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Making the Most of Your Ebook Purchases

Guest post by Jessica Fisher, aka FishMama at Good (Cheap) Eats and Life As Mom

Should you buy that ebook that sounds like the answer to all your problems? Ever bought an ebook that you never read once your Paypal transaction was complete? Find yourself lamenting over an ebook purchase because it wasn’t what you expected?

Just as you weigh the pros and cons of a physical book purchase, so should you consider how to make the most of the ebooks you buy.

What’s an Ebook?

Ebook is simply short for “electronic book.” They are digital documents that you download directly to your computer or other reading device, to be read at your leisure, electronically.

Ebooks are quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of the written word. They have been an easy and economical method of self-publishing for years, but are now hitting the mainstream as major book publishers offer digital versions of their hardcover books.

What are the benefits?

Ebooks are:

::Green — No tree needs give its life for you to own an ebook. The purchase is completely digital.

::Instant — Once you purchase an ebook, you should be able to download it almost instantly, quicker than you can say, “Amazon Prime.”

::Often free of tax or shipping charges.

::Inexpensive — In general they are not as expensive as the cover price of a hardcover book. Sometimes, the seller even offers them at a discount or even free.

::Often offer customizable options, or other digital features, like links to further online reading, something unavailable in a physical book.

What’s the catch?

::You won’t get any mail.

::You have to print it yourself if you want a hard copy.

::You don’t get to preview more than a few pages of the book. It’s not quite the same as perusing a book at length in a cozy armchair at Barnes & Noble.

::You don’t have a physical product to return if you don’t like it.

How can you make ebooks work for you?

1. Research carefully. If you find an ebook that you’re interested in purchasing, ask questions of the seller, peruse their table of contents, inquire of friends who’ve purchased. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel like it’s the right purchase for you. Determine the refund policy if you want your money back if it’s a disappointment.

2. Save locally. Unfortunately, an ebook is much easier to lose than a hard copy book. Make sure that you save the document before you close the screen.

3. Store strategically. Create a folder on your computer, specifically for storing ebooks that you are going to read.

4. Make a plan to read. The book does you no good if it sits on your hard drive unread.

What techniques do YOU use to make ebooks worth it for you?

Jessica Fisher, aka FishMama, regularly writes about parenting hacks on Life As Mom and shares delicious ways to act your wage at Good (Cheap) Eats. She has written several ebooks, including Organizing Life as MOM , and owns quite a few unread ones on her hard drive. She will read them — eventually.

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  1. Michele says

    I always download the sample first and read the entire thing. I shop in the “sunshine deals” section of Amazon. I download the day that I want to begin the book, and I don’t buy another until I’ve finished the one I buy. (Unless I find a freebie :) )

  2. says

    If you are buying a Kindle ebook from Amazon.com, consider using a site like http://lendle.me to lend your book to other readers. When you lend, you receive a credit that allows you to request to borrow an item. Buy one ebook and get to read two!

    • Sara says

      Thank you for mentioning this. My husband got me a Kindle for Christmas (huge surprise!) and I’ve been wondering if something like this existed. Can’t wait to try it out!

    • says

      Wow! I’ve never heard of this site. Thanks for mentioning this. I have a Kindle and I thought I was limiting to lending only with my friends, and since few of my friends have a Kindle, this means I was severely limited.

      • says

        I agree Alice. I have tried a couple of these sites and I end up lending, lending, lending but never getting books that I want. I pretty much only read non-fiction and mostly books that encourage me as a christian, wife, mother and teacher.

  3. says

    I’ve recently become addicted to e-books. I used to dislike them and I still don’t enjoy reading them on the computer, but they save so much money! Plus, I really like the fact that so many of my favorite bloggers have released e-books. I usually like the ones I buy from blogs I already love. So, if the author has a blog, I suggest reading it to get a true sense of their style.

    I am always sad to purchase an ebook and then not like it. It’s not the same as a physical book that you can turn around and sell or give away. This has only happened a few times though.

  4. Marsha says

    I mark my ebooks as read after I read them keep track of which ones I still need to read. Sometimes I rename them with an “R” in the name to indicate I’ve read them or I will move them to a different folder. This way I can quickly see what I have left that I need to work on.

    • Kristine says

      I have a Nook, and I archive my e-books after I read them and have the display options set to hide archived items.

  5. Rae says

    I bought mine mostly for the free ebooks so if I don’t like it, it didn’t cost me anything. There are tons and tons of free classics as well as free for a limited time newer books. I even have a bunch of Beatrix Potter on mine for reading to my boys when we are out. Then there is always the library. I am actually going to the library today to set up my ebook account there. But anyway that is why I got an ebook. For non free books, I’ll stick to library sales, yard sales, etc where I am paying $1 (must be a nice one for that much) or less.

  6. Beth says

    I usually scan the book at the library or take it home for a closer look before buying. I also check reviews on sites such as Amazon.

  7. says

    I love ebooks. I have a Nook and a way I save money is by “sharing books.” My sister also has a Nook, and you are allowed to share a book with someone else once.

    Then the other person has 30 days to read the book before it disappears from your Nook. We like to read the same type of books, so it has been a big savings for us!

    Also, the Nook has an online library that is free.

    • Dee says

      And you can read any book up to an hour for free if you log-in while at a Barnes and Noble store. You also get coupons for the cafe’ on your Nook while in-store.

    • Melanie says

      Actually, it’s only 14 days for a Nook lend. And what online library for Nook are you talking about? I haven’t heard of one. Thanks!

  8. Dawn says

    I’d love to find a cheap way of printing out some of my ebooks. I really love hard copies vs ebooks.

  9. says

    After downloading and saving my copy of an ebook purchase on my desktop, I then typically send a copy to Evernote… that way I can pull them up to read on any device.

    Some ebooks, though are just too good to keep only in an electronic form.

    I downloaded, printed and had my Summer Survival Guide (by none other than Jessica Fisher who wrote today’s guest post) spiral bound so I could make notes in the margins, scribble our own Summer fun To Do list, meal plans and the like right on the pages.

  10. Sara says

    I use my swagbucks to buy books for my Kindle.

    My husband jokes that the Kindle is saving more money in the long run…because we won’t have to buy any more bookshelves!

    • says

      It definitely reduces clutter, doesn’t it? We’ve been using the free Kindle downloads for kids as a stop-gap to going to the library.

  11. says

    One time I bought all these e-books for one really low price … and I never got around to reading them! 😉
    (Those were Crystal’s e-books and I’m sure they were really interesting considering that I LOVE her blog, and I totally should dig them up off my old computer to read them.)
    Joking aside, that’s a problem to consider if you don’t have an ebook reader. Will you remember that the thing is sitting on your computer and actually read it? I didn’t.

      • Shantique says

        Crystal, u said that u schedule ur reading time. When u have an ebook u want to read, just add it to the schedule. Make one file on ur computer “books to read” and when u right out the schedule right it as “Read summer survival (e)”.

        This way u know what u will read and where to find it.

        I have a Nook Color and I love it! Plus I have the Nook app on my phone and computer. They sync so I can pick up my book wherever. Also great on the ereaders is the ability to highlight and make notes right on the device just like in ur paper copy!

        • says

          Thanks for the suggestions. I very much dislike reading on the computer (and try to limit my computer time), so I’ve been trying to do a better job of printing out ebooks as soon as I download them so they actually get read!

  12. says

    There’s tons of free ebooks out there. I use Calibre as well to manage the ones that don’t download directly on to one of my e-reader apps. I’ll look at Amazon reviews and I follow a few book blogs to know if it’s a book I’d be interested in. I’m definitely going to look into that lendle thing. It sounds great.

  13. Beth Perry says

    Although these ebooks may seem wonderful , they are putting thousands and thousands of American’s out of work. My husband works for a very well known book printing company and they are loosing their jobs everyday,

    • says

      That’s an interesting point. I think, though, that there are some publishers who are really keeping up with the times and finding ways to make it work for both print and digital media. I signed a contract with the Harvard Common Press last fall and they are really on top of things in terms of covering all those bases. Hopefully, your husband’s company will, too.

  14. K says

    I have a Sony Reader and I have over 90 books on it right now. I have only paid for one. It keeps track of the books I haven’t read, and I try to read them in date order that I downloaded them. There are so many sites for free ebooks out there. Google books, Manybooks, Project Gutenberg, Christianbooks.com, just to name a few. And my library also has ebooks that I borrow. They just disappear after 14 days, so I do have to pay closer attention to those, but I get a reminder form the device on how many days left. I so love my Reader, it goes with me everywhere!

  15. Dee says

    E-readers are not necessarily “green.” (Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my Nook and read Kindle books on my Android phone). It takes so many precious metals, that come from China, to make e-Readers, you have to read a thousand books to make up the environmental impact.

  16. says

    It is deceptive to say that the purchase is often tax-free; many states have a tax that you pay when filing your state income tax return. In every state in which I’ve lived, this is the case.

    Please pay your taxes, friends.

      • says

        It’s called a “use tax” or “sales and use tax” and it varies by state.

        In some states, I believe an ebook does not qualify because it’s only tangible goods purchased online but used in the state. In other states, I believe it does qualify.

  17. Diana says

    I have a nook and get all of my e-books for free through livejournal communities. I’ve gotten over 250. There’s no way I would have purchased a nook and then paid $10 per book. I’d rather go to the library!

    • Mary says

      I am curious how you have gotten free e-books through livejournal communities. Thank you for your help I appreciate it.

  18. Amy says

    So if I put evermore on my computer and my iPod touch, can I read these ebooks on my iPod? That would be amazing!

  19. Karen says

    Right now I am downloading free e-books to my computer so I have them when I get an e-reader. However am having a hard time deciding on which one and there is always new ones coming out. Know what some of the ‘experts’ are saying. But what are your thoughts and experiences with different e-readers? Thank you.

    • Rae says

      I personally like the e-ink ones since they are easier on the eyes for long reading than the color touch screens. They all have their ups and downs. Kindle has more free books than Nook but Nook can currently get free ones from the library (Kindles can’t yet) as well as support epub format which is available a lot of places. Nook has the little color touchscreen bottom, Kindle has the little keyboard (which one is better is on preference). Nook has a new eink one now that has touchscreen (I have the original nook and now am a little jealous lol) which is cool but the “special offers” version of the Kindle is cool just based on the fact that they have some GREAT offers that I would actually use ($20 Amazon giftcard for $10, or buy a book (starting at like $3), get a free $10 giftcard so basically profiting off of it), etc. Now the color tablet ones have touchscreen (which can also be bad because of glare in bright places as well as fingerprints) which makes some neat games and apps a plus. I don’t think there IS a bad choice just what is most important to you.

    • says

      Karen, If you’re interested, I just started a series about e-ereaders on my blog today. I plan to address the differences between Nook and Kindle later in the series. I just bought an e-reader last month- after lots of research – and I’m just passing a little of that along hoping that it can help someone if they are considering an e-reader. I think both have their advantages; it mostly depends on your own needs and preferences.

      • Karen says

        Alice, thank you. Have read your first piece and am interested to see what else you have to say. Good luck with it.

  20. Melanie says

    Nook and Kindle both have apps that can be downloaded to your computer or your iPhone or iPod Touch/iPad to use there. I own a Nook (surprise Christmas prezzie from DH!) but have the Kindle app on my Touch.

    I prefer the E-Ink Nook to the color – the color is fancier and can use apps, but I wanted e-ink to read. The screen really is like reading a book on paper. A color reader is not the same as trying to read from a monitor screen (which I loathe) but it’s similar.

    I haven’t paid for a single book on my Nook. Every Friday they have a free book (sometimes two!) and they also have occasional other freebies. Amazon offers a lot of free books for their Kindle, and when I see one there, I try to remember to check on Nook to see if it’s also free there, and many times it is. This week’s freebie on Nook is “Stupid History” which is a fun little read. And these freebies will also work on the computer apps. Nook also maintains a page with a selection of free books at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/Free-eBooks/379001668/

    Nook also accepts EPub and PDF, and there are TONS of books available in those formats, mostly classics. The disappointing thing is that many of these are poorly formatted.

    I have the original Nook, B&W, with Wi-Fi only and love it. The newest version is all one big touchscreen, not just the little touchscreen at the bottom, but I think I would actually prefer the style I have now – I’d be likely to goof and swipe the touchscreen and change pages without meaning too, I think.

    You can access the internet on the Nook and the Kindle, but it is clunky and slow, but it would be good if it was all you had for some reason.

    Did I mention I LOVE my Nook?! 😉

  21. trisha says

    I have a list of books to read and their location (bookshelf, ebook, kindle, etc.). I even broke it down into categories: Finance, work, organizing, fun, spiritual, etc. Each time I collect a book, it goes onto the list. Once it’s read it is marked off the list. I have a folder on my computer for ebooks. Once they have been read, I rename it to add an “x” in front of the name of the book.

  22. Kristine says

    I have a Nook, which I love, but I hardly ever pay for e-books. I get lots of classic literature from Project Gutenberg (free because it’s in the public domain). I also get some things that the B&N site lists for free each week, and I check the weekly list of free Christian books at the Vessel Project site.

  23. Scribbles says

    I wanted to let anyone know that the Nook (Barnes & Noble E-reader) allows a person to go to Barnes & Noble and puruse books for up to an hour for free each day. You can simply go there for lunch break, curl up and read for free! Also, I have found out that B&N has “Free Book Friday” on their Nook and I have found some free books under their “Steal & Deals” tab when I purchase an e-book. If you look and are persistant you can find many books for a highly discounted price if not for free!

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