When was the last time you downloaded a PDF of a book you wanted for free? When was the last time you torrented an epub version of a book? And when was the last time you walked out of a store with a book you didn’t pay for?
Wait, what?! I would never steal a book from a bookstore! Yet once in a while the very same person with that response has no qualms about pirating digital books. Why pay for something I can get for free? they ask.
Just because digitised books are easy to come by without needing to spend a cent, doesn’t make it right. Books are the product of intensive labour and rightfully belong to their authors (or publishers, depending on the licensing agreements etc). Either way, whoever distributes them for illegal downloads doesn’t have these rights and neither do those who download them.
Some might argue that the reason they download ebooks illegally is because they’re otherwise not available to them. Tough luck. There are four books on my TBR list that I want to read but can’t find anywhere to purchase or to borrow. That doesn’t give me an excuse to go the illegal route. I’ll have to keep looking until I find them through means that support their authors. If I’m really desperate, I might email those authors one day and ask them how I can get hold of their books.
Bottom line is, the format of a book does not matter when it comes to stealing. Piracy is stealing too and there are no ifs and buts about it. If you’re reading this and didn’t realise it before, downloading ebooks via torrents and the likes is illegal and is the same as stealing, no matter the motivation behind these acts.
Instead of turning my post into a full-on lecture though, I’ve decided to list ways to obtain books and ebooks legally. Some of these sources are not available in all countries but I’m sure at least a few of these suggestions should be available to most.
- Bookstores – Buying books from bookstores is the most obvious way to obtain books. No elaboration needed.
- Second-hand bookstores – Preloved books come at reduced prices in these stores, so if your wallet’s thinner than you’d like it to be, consider buying books second-hand.
- Online bookstores – Same concept as with physical bookstores, except if time is an issue for you, then ordering online saves you the time on travelling to a bookstore. The books you order will be delivered directly to your home.
- Public libraries – Also another obvious place; borrow books to take home or read on site. Some libraries provide free memberships to citizens or local residents. Others require a minimal fee. If your library requires a fee that you can’t afford, you can still access the books within the library for free, so long as you read within the compound. That’s as free as books can be for readers.
- Overdrive – Many libraries have a subscription to Overdrive, through which they’re able to offer ebooks to their members for loan. Check with your local library if they have an Overdrive subscription. If not, you can look for states or cities in your country that do, then ask if they allow non-residents to sign up for a library membership because access to Overdrive is usually tied to one.
- School/ university libraries – If you’re a student who can’t afford to buy books or a library membership with your public library, check out your school or university library. Even if it’s not stocked with the latest releases, there are bound to be some great books that interest you. Otherwise, talk to your librarian. If there are funds, there’s a possibility you can request that particular titles be added to the catalogue.
- Project Gutenberg – More than 45,000 ebooks are available through them for free public consumption. These books are out of copyright, and so are available for free to anyone to read. It’s perfect if you want to read classics.
- Digital libraries – Sites like Scribd and Oyster allow subscribers to read as many books as they want from their catalogues. Sort of like Hulu or Netflix for books.
- Google Books – Books that are out of copyright can be read in their entirety, while books that still are subject to copyright are available in excerpts if their publishers allow it. Purchase links are provided as well.
- Wattpad – This is a great resource for free stories/ books that writers upload themselves for others to read. Both indie authors and authors under publishing houses occasionally upload books as well. Sometimes they upload excerpts, and sometimes they offer full-length works. If you’re into reading fan-fiction, Wattpad also is a wonderful resource.
- Deals and coupons – If you simply want to save money on buying books, look out for deals and coupons. Amazon offers daily deals as well as monthly deals. There also is Kobo for which coupons can often be found online. Once in a while Kobo also sends coupons via email to Kobo account holders.
While the list I have provided is by no means exhaustive, it does cover a lot of bases. Talking to my own friends, I’ve learnt that many of them aren’t aware of half these means to obtain books. One friend was incredulous when I told her about Overdrive. She couldn’t believe that ebooks are also available for loan, so it was quite the discovery for her. This is why I believe it’s important to tell people about ways they can legally obtain books, so as to eradicate the problem of piracy.
Where do you obtain books to read? Are there any other resources that I missed through which books are legally available, especially at reduced costs or even for free?