The E-Book Money Pit

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love my Kindle.  It has been almost a year since I received it as a gift from my father-in-law, and I can’t imagine life without it anymore.  Books, books, books, all at the touch of a button!  First I furiously read through all the Hunger Games books, then the George R.R. Martin series.  On and on, with little regard for the cost.  Amazon just sends me the book, and later I see a charge on my bank statement.

This summer, though, we’ve had to tighten our belts.  I couldn’t justify spending more money on e-books, but I still wanted to get some new material to read.  My library card and account weren’t working online (and I just haven’t found time to fix the problem, whatever it is), so that wasn’t an option.  So I set out to find some other ways to borrow e-books.

BookLending.com

I found a number of sites dedicated to e-book loaning.  I discovered that for many books, the publishers will allow you to loan your e-book to someone else, though each book can only be loaned once.  This website facilitates that process by giving you a loan-for-loan trade.  I loan three books, I can borrow three books.  Which is exactly what I did.  I loaned out all three Hunger Games books, which are in high demand right now.  In return, I requested some books for myself to borrow.  Nothing I really specifically wanted to read was available (a lot of authors and/or publishers are not yet allowing their works to be loaned), but by searching genres, judging titles, and reading Amazon reviews, I was able to find a few books that sounded interesting.  All I had to do now was wait for someone to loan them.

It didn’t take long before I had my first email – So-and-so has loaned you an e-book!  Just follow the link to amazon, and download the book to your device.  The loan won’t start until you download the book, and you have a week to accept the loan.  Once you download the book, you only have it for 2 weeks.  This, in my experience, is the biggest downside to this arrangement.  I have yet to finish a loaned book in this small amount of time.  The first book I borrowed admittedly took some time to hook me – I had some trouble with the author’s style at first, and did not read as much as I might have in the time available.  My second loaned book started off better, but even reading my allotted 30-60 minutes a night, I couldn’t finish it.  I haven’t yet borrowed my third book (and several loan offers have expired) because I moved on to my free-e-book-solution number two.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is not just about free shipping anymore.  A membership now includes unlimited video streaming (with lots of great shows to watch) and e-book borrowing priveleges.  This isn’t exactly free – the membership is $79.00/year – but the benefits are pretty nice, and that price is worth it for me to read free e-books and watch lots of old TV series (like Lost and Dr. Who) that aren’t available to me otherwise.  Even Netflix couldn’t beat this price.

Again, the titles that can be borrowed are limited (and again, several books I want to read are not available for loan), but at least the time is not an issue.  There is no time limit on the loan.  You can only borrow one book at a time, and can’t borrow another book until you return the first one.  You also can’t borrow more than one book a month.  I borrowed my first book in July (just to make sure I got one for that month), and I just finished it.  All I had to do was go to my Amazon kindle page and return it.  Piece of cake!  The only problem now is to decide what to borrow next.

Other choices

There are other e-book lending sites out there that work the same way as BookLending.com: Ebookfling.com and Lendle are probably the most established.  Interestingly, though, there is a recent news story about an authors’ guild taking down a lending site!  Personally, I think that authors should be more supportive of this trend – I’m already considering purchasing the books I borrowed, since I didn’t get to finish them.  If I like something, I usually like to read it again, so even completed books may make it onto my to-buy list.  Getting people reading in any way can only be good!

There is still the library.  I have to fix my card, but it looks like some of the titles I want to read are available (or will be, eventually).  Other titles aren’t there, so this still won’t be a perfect answer.  Plus, you only get to keep the book for 21 days.  It’s hard to say of 3 weeks would be enough, but it’s better than two!

Finally, keep an eye out for great deals!  Amazon often has e-books on sale for as low as $0.99, and they frequently feature monthly deals.  If you pay attention, you can find e-books for a great price!  I recently picked up an autobiography of Ghandi for $0.99!  Other friends have told me that they have found excellent books this way, so if you’re willing to take a chance, these deals could be for you.

Next week – reviews of all these new books!

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