Tag Archives: choosing books

An experiment in free reading

I read a lot of YA fiction and review a lot, too, on the Paisley Piranha blog. Recently, I signed up as a blog tour host/reviewer with YA Bound Book Tours. As a result, I’ve been reading a lot of review books (and discovering lots of new, fabulous authors). I joined YA Bound deliberately to widen my exposure to different books/authors and also to widen my reading community since reading tends to be rather a solitary activity. A result I didn’t expect is that my bank balance has been unexpectedly buoyant the past couple of months. I didn’t realise how much I spent on books until I wasn’t spending it.

A lifetime of free books?

I often hear as a cry of joy for readers the argument that you could fill your Kindle/Kobo/Nook entirely with free books, read for the rest of your life and never spend another penny on books.

I’ve decided to test this supposition.

The rest of my life is way too large a commitment, but for the rest of the year I’m going to see if it’s possible to have a satisfactory reading experience only reading free books. For clarity, my reading matter can be:

1. Books I’ve got for free to review.

2. Books I’ve chosen which are either permafree or on a time-limited free deal.

3. Books borrowed from the library.

4. Books lent to me by friends.

5. Books given to me (since my birthday isn’t until the end of November I don’t forsee this resulting in many books during the course of this experiment :-().

But aren’t books worth paying for?

However, as both a writer and a reader the concept of “free books” makes me deeply uneasy. If a book is worth reading, it’s worth paying for, in my opinion. To ease my conscience, I’m going to allow some exceptions:

1. If I’ve read a book for free and really enjoyed it, I can buy another book by that author in order to support them and, hopefully, help them keep on writing.

2. When a writer friend releases a book I can buy a copy to support them and help their book launch (and because a lot of my writer friends are on my must-buy list and I can’t bear to wait six months for their book).

3. I can buy books for other people. Since that’s just as much as pleasure as buying for myself, that should help with any withdrawal symptoms.

And that’s about it. I’ll blog at least fortnightly to let you know how I’m getting on and whether I can stick to my rules and still enjoy reading.

If you’ve tried reading only free books for any length of time – or did so by chance – do let me know how you got on in the comments.


I love paper books, as my overflowing bookshelves will attest. But I also have two eReaders (for Kindle and Kobo) and the feature I love best is their ability to let me read a preview before deciding to buy a book.

It’s the equivalent of scanning the first page or two in the bookshop, but with the benefit of offering the choice of Kindle and Kobo’s enormous libraries – both vastly larger than the stock of most bookshops.

I bought a book last week without first reading the preview and very quickly regretted it – after about three pages all I’d got was some semi-naked men (it was a paranormal, and we all know how little werewolves like wearing shirts!) standing around and posturing. I could have saved myself the bother if I’d just started with the preview instead of rushing into an unwary purchase.

The only thing I don’t like about previews is that they appear to grant a licence to the provider to nag me afterwards. If I read a preview and like it, I’ll buy the book, don’t worry about that (occasionally, to be fair, I’ve read an eReader preview and then bought the paperback, which I suppose Kindle and Kobo could be aggrieved about, like Waterstones objecting to providing a browsing experience for shoppers who then buy online), but if I’ve decided I don’t want the book after all, the last thing I want is e-mails reminding me that I can buy it with “just one click.” To go back to the bookshop comparisons, this would be like a bookshop employee picking out the book I’ve just slotted back onto its shelf and wandering around the store at my heels asking, Am I sure I wouldn’t like to buy it? Really? But I liked it enough to pick it up, didn’t I?

What would be really useful is to send me a mail saying, “It seems this wasn’t quite what you were looking for, but if you’re interested in this genre/style, why not try X, Y or Z?”

I guess this happens to a degree in the marketing mails I get, so maybe it’s just a change of emphasis – rather than, “Readers who liked this also liked…” maybe they should try, “Readers who put this one back chose to buy X, Y and Z instead.”

Inspired marketing, or lunatic idea – any opinions?