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Judging A Book Without A Cover: The Top 3 Sites To Get Free Books And Ebooks From The Biggest Publishers And Authors
The idea of being a “professional reader” titillates me. What dilettante reader or writer, novice literary blogger, or amateur book reviewer wouldn’t be titillated by the idea of it? For someone so passionate about books and reading, I was ecstatic after learning over a few months ago that there were sites that gave away free advanced reading copies of soon to be released books and e-books by the biggest publishers and authors in the world.
While there are sites that give away free ebooks and PDF documents like Free-eBooks.net, FreeBookSpot, Planet PDF (one of my favorite sites for downloading the classics; just use your Kindle device and download your Dostoyevsky, Dickens, or Proust to your blessed, little, eager heart’s delight!), and Project Gutenberg — and these are all great sites from which you can download ebooks and books in different formats — this post is not about the average free book sites where one could just download books immediately, like what the rest of the highly cerebral, humanoid, greedy, book-hoarding species do (including myself, admittedly — the greedy, book-hoarding part, I mean).
No. This post is about the Top Three sites from which the serious book/literary blogger can get his greedy, book-hoarding hands on the latest, and most of the time, unpublished, yet to be released books from the small publishers and middlingly successful, mostly underrated, authors to the big publishers and bestselling, sometimes overrated, authors. Of course, this goes without saying that there is a catch: you have to have at least a decent blog, and at least a respectable amount of followers and blog posts. Since you’re reading this WordPress blog, I’ll assume that you have “just another WordPress (or any other) blog,” too.
APPLICATION PROCESS AND PROFESSIONAL COURTESY
1. You have to fill out an online form (safe to say, the general procedure these days) wherein you will be asked to talk about yourself and write down the link to your blog with a verification through your email (in order to keep those sneaky, scheming, little book and e-book vultures at bay).
2. Know how to use the Internet and navigate your way into the website, request for the books you’d like to read and have by choosing either “blogger” or “reviewer” from the list of accepted professions, and wait for the confirmation, or in most cases (from the bigwigs), the declination.
3. Have one of the major e-readers available today: Kindle readers, Sony readers, Nook, etc. If you don’t have an e-reader, in which case one is disposed to ask: “What kind of a self-respecting book blogger doesn’t have an e-reader these days?”, you can still download the e-books through Adobe Digital Editions in your computer.
4. Try your best to read the books you requested, and then write an honest review on your blog. The publishers and authors who approve your request do not expect you to write a good review just because you got the book for free. In fact, if you wish not to review their book for some reason, just have the courtesy to explain to them why you can’t read the book or why you can’t write a review. They leave their publicity team’s email addresses so you can contact them should you wish to interview the author; to inform them that you have already posted a review; or that you have declined to review their book.
5. Don’t forget to mention that you received the books for free because I think I read somewhere before that when one receives a free product and chooses to review it, one has to mention it in one’s review.
THE TOP THREE
For all you Christian bloggers out there, here’s a site that is just what you need. The WalterBrook Publishing Group is a Christian publishing group and an evangelical division of the largest publisher in the world, Random House, Inc.. Blogging for Books is the website specifically tailored for Christian, Bible-thumping, Jesus-loving bloggers, no pun intended, who would like to request a book and review them.
Unlike the two next sites included in this post, Blogging for Books is the only site among the these Top Three that offers printed versions of the copy requested by the blogger, provided the blogger gets a minimum review ranking of 25 for their reviews by the readers (here’s for more details), and that the blogger is from the United States. Bloggers from outside the US will only get an e-book version of the book requested.
Also, unlike the next two sites, Blogging for Books is the only one among the three that gives away only one book at a time. The other two sites approve multiple requests at a time. It is also the only site that requires you to have an account with another site, Edelweiss, which also happens to be among the Top Three sites I am endorsing here. Currently, I have been auto-approved by Blogging for Books for five titles from which I can choose one for review. I still have yet to pick one.
Edelweiss is a site that offers a wide range of free titles from small to large publishers. These titles only come in advanced (e-book) reading copies, though, and some of the copies that you will receive will be the unedited, uncorrected versions, which you could compare against the finished product once it is published. Some titles, just like Blogging for Books and NetGalley, which is the last site I shall mention here, have already been pre-approved by publishers for bloggers who have passed their qualifications.
The big difference, though, between Edelweiss and NetGalley and Blogging for Books is that Edelweiss is the only site among the Top Three that actually offers Digital Advanced Audio Copies. I didn’t know about digital advanced audio copies until I found this site. It makes complete sense, though. There are audiobooks out there, so why not have advanced audio copies of those, right? So, if you’re one of those who love to listen to audiobooks, albeit unedited, you just might find the titles that suit your taste here on Edelweiss. Two of the titles I have been approved are digital audio copies, 24 of which are advanced reading copies.
Among the Top Three, NetGalley is my favorite site because of it’s easy-to-use, simple, and navigable website, not to mention the thousands of titles from the largest university and commercial presses and New York Times bestselling authors who have signed up with it, compared with the slightly less number of titles from Blogging for Books and Edelweiss. Currently, I have 360 books approved from the publishers of this site. I know that’s an obscene amount of ebooks to review, and even more obscene amount of books to have been requested by a single individual, but in my defense, I shall try to read and review them all within 3 years (excuses, excuses). On a lighter note, I’d like to proudly point out that the largest university press in the world, THE Oxford UniversityPress, has approved some of my requests. Well, it may have declined most of my requests, but at least it has approved at least a couple of them, and that makes my day everytime I think about it. These English gents from Oxford (including those from Random House) are just a bit wee hard hard to please, but when they approve you, you’d definitely feel validated and feel like a rock star blogger — makes you kind of forget all the rejection letters you got combined (including the kind of rejection you got from the girl or guy who dumped you, or THE ONE who jilted you at the altar).
READING AND REVIEW SYSTEM AND ADVANCED APOLOGIES
I have already made a list of the ebooks I shall read first among the ones that I received from NetGalley and Edelweiss by following a simple system: those ebooks whose advanced reading copies and final versions that came with the real ebook/printed book covers with them will be the ones I shall read and review first. The ones with the unedited versions without their proper book covers (and just don’t look good at all in my Kindle next to the other books with the colorful, yet to be finalized, book covers) will be read and reviewed last.
Unfortunately, therefore, some of the titles might not even make it to my to-read list if the advanced reading copies are just too dreadfully edited or formatted for reading; and I’m telling you, there are some of those I received whose formatting just seem to have been whipped up overnight, and not, at the very least, even second-rate, second draft-material at all. Still, lest I be painted a book-whoring ingrate, I’d like to say that I am happy to have received those books and that I truly appreciate them. Maybe the least I can do for these books I won’t review is to mention them in my upcoming posts as a series called “The Books I Won’t Be Able To Review, or in a series of posts called something like “How Can I Judge A Book Without A Cover?” and then include a brief synopsis about them. Win-win, yes?
You see, if I were still an amateur reader, I would consider reading dreadfully edited or formatted advanced reading copies first. Alas, I am what NetGalley refers to as a “professional reader” now, and with that comes the discriminating taste, eagle eyes, and the proud sensibilities of a professional book reviewer and critic, albeit a slightly amateurish one. I may not be as good a “professional reader and reviewer” as critics and authors John Updike and James Wood are, but I do take those hats seriously and I expect at the very least a readable and presentable advanced reading copies (ARC).
If I am to be a better professional reader and reviewer, which I intend to be, I should be able to choose which books to read, review, and recommend; and with the Top Three sites above, despite the failings of its publishers to give away well-formatted and well-edited advanced reading copies sometimes, I know I might, over the long haul, be able to improve my reading habits, sharpen my critical abilities, and develop my rather wide range of interests and extreme personal tastes in literature through their wonderful books (that I am truly thankful for).
It is thus my fervent, fervent wish that whoever is reading this will be able to do the things I hope to accomplish and have already accomplished through these three great sites, too.
After not having blogged for over a month due to my right hand injury (I’m better now, thank you), and my father’s recent colon cancer operation (he’s better now, too, thank God), I was happy to find out that Ms. Lee Paige of Life Accordinglee, a fellow blogger and aspiring author, nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. If I could nominate her back for this award, I would. But one of the unwritten rules, I believe, of this award is that it does not allow one to nominate the one who nominated you.
Still, after having been on a blogging and writing hiatus for over a month, I am quite honored and flattered to have been nominated by someone as inspiring and as serious a blogger and writer as Ms. Paige. Just when I thought I was about to lose my blogging and writing momentum after a series of unfortunate writing setbacks — major of which were my dad’s diagnosis with stage 2B colon cancer and my right hand freak accident injury — the latter having almost extinguished my passion for writing altogether (for fear I might not be able to write properly again because I am unfortunately just right-handed, not ambidextrous), I receive this recognition and honor.
The slogan-theme of the award is “Keeping The Blogosphere A Beautiful Place.” This nomination, to me, is, I would like to think, validation enough that I am somehow doing something write, er, right, with my life and with this blog. When I started The Bibliophile Chronicles, all I wanted was a place for me to share my thoughts on literature, authors, books, and to share some of the happenings in my life in relation to my passion for reading and writing. But if fellow bloggers and writers such as Ms. Paige thinks that I am also keeping the blogosphere a beautiful place, then that is indeed a wonderful and unexpected bonus and accolade. So, with all my heart, thank you, Ms. Paige, for the nomination.
The Very Inspiring Blogger Award comes with a few rules. Here they are:
- Display the Award Certificate on your website.
- Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented you with the award.
- Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.
- Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have linked them in the post.
- Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
7 THINGS ABOUT MYSELF I MAY HAVE FAILED TO MENTION BEFORE
1. I think I may have been an English lord in my past life. That said, I am a royalist and an Anglophile. And after having met a royal Muslim princess and a Filipina socialite who became an English lady after marrying an English lord, I am all the more convinced now not only of my English heritage, but of my being an English lord trapped in a bipolar Filipino man‘s body. Ah, the idea of addressing someone as Your Royal Highness and Lady Minda or being addressed as Lord Francis by someone else if just utterly delicious; it’s like eating Christmas!
2. I have been sporting a posh British accent whenever I talk to Europeans or any British person since I was in high school. Blame it on BBC and my English heritage. I have been asked by all British and European people I have met why I have a posh, aristocratic, upper class British accent, and I just tell them with my clipped, nasal, and patrician voice that I was born in London and have lived with my grandmother Her Majesty The Queen since Day 1, jokingly, of course.
3. I am obsessive-compulsive. I write, read, and think obsessively and compulsively every minute of everyday that I honestly don’t know what to focus on and do first most of the time. This is the reason why I always bring with me everywhere I go a pen, a paper, books, my journal, and my fleeting and racing thoughts. Sometimes I wonder how I am still sane all these years. Moreover, I wonder why the people around me, especially my staff, family, and friends, still remain sane after all the craziness they have to up with because of my genius, or is it delusions? Okay, genius it is.
4. I love making up new words. Who says Webster is the only guy who can come up with new vocab? In my previous posts and in a chapter of my as yet unpublished memoirs and novel, I came up with words such as historize, diarize, teachified, francified, and bipolarize, and have used them quite successfully, if I may so myself. I am waiting for the day people will refer to me as the literary genius who coined such beautiful words. You’ll have to buy copies of my memoirs and novel to learn more new words I made up myself.
5. When I was in Europe on a vacation two months ago for over three weeks, I was hoping I could start writing short stories to anthologize in a book. Alas, I ended up with nothing. I caught the flu when I was in Salzburg, Austria because instead of bundling up properly and wearing something appropriate and wise for a minus five-degree Celsius climate, I thought I would Superman it up by just wearing a thin blue jacket as thin and as uncomfortable as the leotards of Superman himself when I was out riding a horse-driven carriage for a sightseeing trip. Turns out I didn’t have any healing superpowers, after all; my only superpowers are delusions of grandeur and stupidity.
6. I see everything from a writer’s perspective since I started blogging. Everytime something, anything happens — good or bad — I always see something in it that inspires me to write about. Even after having told myself that I might not be able to write anymore because of my bloody, inconvenient right hand injury, at the back of my mind I was still thinking that I could write about this after I get better or after it still doesn’t get any better. When you start writing, you begin to see every experience as an inspiration for writing, you see every minute detail as a possible theme or topic, and you see everything with a writer’s hope for a better future or a writer’s despair for a bleak future.
7. I write because I don’t want to forget. My ambition of being a memoirist and being a damn good novelist started from being a diarist. At the end of each day, I write in my different notebooks and journals, including this iPhone application called One Day, all my thoughts, feelings, opinions, fears, and dreams because I don’t want to forget anything. I didn’t say I want to remember everything because, you see, being bipolar and obsessive-compulsive, I tend to forget most things. It’s not early senility, just memory loss caused by manic, racing thoughts. With all the things running through my mind every millisecond, and with all the things that compete to take up space in my ever-working brain and imagination, it is easy for me to get distracted. I can’t afford to forget those surges of inspiration and brilliance, because in my world, genius, creativity, and delusions are all one and the same.
15 BLOGGERS WHO INSPIRE AND KEEP THE BLOGOSPHERE A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
1. Mr. Charles Edward Yallowitz of Legends of Windemere
2. Ms. Sandy Sue of A Mind Divided
3. Ms. Angelic of Why I Can’t Stop Reading
4. Ms. Melinda of The Book Musings
5. Mr. Tony Roberts of A Way With Words
6. Ms. Rowena of Les Reveries De Rowena
7. Anonymous of The Child, Animal, Poet, And Saint
8. Ms. Sarah Cradit of And Then There Was Sarah
9. Anonymous of Cross(stitch) Your Heart
10. Mr. Meyer Lane of Meyer Lane’s Short Attention Span Press
11. Anonymous of writeonthebeach
12. Mr. Michael Pignatella of Portable Magic
13. Ms. Lisa Orchard of Lisa Orchard
14. Mr. Seumas Gallacher of Seumas Gallacher
15. Mr. Billy Ray Chitwood of thefinalcurtain1
The Perks Of Being A Literary Blogger: 207 FREE Books Approved For My Review By NetGalley Publishers And Authors (And Counting)
The problem is I am just using my left hand now. Therefore, this post will be just a short, four-paragraph post. You see, I had a right hand injury, particularly my right index finger, and I am now wearing a bandage and a cast in my right arm. It’s hard to write and type away in my computer with just my left hand which is why I’d like to inform you that I couldn’t blog as much as I’d like to for two more weeks. I shall tell the whole story after April 3, the day the doctors will remove this inconvenient dressing in my arm, along with some updates about my Dad’s condition (for those who prayed for him and left some comments) which I posted prior to this post.
Still, I haven’t forgotten my obligation to you, my dear readers of this blog The Bibliophile Chronicles, to provide you soon with tons of literary content (I hope quality content, too). I have now, at the moment, been approved by some of NetGalley‘s (will tell you what NetGalley is all about in a succeeding post next time) registered publishers and authors to read and review some of their most popular, and some yet unpublished, latest titles. Now, from the hundreds of books I requested to review, 207 books have already been approved for me to review, to be exact (and counting) — delivered straight to my Iphone’s Kindle.
And the best part is: I got them all for free! The prices of the free books I received must have a total amount of, give or take, $1,000 already. Indeed, being a professional literary blogger, and being what NetGalley calls a professional reader have their charming perks. (Thank you for the books, guys!) Of course, there were some rejections, those books the authors and publishers didn’t approve for me to review, but that’s part of life. You win some; you lose some. C’est la vie.
Life goes on; this blog goes on.
So, my dear friends and readers, please be patient, and please watch out for my next posts this coming April. I can hardly wait to share with you some of my latest book finds, reviews and recommendations, and some of my latest literary milestones. With this bandage and cast getting in the way of my blogging and writing this March, I will most definitely make up for my lack of posts these past few weeks with a large number of consecutive literary-slash-semi-personal thoughts very soon. Until then. God bless.
Book Review No. 6: A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One Of America’s Best High Schools by Alec Klein
A Class Apart by Alec Klein (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks; $16.00)
I have always been fascinated by children geniuses — prodigies. Movies like Searching For Bobby Fischer, Little Man Tate, and Red Violin, all movies that feature a chess prodigy, a math prodigy, and a musical prodigy, respectively, have always been one of my favorite movies because the main characters are usually children with extraordinary talent and abilities that defy logic and science.
What is it about these little children with brains filled with gray matter the size of Einstein and Mozart that makes them so special? How is it possible that someone so young can memorize forty classical piano and violin pieces in front of a large audience with the confidence of a seasoned and adult musician or compute multiplication of large numbers in their heads in a snap? How is it possible that someone so young and so little — something that comes in such a small package — compete in quiz bees and musical contests on an adult, competitive, and professional level?
When I saw a copy of this book, A Class Apart by Alec Klein, with the subtitle “Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One Of America’s Best High Schools,” I knew I had to buy it. As the subtitle suggests, the book is about the students who go to one of the best high schools in America, Stuyvesant High School in New York. In this book, Klein of the Washington Post was granted access to the school, its faculty, and its prodigious students, to find out the real essence and meaning of public schooling. Being an alum of Stuyvesant himself, it was easy for Klein to gain the access he needed, and being a reporter for the Washington Post certainly gave him the cache one needs in order to do such a daunting journalistic task.
Here, he follows the lives of the multidiverse and multitalented students of Stuyvesant, especially of three high school students; one is the captain of the football team named Romeo, a boy who teaches himself calculus during his free time to impress the girl he likes; another one is a seventeen-year old poet named named Jane, a girl who is battling heroine addiction; and another one is a ten-year old kid names Milo, a boy who, despite his young age, attends the school because of his Polaroid-like memory and his genius IQ.
Klein’s narrative in this book displays his journalistic and writing talents. He paints the school and its students sympathetically, and shows how even the brightest students still need the the guidance and special attention every child and teenager needs. He shows the neuroses, compulsions, and obsessions of the students and teachers alike, even of the the parents. In Stuyvesant, everyone is so competitive academically that students shamelessly demand their teachers to “better give them a high grade” so they can get a bigger chance of being accepted into Harvard or into one of the Ivies.
In Stuyvesant, unlike your typical high school where jocks and cheerleaders rule, to be regarded as a brainiac or as a nerd is an honor and high social status. To be anything short of that is deemed inferior. This alone is an indication of the kind of students that get accepted into this high school. The students here belong to the brightest of the brightest, the most ambitious of the most ambitious.
A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, Passion Inside One Of America’s Best High Schools is, more than anything, about the relationship of the caring adults who guide and teach the gifted, and sometimes troubled, kids of Stuyvesant High School. Klein triumphantly weaves and intersects the lives of the people who belong to the special world of Stuyvesant. Honest, detailed, well-written, and well-researched, A Class Apart will make you laugh, cry, smile, and will at times, break your heart. Filled with stories and anecdotes that dedicate each chapter to one student, event, or teacher, this book is designed easy to be followed, and has the right amount and balance of journalistic and creative writing one needs in a non-fiction/part-documentary book. Indeed, Klein is one master storyteller and one great reporter.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars