of theirs. And always delete the other person’s shipping address from your DM convo when you are done trading.
A fair warning is that there are a handful of people that don’t send out their half of the trade. I don’t know the exact keywords to find the warnings, but asking around and scrolling through the tag can help you find those offenders. Most people are honest though, but if you are unsure, you can check if they participated in trades before.
4. Join Giveaways
This is an amazing source. I know the chance of actually winning one is 1 to a lot, but my tactic is to join multiple at the same time to increase my chances. I have won a few books over the past year, some of them signed and one a Collector’s Edition.
I usually don’t wait out for giveaways to appear in my feed, I search for hashtags like #giveaway or #bookgiveaway and just scroll. Platforms with a lot of bookish giveaways are Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, LibraryThing and people their blogs, Facebook and YouTube.
You do have to use a relatively active account for entering. Most people consider your account a ‘giveaway account’ if you just use it for giveaways and can get you disqualified for that and sometimes future giveaways!
(A tip for finding bookish giveaways on twitter is not using hashtags, but using keywords. For example, I just type ‘book giveaway RT F’ in the searchbar.)
5. Participate in #buyastrangerabook day every Wednesday on Twitter
The hashtag #buyastrangerabook is used by Big Green Bookshop on Twitter and it purpose it one of the best initiatives ever! Buy A Stranger A Book Day is every Wednesday and is hosted by said store. Usually, they have a few copies of a certain title up for grabs to the first X amount of people that respond. After that, people can offer to buy a stranger a book, list the amount they want to pay including or excluding postage or sometimes just the title they want to buy for someone. Big Green Bookshop then retweets or quote retweets those offers and people can respond if they are interested. As far as I know, they ship worldwide if the postage fits in the budget of the buyer, even though they are UK based.
The initiative was made to let strangers share with strangers and people could explore different kinds of books they wouldn’t buy themselves. It is also meant for people who aren’t able to afford books. I have recieved two books through this initiative, one book from a writer the buyer recommended to me and one book I wanted for a while, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I have read and reviewed both books, and thanked both strangers so much for doing this!
6. Try e-books
Buying an e-reader an investment, but really worth it in my opinion if you don’t have many titles available where you live, shops don’t ship to your country or the books you want aren’t affordable because of insane shipping charges. A lot of sites have nice deals, discounts, sets of books in one, free titles or a subscription to read unlimited e-books for €9,99 or something per month. Do keep in mind some brands e-readers are tied to a specific website, like Kindle is to Amazon, Nook to Barnes & Noble and Kobo to the kobostore and bol.com.
From what I know, Amazon Kindle and Rakuten Kobo also offer a free app for phone, tablet and maybe even PC so you can read your e-books for free and there may be more I don’t know of. If you have an e-reader besides the app, it automatically synchronises the app with the e-reader so you can read when traveling or when your forgot to bring your e-reader without worrying to lose your progress.
A great source of e-books are newsletters from authors and publishers. From what I have seen, the less-famous authors tend to give free samples, short stories or finished e-book copies of their books more often. So google your favourite authors and subscribe on their newsletter for possible freebies.
7. Drop By A Second-Hand Store, Sometimes They Surprise You
A reason why a lot of people pirate books is because of their budget. Books are expensive and not everyone has much to spend. Books are easily €12,99 in the physical stores, so buying multiple books adds up really quick. A cheap alternative is buying second-hand books as their cost is nowhere near the new-price.
A great alternative to dropping by your local second-hand or thrift store is ThriftBooks.com. ThriftBooks is an online thrift store for books, both new and used in all different kinds of states. As most books are used and in different conditions, ThriftBooks’ staff categorises the books so that you can choose in what state you want your book. I have listed them below:
- New: Just like it sounds. A brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition.
- Like New: An apparently unread copy in perfect condition. Dust cover is intact; pages are clean and are not marred by notes or folds of any kind.
- Very Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. The spine remains undamaged.
- Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include “From the library of” labels or previous owner inscriptions.
- Acceptable: A readable copy. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact (the dust cover may be missing). Pages can include considerable notes–in pen or highlighter–but the notes cannot obscure the tekst.
- Thrift Deal: Items with a Thrift Deal tag are rated in at least ‘Acceptable’ condition (a readable copy, intact, and may include notes that do not obscure the text).
Prices are based on the condition, but I have heard from people online that most ‘Acceptable’ books in way better state than expected. I can’t personally confirm this as I haven’t yet ordered from this site, but this is something I have heard from several people using it regularly. Another upside is the low shipping price, as US has free shipping, Canada and UK just $3,99 and international $4,99. It may take up to 15-20 business days for the latter, but I think it is worth it for the price!
8. Have A Look At Bookdepository.com
In the Netherlands, local bookstores only or mostly sell (translated) Dutch books and I like English a lot better. I went looking for a webshop where I could buy English books and so I found bookdepository.com! They ship worldwide for free and are relatively cheap. Usually the paperbacks are ~€8 and hardbacks are ~€13. This save me so much money already. A worthy note is that it takes a bit longer for the books to arrive (2 workdays to dispatch and 4-8 workdays before they get to the Netherlands).
There a few countries Bookdepository doesn’t ship to, but I heard Wordery.com does ship to those countries. I have never used this site and the books seem to be a bit more expensive on first sight, but most are still cheaper than in regular bookstores, and they also ship for free worldwide.
9. Ask Around On Media To Find Out About Local/Regional Stores And Sites
I discovered Bookdepository, Wordery, …, etc. all on social media. Sometimes because I asked about it and sometimes because I went looking for them. The same can be done to find more local and regional bookstores you can visit or order from without having to have your order fly halfway across the globe.
This one is a bit tricky. Netgalley is a platform for e-books, most of them are Advanced Reader Copies and sometimes books are available for requesting shortly after the release. You have to create an account, make an attractive profile why they should accept your request and you can go and request every title in the gallery you want. The tricky part is that you are expected to leave an honest review as ‘payment’, not just on their site, but other platforms aswell sometimes. If you don’t, your read-review ratio will drop and authors and publishers will be less likely to accept your requests. Not only that, this site is based on getting books reviews before and around the publication date to get more attention to the book, spread the word, etc. You are helping the author with this and I consider not reviewing the book in return just as bad as pirating.
You don’t have to have an e-reader as most titles have the option to download a PDF which you can read on your PC, tablet or phone
There are more platforms similar to Netgalley and this is a list of a few I know:
- NetGalley: https://netgalley.com/
- Edelweiss: https://www.edelweiss.plus/
- First To Read: http://www.firsttoread.com/
- Readers’ Favorite: https://readersfavorite.com/
11. Request Review Copies From A Publisher
This one is even more tricky as authors and publishers don’t sent out physical copies easily as they do for e-books and for a lot of publishers the requesting is limited to US or UK due to shipping costs. Besides that, a physical copy costs more money to sent out than an e-ARC. Besides the costs of the postage, ARC’s are made in smaller batches than the finished copies and therefore cost a lot more per copy printed. Because of this, they aren’t sent out to everyone and mostly to bloggers and reviewers with a ton of followers and visitors. But it is really Always worth a shot if you are an active reviewer, with or without an active followerbase.
But how do you request a review copy? First you have to find out from what Publisher the title is you want. You go to their website and look for the ‘Contact’ page. Usually, you will see a bunch of email adresses, but you have to look for the one for the media inquiries. Sometimes there are different contacts for different parts of the world or for Ya or Adult novels. If there indeed is more than one contact for media inquiries or review copies, read the descriptions of the various contacts and take the one you think suits you the best. Then you write the email and you have to make sure to include important information.
What do you include in a ‘review copy-request’ email? (This is in no particular order.)
- Your full name.
- Something about yourself, but keep it brief and professional.
- The full title and the name of the author of the book or books you are requesting.
- The link to your blog and all your other social media/platforms you use for book related things, reviews or promotion of your blog.
- The statistics of your blog and other platforms (unique blog visitors/ views per month, followers, how often you post per platform, etc.)
- How often you post.
- If you have read and reviewed other books of the same publisher or the same author you are requesting from and if that is the case, include the links to those reviews.
- Include your full shipping address, as not all publishers respond to your email and sometimes just send out the requested title.
This is roughly what you have to include. Guides about requesting ARC’s are easy to find when googling for something like ‘How to request an ARC’.
I want to add that if you have to pay someone or have to recieve money from them or you want to buy something from a site you aren’t sure of, use PayPal. Paying with PayPal is secured, so if there is any trouble like not getting your package or your package arrives damaged, you are able to get your money back easily. This may save you soms sleepless nights and tears.
I am feeling really good and proud about writing this post, especially after I have seen tweet after tweet about this issue: people making excuses for themselves and others, authors trying to explain how and how much piracy hurts them and everyone else being really driven to tell others how wrong, bad and also illegal it is to read pirated books. I am just one person and I can’t fix this problem, but I can give people a little nudge in the right direction.
I hope these words will shared and even if it makes one person think about what they did, I consider this message a success.