If you are anything like me, you just can't get enough of reading. Whatever your favourite genre may be, whether it's coffee-shop romance or spine-tingling horror, epic fantasy or action-packed dystopian YA, your Kindle library or your bedroom bookshelves are most likely full to the brim.
However, with the rising cost of inflation, perhaps you haven't been able to buy the book that's been sat on your to-read shelf on Goodreads the longest. Especially as paperback books can cost just as much now as some hardback books at big-name retailers such as Waterstones. Or perhaps you are just hungry for the next big title, and want to dive on the chance to read it before it's released.
So, whatever your reason to want to read books for free (or for cheap), please read on to learn about five ways you can do so.
1. Become a beta reader
This first tip on how to read books for free is aligned more for those who want to read books before they're even released.
What exactly is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone who reads a book manuscript to give feedback to the author. They do not edit or provide grammar critiques, but instead help the author by pointing out plot holes and continuity errors, amongst other problems the manuscript may have. If you wish to become a beta reader, you should be familiar with the genre of the manuscripts you're wanting to read - there's no point becoming a beta reader for a non-fiction cookbook if all you have ever read is paranormal romance, which goes without saying.
How do I become a beta reader?
Authors often reach out to writing communities and forums in order to find beta readers to read their manuscripts. The website Scribophile.com is one such community, and is free to use at its basic membership level. Writing groups are another great way to become a beta reader in order to read books for free - along with the highlight of making connections with people who share your same interest in books!
If you're able to get in contact with your favourite authors, whether that's via email, a Facebook page, or a contact form on their website, you should reach out to see if they're looking for any beta readers. Who knows, you may be able to read one of the first drafts of what could be your new favourite book!
2. Find your local library
This one may seem obvious, but with a lot of books being bought digitally via Kindle or as an audiobook via Audible, many people have forgotten about their local libraries. I remember when I first started using my Kindle, I really missed the weight of a real book in my hands. So, if digital books just aren't for you, perhaps take a walk around your local area to find the nearest library.
Most libraries have new books in their catalogue systems a while before they are on the shelves at the bookstores, if new releases are what you are wanting to read. If a debut novel or an independent press book aren't at the library on release day, it is highly likely the librarian will be happy to put in the request to have it in the system.
This way of reading books for free may need some patience, if the exact book you are wanting has already been taken out or hasn't arrived yet, but there are plenty more books to have a peruse through whilst you wait.
3. Become a Bookstagrammer or Booktoker
If you are unsure what a Bookstagrammer or a Booktoker is, these articles go more in depth about the terms. But, essentially, a Bookstagrammer is someone who posts reviews about books on Instagram, whilst a Booktoker posts reviews on TikTok.
How do I become a Bookstagrammer or Booktoker?
Bookstagrammers and Booktokers receive free books in exchange for honest reviews. Of course, to reach this point of receiving free books for your opinion - and who wouldn't want that? - you have to already have curated a following. This can be hard, but the best way to start a successful Bookstagram or Booktok is to post reviews on your chosen social media platform of the books you've already read. If you consistently interact with the same publisher or author, particularly if they're an independent press, it is possible they could reach out to you to offer a manuscript in exchange for a review. Twitter is also a good place to keep an eye on editors and publishers; they regularly post call-outs for reviewers for certain genres or specific books.
If you're already a social media influencer and would like to read the books here at SmashBear in exchange for writing a review, have a look at the articles linked above and then fill out this form if you're interested.
4. Review Advanced Reader Copies
What is an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)?
An advanced reader copy is usually a paperback copy of a book that isn't complete. It most likely lacks a final cover design or the final proofread. It is also known as a galley.
How do I get my hands on advanced reader copies?
These copies are usually sent to reviewers who already have a relationship with the publisher, such as magazines. However, if you're starting out your journey of reading ARCs, a great way to become one of those who receive ARCs is by joining NetGalley. Once again, it helps to already have reviews of books on your own blog or social media, as you have to prove why you would like a copy of the book before access is granted. NetGalley tracks how many books you have downloaded and how many you have reviewed, so if you consistently post reviews on the website and your own platform, it is much more likely you will be accepted to review the next upcoming novel.
5. Visit charity shops
The last method of finding books to read for free - or for cheap - is buying them from charity shops. These shops are great for finding hidden gems you otherwise wouldn't have noticed in a chain bookstore. Sure, they may not have the latest releases, but you can find great books for only pennies or a couple of pounds. As well as this you're also donating to a great cause. It's a win-win situation for everyone!
So, to sum up, these five methods of reading books for (almost) free may take some time and patience, but they are almost guaranteed to get you free books or manuscripts. If you have any ideas not mentioned in this blog post about reading books for free or for cheap, don't hesitate to drop them down below in the comments. And if you do decide to start reviewing books, no matter what platform, and would like to review SmashBear's new releases, feel free to contact us!