How to read books for free (which aren’t detrimental to the author)

Despite the likes of Amazon, Waterstones and big supermarket chains demanding massive discounts on bestselling, frontlist titles (which might be good from a reader’s point of view but not that of the author) the cost of living crisis means many of us cannot buy the books we would want to. Believe me, I would have an entire library worth of books if I had the disposable income (and space).

I bought three books in 2022. I read thirty-six. Eight were from my TBR pile. One was a gift. Two were Advanced Reader Copies and the remaining twenty-five came from the library.

I know buying no new books will not help authors out there. So how can we help them even if we can’t afford to buy books?


Public Lending Rights mean authors, illustrators, editors, translators and audiobook narrators receive remuneration each time their work is out on loan. However, between 2010 and 2019 we have lost 800 libraries, equating to 17%.

If you have access to a library nearby, I urge you to visit it. Some even have entertaining social media feeds, as seen here by Orkney Library.

If your local library has disappeared because of cuts, then check if your county has a digital counterpart. My local library uses BorrowBox. Just enter your library membership details and gain access to digital books, audiobooks and magazines. The only downside is it works like a physical library. If the digital copy is out, you reserve it like it is a physical book. But I find it a pleasant surprise when an email pops into my inbox to notify me a book I reserved is ready to download.

Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)

Advance Reader Copies come with the bonus you get to read a book before it’s officially published. In return, you give an honest review. NetGalley is the site I use. Some books are automatically approved while others require you to register your interest, and the publisher will notify you if you’re successful or not. Ebooks are sent either to their app or your Kindle account to read.

Reviews help the author, so leaving reviews on NetGalley and other review sites like GoodReads will hopefully prompt other readers to buy their work.

Authors will sometimes offer ARC copies via their social media platforms.

Become a Beta Reader

As a beta reader, you will receive an unpublished novel from a writer and, in return, you give constructive criticism to help them improve their work. Books are immersive experiences. If something jolts me out of the story, that is a good indication that something is off. It might be a character acting out of character, a continuity error, or a word choice that doesn’t fit the setting. You may even help because you have knowledge or experience. For example, the main character is in the same profession as you or lives in the same place. Or you can work as a sensitivity reader to ensure the author is portraying marginalised identities in a respectful and accurate manner.

The fun with beta reading is you are helping a writer improve their work. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read through my manuscripts only to have beta readers pick up on things I didn’t even notice. They’re wonderful people and a great help to my work. If you’re thinking of dipping into beta reading, check out my earlier blog on how to become a better beta reader.

There are a number of resources to find free books without resorting to illegal downloads. Help the author in whatever way you can. Even if someone gifted you a book or you found one in a charity shop, the least you can do is leave a review for someone else to find and (hopefully) decide to buy it and read it too.

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