How to Get Your Reading Fix During the Covid Crazy and Other Lean Times

There are a lot of health care and essential workers out there in the world right now who—let’s be blunt—are risking their lives and saving our asses on a daily basis. As for those quarantined at home, some are making sourdough bread and TikTok videos, while others—let’s be equally blunt—are just curled in a ball trying their very best not to lose their shit.

[Potty-mouth done for those who are sensitive right now; and if you are, you might want to hold off on reading my books. 😉]

Whichever camp you’re in, when the world is crazy many of us turn to books for both escape and grounding, the reassurance of the familiar. But what if you didn’t hoard an apocalypse worth of books before the library closed, and you’re feeling the financial pinch? Here are a few tips to help you get your reading fix.

Let’s start with the most difficult group to accommodate: Print Readers.

If your physical library is closed (mine is open for request pickups, so double-check, there are still lots of free book giveaways out there. For example, the International Thriller Writers organization hosts a Big Thrill Book Giveaway of signed thrillers every month or so. Goodreads does both Print and Kindle Giveaways, and you can browse by genre. (Amazon owns Goodreads, so digital books are specifically Kindle format. Non-Kindle folks, see my final tip below for a workaround.)

They may not have the same name recognition, but LibraryThing is another great reader’s website that has Early Reviewer and Member Giveaway programs. And a quick glance through their numbers (copies on offer and entries) suggests your chances of winning may be better there, especially as a non-American reader. Not that it’s an either/or proposition—we loves all the book sites, precious!

Another possibility for print readers is Advance Reader Copies (ARCs). These are books publishers send out ahead of release to generate buzz and get reviews for new books. Here’s a comprehensive guide from a book blogger on How to Get ARCs that includes a broad range of reading options, including straight-up Giveaways (with no expectation of posting a review).

If you’re a print reader and still have some money to spend on books, please consider Indie Bookstores instead of the easy Amazon one-click.

Whatever your feelings about the massive retailer, it is slammed right now trying to process and ship things that are (gasp!) arguably more essential than books. And indie bookstores could use the love.

Even with their doors closed, many indies are still shipping books, including mystery grab bags from your preferred genre. Check out your favorite bookstore’s options on their website/social media, or go old school and give them a call. (Speak to a human being outside these four walls?? Crazy talk.) Don’t have a local indie bookstore? Let’s face it, at this point, anyone who ships is local.

Check out this map of Independent Bookstores around the world, with contact information. It’s constantly being updated.

If your indie bookstore doesn’t have a meaningful web presence, or if they lack the staff right now to fulfill shipped orders, you can also order print books through Bookshop, a new bookselling platform that has partnered with IndieBound to support independent bookstores.

If you’ve gone digital, wholly or in part (I’m a mix-n-match person myself), you have much more reading flexibility.

And from here on out, when I say “read,” that includes reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks, aka hands-free reading. 😉

First of all, your library may still be an option—many libraries are still lending ebooks and digital audiobooks, even while their physical locations are closed.

Check your local library system online. Our own Hawaii State Public Library uses Overdrive, and we can currently check out ebooks and audiobooks or place a hold if they’re not available. We can even suggest additional titles for the library to purchase.

Why would libraries want to purchase books now? Some publishers and distributors are doing special promotions to help libraries and readers in these challenging times. I’m currently participating in one that allows libraries that use Hoopla to borrow my Prodigal audiobook for free. Another allows Overdrive customers to borrow any of my ebooks at a reduced rate.

This seems a good time for a quick digression on how libraries work. Let me reassure you that your favorite authors are compensated when libraries purchase their books. How much they’re compensated depends on a lot of factors. For example, when it comes to digital books, a library may pay a small fee for a one-time checkout, or they may buy the book outright. But you are not stealing books when you borrow from libraries. 😊

If you’re one of those poor souls whose library doesn’t have an online presence, you might want to try a book subscription service.

The best known is probably Kindle Unlimited, which has a 30 day free trial. Note: KU is a great choice for many voracious readers, but it doesn’t include all Amazon books. My books aren’t in KU because to offer them there, I’d have to remove them from every retailer except Amazon. Feels a little too Blue Sun to me. (Shout out to the Firefly fans.)

My books are available on some of the other subscription services, including 24 Symbols and Bookmate, as well as Scribd, which offers ebooks and audiobooks and (as I’m writing this) has a 30 day free trial.

Other audiobook subscription services offer special trials as well. Kobo gives you a free audiobook (anything in their catalog) to start. Audible is currently offering a 3-month discount, plus two free audiobooks if you’re already a Prime member. Read carefully—they used to have a better deal, and the current one does not seem particularly intuitive to me. In fact, says the recovering attorney, reading carefully is always a good idea. 😉

If subscription services aren’t your jam (the “credits” model with some audiobooks can be downright byzantine), there are plenty of free and reduced price digital books available.

How do you find out about these deals? There are so many book deal newsletters, it would take another full blog post and a whole lot of time to share just a sample. To get you started, the ARC article referenced above lists a few, as does this Bustle article. The way these free newsletters work is you simply provide your email address to get regular freebies and/or bargains in your Inbox.

There are even newsletters specifically geared for audiobooks. I’ve previously touted Chirp to my own email list. Chirpbooks is a free app with a daily newsletter full of deals by genre. (If it reminds you of the BookBub ebook newsletter, that’s because it was created by the same people.) With Chirp, you can stream your purchased books through the app or download them to your device and listen offline.

Audio Thicket has yet another model. Their free, semi-weekly newsletter includes audiobook deals (sometimes even free audiobooks) that appear only on specific retailers. Which brings me to my final tip that might blow your mind a little…

Most people read on a particular platform and that platform alone, say Audible or GooglePlay, Amazon or Nook, etc. If you want bargains—and flexibility—be platform/retailer agnostic.

In other words, don’t just belong to one book team: play the field.

(Should I have said one book cult? No… Be book promiscuous? I definitely lost that metaphor, but these are the sleep-deprived days we live in.)

There are always retailer-specific book deals. For example, my Prodigal audiobook is currently regular price at Audible, but you can grab it for just $2.99 on Apple, GooglePlay, and eStories. (Seriously, it’s almost ten hours of listening, and my narrator Alex Knox is amazing. Just saying.)

If you read on your phone or tablet, you can take advantage of any deals anywhere. Simply install the retailer apps on your devices and you’re ready to go.

I have to admit, I’m still waiting for a universal e-ink reader. I use a Kobo e-reader, and any books not available there that I’m truly desperate to read will be consumed in the Kindle app on my iPad. Of course, if I read on the tablet for too long, the shiny screen makes my migraine brain angry. And in true Bruce Banner fashion, You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. At least so long as we’re isolating, no innocent bystanders will suffer—only my wardrobe.

I hope this has been helpful. If I missed anything (and I’m sure I did), feel free to hit me up in the Contact form at the bottom.

Now I’m going to see if I can focus my scattered brain by standing on my head for a bit using my padded toilet seat. (It’s not really a toilet seat, but I can tell by his sideways glances that my dog Fred thinks it is. Silly humans.)

Stay safe, do whatever you need to stay sane, and keep reading!


[Note: in case you missed the disclaimer at the bottom, some of these links are affiliate links (depending on my patience and internet quality while posting). That means I get a little something to help offset my internet hosting, at no additional cost to you.]