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Reading for Free: How to Find Good No-Cost E-Books

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We like e-books and we like free, so free e-books are just perfect for us. But finding them can be time consuming. And finding good ones - that can seem to be a crapshoot. We've got a few suggestions for finding good e-books at no cost without spending hours and hours on the hunt.

A couple of notes - we're limiting this discussion to Kindle e-books. Yes, we know it's not the only e-reader out there, but it's far and away the most popular format. And we're only looking at e-books readers can "buy." There are lots of options for borrowing e-books, but for our purposes, we're only interested in books readers can own.

Finding Free E-books

Sign up for a e-book newsletter. We like the one from bookgorilla.com. Readers sign up, indicating the categories they most enjoy. Every day, a list of free and discounted e-books are sent to subscribers via e-mail.

Follow your favorite authors online. Authors often announce news about price discounts and upcoming book giveaways to their Facebook/Twitter/blog followers first.

Check free e-book websites. Amazon.com is the logical place to start, since newsletters and websites will refer you back there in order to purchase any e-book you choose. But Amazon has hundreds of way to search, so to narrow it down and start with the current best sellers and Kindle Limited Offers. (Note: not all Limited Offer titles are free; some are at a deep discount.)

A recent check of those two lists turned up a slew of mysteries and erotica, new, full-length romance novels from a well-known publisher, cookbooks, titles for kids and self-help books.

We also check out the Kindle Nation Daily website; it lists "free just for today" titles.

Selecting a Title

Read the reviews. Most reviewers are fans providing their honest opinion of a title, those reviews can be very helpful. Keep in mind that some reviewers are "promoters" with some reason to sound more positive than the title deserves; others are "saboteurs."

Look for an interactive contents page. An interactive contents page says readers from having to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the right chapter or scene. This feature is especially helpful in anthologies or short story collections.

Don't rely on rankings alone. Fewer than 100 downloads a week can push a title to the top of some lists. (Check the number of downloads if possible.)

Check the Look Inside option. Take the time to read sample chapter. Chances are you'll know if you want to see more after just a page or two. Self-published authors often work alone in producing their book - with no editor and no proofreader, which can translate into editing errors and typos. A typo here and there might be acceptable, but changes in tenses, inconsistencies in spellings, incorrect facts and other more glaring errors can significantly impede a reader's ability to enjoy the book.

Public domain books have different problems. There are probably dozens of versions of Pride and Prejudice online. What makes one better than the other? Formatting. Some books have have tiny fonts, blurry reproduction, crooked pages - or worse, missing pages!

Before You Buy

Disable your Buy with One Click option. It's too easy to get click happy and accidentally buy a book. True, there's the Cancel your Order option and Amazon customer service usually makes canceling an order/charge painless, but why go through the extra bother?

Make sure the price is $0.00. There are also "Read for Free" or "Free for Members" titles. Check the listed price before you buy and again on the sales receipt you receive by e-mail.

After You Find a Good Book

Found a good e-book for free? Tell someone. Write a review online. There's nothing like a word-of-mouth recommendation. Even though we search for titles and have signed up for a handful of different newsletters, the most reliable recommendation comes from other readers.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

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