If the all-you-can-eat model works for music and movies, it should work for books as well, right? That was the thinking behind "Netflix-for-e-books" services such as Entitle, Oyster and Scribd, all of which offer unlimited reading for a flat monthly rate.
Make that offered, past tense: Entitle quietly closed its doors over the summer, and yesterdayin the next few months.
Perhaps this was inevitable, as you have to be a pretty avid reader to justify the $10 per month subscription fee. What's more, although Oyster managed to wrangle three of the five largest US book publishers, its library consisted of a fairly meager 1 million titles.
So, what options remain for book lovers looking to read on the cheap? Here's a rundown:
Amazon Kindle Unlimited
Amazon remains the best-known player in the rapidly shrinking Netflix-for-ebooks game. Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month and offers over 1 million titles, all of them accessible via your Kindle e-reader, tablet and apps.
If you browse the Unlimited stacks, however, you may not find much you actually want to read. A quick perusal reveals few well-known titles or authors. Oyster, for its part, offered a much better selection. And if you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, the Kindle Lending Library (which lets you borrow one book per month) gives you access to what appears to be a nearly identical catalog.
E-books in bulk? That's the idea behind bundles, which give you a generous helping of titles for a low price -- or even whatever price you want to pay.
Every few weeks, for example, Humble Bundle offers a new name-your-own price collection. In fact, today is your last chance to grab the Neil Gaiman Rarities bundle, which features books, essays and comics.
Then there's StoryBundle, offering curated, genre-specific collections like the current Philip K. Dick Award Bundle. You can pay whatever price you want for six books, or pay at least $15 to get all 11 books in the promotion. Suffice it to say, those titles would cost you considerably more if purchased separately.
These and other bundlers offer newsletters that will notify you when new bundles become available.
E-books sometimes go on sale, but how can you know when? Or which e-book seller has the best price? All you need is Luzme, a free service that tracks e-books (and their prices) based on title, author, series name or ISBN.
Just run a search to see current prices for any given title. If you'd rather wait for a sale, you can add the book to your watchlist; Luzme will notify you when there's a price drop.
Kindle, Kobo and Nook deals
The Big Three e-booksellers regularly put books on sale, and you can occasionally find some wheat mixed in with the chaff. So bookmark Amazon's Kindle Daily Deals page, Barnes & Noble's Nook Books Under $5 and Kobo's Great Reads Under $4.99.
Scribd is now the single best book-subscription service, period. Notice I didn't say "e-book" service; although you have plenty of good choices in that department, Scribd also carries a solid catalog of comics and audiobooks.
Indeed, for $8.99 per month, you can read the likes of "American Sniper," listen to "The Girl on the Train," and get your fill of Captain America before the next movie.
Your local library
Last, but definitely not least, see what your local library has to offer. Many, if not most, have partnered with services such as Overdrive to let you check out e-books, usually for a two-week period.
You may have to get on a waiting list, as libraries have limited copies (just like with print books), but there's still no better price than free.
Have you found any other great sources for free or cheap e-reading? Name them in the comments!