Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam: Finding High-Quality Free Spec-Fic Ebooks

Tor.com and MacMillan USA released
a handful of Hugo Award finalists for
free, including this wondrous novelette
from Mary Robinette Kowal.
The rise of the Internet and e-reading tablets has led to a revolution in how books and magazines are sold and disseminated. It’s a complex issue that has led to battles between Amazon and giant publishing houses to control list prices; it has made millionaires of a few savvy self-published authors; and at the same time, it has gutted the monetary value in the work of many professional writers. As a member of the National Writers Union, I’m a big proponent of authors getting paid fair value for their work. This is why I boycott The Huffington Post, a $100 million news website that refuses to pay its writers.

At the same time, as an author myself, I do see the marketing value in getting exposure to new readers by offering cheap or free reads, and, thankfully, authors don’t need to sell their soul to exploitative media giants to get their work out there, particularly when it comes to speculative fiction. Like with anything on the Internet, though, there’s a lot of garbage for readers to sort through to get to the good stuff, so here’s a list of places where you can find some great free spec-fiction with a clean conscience. Just remember, if you like something you read for free, make sure to keep the good karma flowing and go buy the author’s book.

SF Signal’s Free Fiction Guru, Regan Wolfrom
SF Signal is a great blog site that covers all things sci-fi, fantasy, and horror related. Contributor Regan Wolfrom has a weekly column where he compiles a list of new and noteworthy free e-books. Most of these free e-books are temporary freebies through Amazon for the Kindle, so make sure you download them ASAP.

Wattpad is both an e-reading app for mobile devices and a community website for authors of all experience levels. It is home to literally millions of e-books in varying degrees of quality and completion. To find the high-quality work from professional authors, download the app and then browse through the “Featured” titles. There you’ll find free books from big names like Margaret Attwood, Cory Doctorow, and Brandon Sanderson, as well as from emerging writers, including several of us Prose & Cons contributors. In fact, my fantasy novelette, The Knight’s Dog, was a featured e-book several months ago and has racked up an impressive 41k downloads.  And Mia Thompson is practically a celebrity on Wattpad, with nearly a million combined downloads for her various e-books.

Tor Books has long been one of the top spec-fic book publishers, and in recent years the Tor website has been emerging as perhaps the best online spec-fiction magazine. Short stories, novelettes, and novellas published on the website are frequently finalists for all the top genre awards. You can visit the website to read the free fiction online, or check out Tor.com’s free Kindle e-books at Amazon. Barnes & Noble also carries their e-books for the Nook, although they offer fewer free titles.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a perennial Hugo finalist for best semiprozine, and offers up what it terms as “literary adventure fantasy.” You can read issues for free on the website or download the individual stories in mobi, epub, and pdf formats to send to your e-reader. You can also get them from Amazon for a nominal fee.

Those are the places I go to as a reader. If you have other great resources for free e-books, please add them in the comments (but don’t say Pirate Bay or any of the download sites for pirated work!).

Garrett Calcaterra is an author of dark speculative fiction. His newest book, Dreamwielder, is an epic fantasy novel from Diversion Books. He is currently working on the sequel to Dreamwielder and an unrelated sci-fi novel. Learn more at www.garrettcalcaterra.com