Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
As a librarian (although I’m not working in a library right now), I love showing people new online resources and databases! These are some of my favorite bookish resources, and hopefully you’ll be able to find some that work for you.
I haven’t tried Storygraph or the other bookish social media sites besides Goodreads yet, as I enjoy Goodreads and what it offers (although it definitely has its downsides), so I’m not going to mention those. Also, there are a bunch of bloggers out there who have already shared lots of websites to find and get free books—quite a few of those websites are legit, too!
Online Library Resources
The online catalogue for ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, movies and more! I love OverDrive because it’s super easy to use, I can get books quickly without going to the library, and because audiobooks are fucking wildly expensive and the library is free (freeish but whatever).
Thanks to moving around a bunch, I am a member of six OverDrive libraries, one of which (Southern Virginia Libraries United Electronically) does not require you to be a resident of their counties in order to get an online card (score!). At least, they didn’t at the time of my registration last year, and I don’t think that’s changed.
Another online catalogue of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, movies and television shows—and comics!! I love it because it has a some really obscure titles and a great selection of comics, plus its collection isn’t limited to whatever that particular library has purchased. There is a limit on how much you can check out in a month, which can suck (some libraries keep it as low as 3 checkouts a month, but some have increased it to 12 or more due to the pandemic.
Also…pssst, I’ve found some audiobooks on hoops that I could previously only find on Audible! (Not the Audible Originals, but others that are “only available on Audible”).
I don’t use Novelist as much I could, but it’s a really cool resource that lets you search for books based on a number of different options (like Goodreads but less socially interactive and more search options…like tone, characters, plot, age group, genre, etc). Definitely worthwhile to check out when you’re creating themed lists, because it offers readalikes for each book (YMMV on how accurate those readilkes are).
Looking for a book your library doesn’t have but you don’t want to buy? Check out Worldcat, which will tell you who has a copy of that book and where it’s located (depending on who has their catalogues linked). Quite a few libraries do inter library loans, where you can request your library to go to another library to get a copy that you want (usually you pay for shipping, which is $3-5 depending on your library).
Lots of academic and federal libraries are linked, which is helpful when doing research…particularly so you don’t have to search for each. individual. catalogue. (because let’s be real: a lot of academic library catalogues—and their websites—are not user friendly *stares at George Mason*).
Libraries offer so much more than books, and often have a lot of databases that can be accessed for free with a library card (or in person at the library for some programs).
From finance to textbooks to genealogy to medical encyclopedias to grant assistance/research to scholarly articles to just about anything else you can think of, quite a few libraries pay for access to online databases that compile a whole host of authoritative websites and information.
I am not advocating for piracy, but I also maintain that books in the public domain should be fucking free. Don’t pay for that ebook of Jane Eyre. Get it from Google Books or Project Gutenberg. Hell, even your Books app on your phone probably has free copies of the classics. Not interested in the classics? Here are some options for other (free) books:
I mean, you could email the publisher directly and beg for a free physical copy, but if you’re like me and social interactions (even email) make you break out in hives, then NetGalley and Edelweiss are good options. I love NetGalley (spoiler: I have a librarian account, so YMMV on experience), but I do admit that there are some tips to getting approved by publishers, one of which is actually reviewing the books on NetGalley and elsewhere (in a timely fashion), keeping a decent ratio, and staying within your niche (you can state which genres you prefer and sometimes reviewers match that), and also having an updated profile.
I have shit luck with Edelweiss, however, but I do know that some people love it more than NetGalley. One of the perks of Edelweiss is that if you disapproved for an ARC, you can request that title again, and again, and again.
This is another pay (review) to play (get free books) website, where the winnings are free physical arcs the publishers send to you.
Spoiler: I don’t like it as much as NetGalley because it’s a lot more work to build up points for a free book (that someone else might claim), and the lottery is hard as hell to win (don’t even get me started on fucking Goodreads Giveaways). Plus, the selection is not as varied and you have to keep track of when the lottery and first looks and whatnot are closing.
Literally just what it says, available in the Apple AppStore. Search “Audiobooks” and there is an app called Audiobooks that is filled with free audiobooks from works that are in the public domain. It’s a great way to read the classics for free.
Also, the Kindle App also have free books from Amazon (just be careful that they actually are free, and you do have to have a [free] Amazon account to access).
Other app stores also usually have apps that contain free public domain works, so it’s useful to check out. Just make sure that it’s not an app you have to pay for (some are only $2.99 for access to the entire collection). I’m cheap and I don’t like paying for stuff that should be free.
Also. The Great Gatsby is in the public domain now, and you can bet your ass I’m not going to pay for that sucker.
Surprise! Imagine my surprise and delight to realize there are a bunch of books (some indie published, some classic, some trad published) available for free on whatever podcast system you use! A number of years ago, I found Lindsay Buroker’s amazing Emperor’s Edge collection available (with her permission), and have since found a bunch of others.
Full warning: there are some professional-quality audiobooks here, but some are fan-sourced/community sourced. I listened to Little Women via Apple’s podcast station-thingy, and while some narrators were amazing there was one lady who had a voice that was like nails scrape-stop-scraping on chalkboard.
Free! Comics! Free Manga! Freeeeee!
Super duper amazing quality too! I love Webtoons so much, and there are some incredibly talented artists and storytellers on this website. Quite a few artists update once a week, and yes you can purchase coins to fast-track updates that aren’t free yet, or you can be cheap like me and wait (as much as it killed me with The Remarried Empress).
I highly recommend reading on the app.
Some of my favorites: The Remarried Empress, Like Wind on a Dry Branch, Unholy Blood, Crumbs, Beneath the Camphor Tree. On my TBR: Lore Olympus, Seed, Gourmet Hound, Jackson’s Diary, Lilah’s Magic Shop, Always Human.
Yes, Wattpad is kinda notorious for bad fanfic, but there are a fuckton of amazing fanfics out there on the site, along with some really spectacular original fiction. I first started posting my (original) writing on Wattpad (my awful fanfic used to lurk somewhere on a very old website that is not AO3), and I really, really recommend it for emerging writers or writers who want to get some feedback.
Just be careful—people do steal work there (as they do everywhere), and once it’s on Wattpad it’s considered published (which can make it very hard to find a paying market later on).
But for readers, it’s a great resource! Although it is moving towards a pay-based system, there are still a lot of stories are free and are amazing.
I’m just going to list these, because they’re fun!
- Kirkus Reviews
- Tordotcom (if you join the newsletter, they often have links to free popular ebooks)
- Indie Bookstores (quite a few have pivoted to online bookclubs and online author talks)
- Penguin House SFF discord server
There are a lot more! And there are quite a few bookish clubs on Instagram, which are super fun. I’m not a big book club fan (minus the one I moderate on GR, but I do the games and challenges), but I signed up for two book club events in November and December, and I’m eyeing one that takes place later this month with a book that’s been on my TBR for a while.
Tracking My Reading
This year I went a little overboard on tracking my reading. However, if you’re looking to have something a little more robust than Goodreads (again, don’t really know what the other online reading sites look like) but are hesitant about creating a spreadsheet, you are more than welcome to make a copy of mine and modify it as you wish. Everything is pretty much preset and loaded—all you have to do is fill in the books you’ve read.
Here you go: Reader Spreadsheet. It says 2021 but just make a copy and change the year if you want to start fresh.