When I first started the whole ebook thing, I went a little crazy with the self-published freebies, including a lot I’m probably never going to read (and really ought to purge!) I also discovered at least one author I really like, as well as several more that I will never go near again.
But I realized pretty quickly that I was missing out on bargains on titles I really wanted to read, simply because I didn’t know or hear about it when they went on sale. So I started looking for services and sites that would let me know when books go on sale, and I found some that have proved pretty helpful.
I’m sorry, but most of these sites are fairly US-centric, because that’s where I do my buying. And it concentrates on Kindle and ePub books, because I don’t have an iPhone or iPad.
NOTE: If you have a Kindle, it’s worth keeping an eye on retailers other than Amazon, because Amazon often price-matches, or else the price is set by the publisher and is the same across other retailers. The same is sometimes true in reverse; Barnes & Noble and Kobo sometimes price-match Amazon’s sales.
Email services for bargains on current books and backlist titles:
Amazon’s Kindle Deals emails. To sign up for emails about various Kindle book deals, go to Amazon and go to “Your Account.” Look under “Settings” for “E-mail from Amazon” and click “Amazon Local and Amazon Delivers Email Subscriptions.” Make sure you are signed up for emails for Kindle Daily Deals, Kindle First, and Kindle Exclusives.
- Daily Deals are just that: four or five books (sometimes more), on sale for one day only. The genres vary, as do the publishers and whether the books are current or backlist. A lot of the books I buy are Daily Deals.
- Kindle First are books that are forthcoming, published by one of Amazon’s imprints. If you are a Prime member, you can download one Kindle First title for free each month.
- Kindle Exclusives are books only available on Kindle, and are often self-published.
- Other Kindle deals – there are monthly deals and books publishers put on sale; you probably won’t get emails about them all, so it’s also worth periodically checking the Kindle Deals pages and the Kindle Bestsellers in the genres you read.
BookBub. Sign up with BookBub to get email notices about ebooks on sale. You can choose your favorite retailers and genres, and even search for specific authors that you want to “follow” – which means that if a book by one of those authors goes on sale, you should get an email about it. (It’s not foolproof; they sometimes miss things.) You’ll also get a daily email listing about 6 to 10 titles that have recently gone on sale in the genres you’re interested in. As with Kindle, it’s worth checking the site itself every few days if you have time, but the emails have been really useful to me.
Bookperk. Bookperk is an email service from HarperCollins, and covers only their own book deals. You can buy directly books from the publisher if you read on an iOS or Android device. If you read on a Kindle, you’ll have to look up the books at Amazon and see if the titles are price-matched there (they usually are.)
EreaderIQ. Kindle only, but it has sites for the UK and Canada as well as the U.S. Similar to BookBub, in that you can choose authors to track, or even specific titles – but they will notify you whenever the price drops, not just when it’s below $3. You also pick which genres you want included in the daily email. Like BookBub, EreaderIQ covers both traditional publishers and some self-published books.
Riffle. A book discovery site (sort of like Goodreads), Riffle also keeps a list of ebook bargains and can email you daily with bargains. There used to be a way to sign up for the emails without signing up for the website too, but I couldn’t find it when I went back there.
Retailers and Blogs:
Kobo. Go to Kobo’s website and access the pull-down menu under “eBooks”. In the pull-down menu, on the right, you’ll see links for Daily Deal, Free eBooks and Great reads under $4.99 . Kobo sells ePUB books only – you’ll need a Kobo, a Kobo app, or Adobe Digital Editions. But if it’s on sale at Kobo, chances are decent that it’s on sale at Amazon and B&N – or will be by the afternoon. Kobo also lists its free ebooks, though the list tends to be pretty long for browsing though.
Barnes & Noble. A good site to check if you read ePUB files rather than Kindle format. As with Kindle, you can sign up for an email about the NOOK Daily Find (though there’s usually only one to Amazon’s four or five.) Go to NOOK Books, then click NOOK Daily Find on the left, and you’ll see the day’s bargain book, plus a place at the bottom of the screen to sign up for emails. It’s worth signing up even if you have a Kindle, because Amazon usually price matches these but doesn’t advertise them.
Baen Free Library. The publishing house Baen Books has a library of free science fiction and fantasy drawn from titles in their backlist. The books come without DRM, but – and this is the crucial thing – the authors have agreed to offer these specific titles for free (sometimes for a limited period of time.) This is the only legitimate site for free books by established, traditionally-published authors that I know of. (See note below.) You’ll need Calibre to sideload the books onto your device.
Books on the Knob. A blog that lists bargains and freebies, with links to the retailers. I used to use this site a lot, but the emails I get now pretty much duplicate what I see there, so I stopped. However, if you’d rather check a blog regularly instead of getting a bunch of daily emails from the services above, it’s worth bookmarking.
Classic and public-domain titles:
ManyBooks. This is the first place I go for free classics. ManyBooks has an ever-growing catalog of public-domain books (classics and books published before 1923) and has started adding free self-published books as well. Search by author for best results. The formatting and editing quality varies from pretty good to poor; many of the better-known public domain titles (for example, books by Louisa May Alcott or L. M. Montgomery) were edited or cleaned up from Project Gutenburg files by volunteer editors, so some of the egregious OCR issues sometimes found in Gutenburg books have been fixed. If you use the site a lot, consider supporting them with a donation.
Project Gutenburg. Entirely public domain titles, in several languages. Most are available for download as ePub or Kindle. Some have been cleaned up after scanning; some have not.
FINAL NOTE: Please do NOT go to sites that claim to offer books by well-known, traditionally-published authors for free. Even if they say that the authors agreed to their books being there, that’s not always the case. Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant has had to go after several sites like that, which claimed she had authorized the free distribution when in fact she hadn’t. Those sites are pirate sites. The only exception I know of is Baen Books (see above), a well-known publisher who has worked with its authors to offer some of their titles free.
Lory @ Emerald City Book Review
The publisher Open Road Media has a daily newsletter that includes deals — they are putting many older titles into ebook form and have great authors on their list, like Dorothy Sayers, Robin McKinley, Peter Dickinson, Pearl S. Buck and many more. There is a free classic with each newsletter; other books are usually $1.99-$2.99. You can sign up here: http://www.earlybirdbooks.com/
The site girlebooks.com has free, cleaned-up versions of public domain ebooks by women authors. Too bad it’s not being added to any more, but there are some good ones (that’s where I discovered Elizabeth von Arnim, for example).
Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…ECBR has moved…
Thank you – those are both helpful emails! Actually, I just signed up with Open Road for Early Bird books; they sent me an email suggesting it. I’ve already picked up two or three classic freebies from them, figuring that they are probably less error-prone than the same titles at Gutenberg or even Manybooks. And I’ll definitely checkout girlebooks.com.
Bea @Bea's Book Nook
EreaderIQ is new to me, I’ll have to check them out. Like you, I went crazy at first, downloading freebies. There are many I haven’t read yet and probably never will. I find Riffle to be pretty useless but HC’s Bookperks are often good. I’ve gotten a few books from Baen, a friend told me about them.
Good post, useful. 🙂
Bea @Bea’s Book Nook recently posted…The Friday 56: Manhattan Mayhem, by Mary Higgins Clark, et al
I’m glad this post was helpful to you! It’s true, I rarely spot anything on Riffle that I didn’t see elsewhere, but every now and then I do. You have to keep checking Baen every few months because things get added to and dropped from the list; several books I had gotten a few years ago for ePub are no longer available free (darn it! I wanted two of them for my Kindle.)
My book club recently found out about OpenBooks.com (http://openbooks.com/) and it has changed the way we choose (and download books). It is a website with a HUGE selection of books and you pay what you want for the book you download. The idea behind it is that you pay what you think the book is worth. Not only that but once you download the book you can easily share it with your book club for free. There are no restrictions on making copies and you don’t have to fill out tons of forms or anything… your ebook is literally a click away. When it’s time for us to pick a new book we go to the site (pick a genre) and then search there. I think every book club needs to take advantage of this amazing new way to download and share books 🙂
Thanks for the suggestion. I took a look; the site may be worth checking into if you read a lot of self-published books, but I want to be clear that readers won’t find books from major publishers there.