Updated July 21, 2021
Cheap books and affordable books in general can be hard to come by these days. If you’re looking for free books, or even free ebooks, you can forget about it. If you’re a Canadian and also really into books, then you’re probably in a rough spot. You have access to so many books and there are so many places where you can buy said books. But, if you’re not super wealthy then something is probably stopping you short. Is it lack of time? No.
It’s the cost of books.
Let me just say it again. The COST. OF. BOOKS. To buy a hardcover novel in Canada versus the US means that Canadians pay a ridiculous markup. This is true for any books that we want to buy. “But wait!” you may be ready to interrupt. “The conversion rate between the US dollar and the Canadian dollar can’t count as a mark up.”
Thank you so much for paying attention!
Books Have a High Mark Up in Canada
I think the best way to illustrate that is through the Amazon page for a book I read recently. Have you read The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles? First, go read it. It’s fantastic. Secondly, let’s look at the differences between the two countries.
If you’d like to buy a novel from the United States paying in USD, your Amazon page will look like this:
If you’d like to buy a novel from Canada paying in CAD, your Amazon page will look like this:
“But you you looked at other retailers to compare pri–” Yes. All the time. Don’t start with me.
“Well, the Canadian dollar is weaker.” Not that much weaker. I should be paying more, it’s true, but around $20 rather than close to $30.
Keep in mind that this example doesn’t include any taxes that you might be paying. I live in Ontario, so you can add on the HST at 13%. Buying books that aren’t on sale or discounted in some way can be a nightmare for those of us in Canada.
How Can I Get Free Books in Canada?
So if you were like me and looking for solutions, here are 7 ways to get ebooks for free.
If you’re into Ebooks, it’s so much easier to get books that are cheap. I mean, not if you’re just buying for kindle because sometimes those books can be almost as much as the print versions. But still, there are websites all over the place where you can get free ebooks. I’m not saying go to the shady ones where you’re going to get malware on your computer. These are legit websites, run by reputable companies and publishers.
1) First to Read Created and hosted by Penguin Books, First to Read will give you free ebooks for reviews. You have to jump through a few hoops to get the books to work (Adobe Digital Editions is a must), but you’ll be able to get novels before they come out and read some of the hottest new books. Create a profile on the site and Penguin will have book offerings. They’ll put up a bunch of novels that you can bid for. You are able to guarantee copies of books using your points (which are earned for free on the site), but can also just enter your name in a draw and hope to be picked.
Unfortunately, First To Read shut down and no longer offers free books.
2) Tor Book Club
If you’re into Science Fiction and Fantasy novels then this is the club for you. Every month or so, Tor will release an epub of one of their books. You need to give them your email and they’ll send you a link to download the book, no strings attached. The only downside really is that the window to enter is often less than a week, so don’t use a throwaway email or you’ll miss it.
Focused on Young Adult Literature, Riveted is the place to be if you’re living that YA life. Along with interesting articles, Riveted offers free ebooks so that you can get your YA fix. The books are only available on their site unfortunately.
So Overdrive only works if you’ve got a library card. If your library is signed up, you can go into Overdrive and have access to tens of thousands of ebooks/audio books for free. Place holds, create lists, and borrow books for 21 days.
5) Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a massive library that can be difficult to navigate. If you’re looking for an older book, especially one which may be out of print or a classic, then check out Project Gutenberg. Their volunteers have lovingly transcribed thousands of books which are no longer protected by copyright. On their site you’ll be able to find ebooks in various formats. Just know that sometimes the formatting can be a little dodgy.
If you’re a book blogger or book reviewer, then you should be on NetGalley. You can request Advanced Reader Copies of books directly from the publisher on NetGalley and then submit your review to them. Be aware that you should maintain a good ratio of approved versus unapproved books. Publishers may also deny your request if you’re not big enough, so gathering an audience is a must.
7) Book Tours
Book reviewers and bloggers can sign up for things called Book Tours where they are given advanced reading copies and expected to host a review on their blog at some point. There are many companies that do this, but the two I’ve looked at before are TLC Book Tours and Xpresso Book Tours. Be aware that you’ll be required to post at a specific time if you sign up for a tour. Most of the books I’ve seen on these sites are indie romance, so give them a look.
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