Free e-reads!

harlequincelebrates

Harlequin is celebrating 60 years.  They are generously giving away $60 worth of e-books as a gift to their readers.  They are offering 16 books from all different genres.  There are historicals, suspense stories, an African-American romance, steamy stories, three different types of Christian novels, a paranormal, some tender romance, family stories, and yes, a Harlequin Presents title.  Go to their anniversary website and download something from your favorite genre.  Try a new genre for free.  Enjoy your books!

Read free and help others

I’ve posted freebies for readers before, but this time you can help a charity while enjoying your freebie.  Avon books is sharing excerpts of some upcoming romance novels and fully browsable copies of already-released books online.  Check out the new releases to help their Love Gives Back campaign!  According to the site,

For every 100,000 pages browsed from these new titles, Avon will donate 100 books to ProLiteracy Worldwide, an organization that promotes literacy around the world. Each month, from August 13, 2008, through December 23, 2008, we’ll donate up to 1,000 books, so start reading and share the love!

All you lovers of the love stories, get browsin’!

FYI: If you like this this ‘reading for free’ thing (aside from your library, of course!), check out the publisher’s other free-to-read online books here.

Reader Panel: Tell Harlequin

Looks like Harlequin has revamped their reader panel website. Since I am a reader who loves free books, I had to share this news with you. Previously We Hear You, the new site looks better than the old one (which I’ve mentioned before on this blog). The new site seems to work in a manner similar to the old one.

To join, go to the homepage and click “Join today”. You’ll complete a questionnaire about your reading habits and then they will ask for your address and other information so they can send you free books. The books they send will have corresponding surveys for you to fill out. If you hated the plot, say so. If you thought the cover was cheesy, you have a chance to share. If the hero was a well-written character, speak up. This program gives you not only free books but a chance to give the publishers your opinions of them.

It’s not clear what books you will receive, but keep in mind that Harlequin does not just publish “trashy romance novels”. It’s easy to equate “Harlequin” with “My Millionaire Boss’s Italian Baby Mama” etc. (No offense intended to Harlequin Presents readers.) The reality is that they publish a variety of fiction lines, including romantic suspense, chick lit, African-American teen fiction, Christian romance, fantasy, African-American romance, contemporary women’s fiction, Christian romantic suspense, African-American inspirational books, Christan women’s fiction, Christian chick lit, and Christian historical romance. Quite the variety!

No, I am not a Harlequin affiliate, author, or superfan. Though I have read a few pretty good books published by them. 😉

Comparison shopping (Or, how I saved big on textbooks this year)

I learned early on in my college career (though perhaps not early enough) that buying textbooks at the campus bookstore is rarely a way to get the best deal. The biggest reason to shop at one of these stores is convenience. If you want to pay for that convenience, that’s great! I, however, prefer to shop around for a lower price.

To get the best price, first, you need to find out the ISBN for each of your required textbooks. One way to do this is to go to your university bookstore’s website. Many have online forms that allow you to enter your classes so you can purchase or reserve your textbooks online. Instead of adding the books to my cart, though, I make a note of the textbook’s title, edition number, author, and ISBN.

Next, begin searching textbook sites, textbook meta-searches, and my favorite, half.com. Use the ISBNs to ensure you are searching for the correct edition, since each edition has its own ISBN. Note the best price of each book at each of the sites you visit, and don’t forget to include shipping charges. Keep in mind the used book condition you require. (This is your personal preference. Some people don’t mind “acceptable” books; others prefer “like new.”) I like to compile the pricing information into an Excel spreadsheet, but using pen and paper never fails!

After you make your mini-database, check to see which of the sites you visited are available through your favorite rewards and rebates sites. I used BigCrumbs, which offers rebates at half.com, eCampus.com, and other online bookstores. (BigCrumbs (that’s my referral link, btw) offers a % back on purchases at many other online retailers as well, including eBay.) I compared my books’ prices at eCampus.com and half.com, while considering their rebate percentages, shipping prices, free shipping offers, etc. You can add this additional info into your database to get the most accurate pricing.

For me, the winning combination ended up being half.com through BigCrumbs, which gives me 4.5% back. Your winning combination will vary because you will have different textbooks than I do–among other variables. Also, don’t do your research one week and go back the next week to purchase. You’ll find that your best prices will have changed as copies sell.

I can say from experience that I have consistently found the best prices at half.com for most books, most semesters. I still shop around, though. It really doesn’t take that much time, and each semester I have saved a significant amount compared to the campus bookstore’s prices. This year, the campus bookstore would have charged around $300 for my books and I paid approximately $248 after discounts and shipping.

(Sorry, med students, I know you don’t want to hear me whine about prices!:))

Frugal Pitfalls: Postage

One of the reasons I rarely shop online is because you have to pay shipping. Now if there’s a free shipping deal and I’m not buying something wearable, I have no problem shopping online at a trusted store. And if the store offers a ship-to-store option, to me, that offers the best of both worlds: the online stores have a bigger selection of items and picking the shipment up at a local store is easy and free! Two stores I know of that have this option are Borders and Walmart.

But rather than buying books (free shipping or not) at Borders, I have been looking for more frugal ways replenish overstock my book supply. I used to get excited when Borders would send me a 40% off coupon in my email, thinking what a great deal it was. (And sometimes it is, if you are purchasing a new book.) But since then, I have discovered PaperBackSwap. Not only do I get to get rid of books I don’t want that are cluttering up my shelves, but I can also request almost any book I want, given that it’s not too new/popular.

Here’s where the pitfall comes in. I have been justifying my use of PaperBackSwap because the books are free–and they are free. What’s not free is the postage you pay when mailing out your own old books. This month, I am over-budget on postage. It’s easy to think, well it’s only $0.64, no big deal, but after mailing out 10 books at varying weights to different locations, it adds up! I even use the cheapest rates and no additional services to keep the cost down, but it still has been too much this month.

I never thought that postage would be a budget category that I would overspend!

Like to read? Readers’ panel opening

I am a reader. As someone trying to live a frugal lifestyle, I am also always on the lookout for free books. Previously, I joined a reader panel called We Hear You. The opinion panel (run by Harlequin) offers free books and no pressure to buy anything in exchange for your honest opinions about the characters, covers, and plotlines.

They recently emailed me with news that they are looking for female readers ages 18-24. Those who participate will get three free books and will fill out an online survey concerning their opinions of the books. The survey can be found here, but it is not clear whether everyone will qualify for panel membership.

Let me know if anyone successfully signs up for this.

Like romances? Got opinions?

I had another “mystery package” yesterday. It was yet another offer I’d signed up for but forgotten about.

Way back when, I applied to review books on the We Hear You panel from Harlequin. They send you free books (of their choosing) in exchange for your opinions. My box contained two paperbacks, a letter, and a review form. This is a good offer for those of you who are readers and enjoy giving feedback.

superromance

These are the two books I received. Not necessarily something I’d pick out myself, but I do enjoy family-centered stories. At the very least, I’ve got a couple of easy, escapist reads for the next couple of weeks.

If they suck…at least I get to tell someone who cares. 😉