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How to get cheap books online

I sat bolt upright in bed recently with a terrible thought: Even if I live to be 100, I’ll never have enough time to read all the books on my (ever growing) list.

So, I’ve become ruthless in my reading habits. In years past, I wouldn’t have dreamt of giving up on a book halfway through. But now, if it’s not doing it for me: sayonara.

Not only do I have shelves upon shelves of books waiting for me, I’ve got literally thousands of digital tomes at my fingertips on my Kindle and Nook begging for attention.

It’s much easier to chuck a book you haven’t paid much (or anything) for. Otherwise, you’re stuck reading out of pure waste-avoidance guilt.

Here are some ways to get your hands on books for free or cheap, so you can read with abandon.

• Kindle app. You don’t need a Kindle device to read the more than 2 million books digitally available from Amazon. The Kindle app, which is free, can be downloaded to your smartphone, iPad, Mac or personal computer. Once you buy a book, you can access it from anywhere the app is installed. Even if you skip from device to device, you’ll never lose your page because the app automatically synchs to the furthest place you’ve read.

• Free Kindle books. Go to, search “free Kindle books” and you’ll get tens of thousands of results. If sifting through them is overwhelming, scroll down the left side of the page to refine your results according to genre, author, release date, average customer review or reader age. You can even choose by “book fiction moods” (action-packed, humorous, racy) or “book mystery characters” (female protagonists, British detectives).

If the book you’re looking for is a classic or in the public domain, you’re almost certain to find it free. Oh, and if you own a kindle and have a Prime membership, there are more than 350,000 titles you can borrow from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

• The public library. Of course! You can reserve and renew books online, have books transferred from one library branch to another and borrow digital books and audiobooks to read on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, smartphone or computer.

• Scribd. This digital subscription service gives unlimited access to more than 500,000 e-books that can be read on any digital device using the Scribd app. Subscriptions are $8.99 per month. At that price, you can toss a book after one page!

• Oyster. Another digital subscription service, Oyster gives unlimited access to half a million titles for $9.95 per month. It has books from powerhouse publishers HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, as well as books from smaller publishing companies such as McSweeney’s and Rodale Books.

• Kindle Unlimited. The latest subscription service, Kindle Unlimited offers more than 600,000 ebooks and audiobooks for $9.99 per month. But so far, it doesn’t have books from some of the biggest publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House.

Scribd, Oyster and Kindle Unlimited each offer a one-month trial. Spend the fall trying them all out, and reading for free.

Got money-saving tips or questions? E-mail me,, follow me on Twitter, @DiscountDivaSam or “like” me on Facebook,