A friend recently gave me a stack of books in excellent condition. The gift — a novel and two memoirs — came with a request. I was told to read the books and give them away. The books, our friend said, could also be "released" at a coffee shop, a public bench or some other location.
The books were gifts through the Bookcrossing.com program, an international program designed to promote the free circulation of books. It is just one of several free or low-cost reading programs. From online vendors to standard bookstores, there are many affordable ways to build a library or to sample best-sellers. Here are a few:
• Dailylit.com: From a vast library of free classics, DailyLit.com will send you e-mails with bite-sized sections of "Moby Dick," "Pride & Prejudice" and other books. Launched by a former editor of Random House and a former guru at del.icio.us, the "social bookmarking site," DailyLit.com delivers books via plain text e-mails in serialized installments. The service also includes a fee-based subscription option for new titles and best-sellers. But books in the public domain are free and include many titles on school reading lists. The service lets you select the frequency of the e-mails. You can even opt to read far more than the daily portion. The database of free books includes more than 700 titles.
• Dearreader.com: This free service provides short samples from books via e-mail. This site offers other valuable perks, according to the latest issue of ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports guide. Additional benefits include an online book forum, interactive meet-the-author sessions and information about book tours and other literary events.
• Bookcrossing.com: More than 700,000 readers from more than 130 countries participate in this free book service and club. Readers are encouraged to register give-away books on the site and then follow the literary trail as each text is given to friends or left in public spaces. Each registered title has a bookplate in the inside cover with a tracking number and details about the Bookcrossing.com program. The site also has a feature that allows readers to hunt for free books. After finding a Bookcrossing.com book, readers are encouraged to go online and participate in an online journal that follows and records a book's traveling history. Registered readers can also participate in a variety of online literary programs.
Here's how to buy my new book: