Thursday, May 2, 2019

Backdoor Reading Tips

Here's a tip for finding free e-books online.

If you ever search for a free e-book online you'll notice there's a lot of junk out there, a lot of spam-ish looking links that promise to deliver free books, but are actually bait links selling some kind of e-book subscription, which isn't actually free, and may not actually deliver the goods.

Sometimes you can find a free e-book searching by name and author alone, but many times you can't. So what do you do? Well, you can either just give up, and buy a copy of the book. Or you can try to find a copy of the book at your public library. Or you can search for a backdoor.

Isn't that an intriguing concept, that a term often used in the computer hacker world could be applied to your search for difficult to find free e-books that haven't been indexed by the usual title and author search perimeters?

I'll tell you how based on an experience I had today, but it's by no means the first time I discovered this secret, but it's the first time I'm writing about it.

You see I have a Kindle e-book reader which I've been using to slowly put together an extensive digital library of books, and am attempting to do so for the least amount of money possible. In other words, I prefer free to not free. If I can find a free copy of an e-book I wish to read, there's no need to buy it. Purchase of an e-book only happens once I have ruled out that there is no way to obtain it for free.

Keep in mind that in your quest to find free e-books you will discover that some books have simply not be digitized, meaning no digital copy exists anywhere. Another impediment in the quest is that some books are more strictly copyright protected than others, and so you will simply not find a free electronic copy anywhere, as it has been removed and blocked by the strong arm of the law.

So where does this leave us? To find what can be found.

I was looking for a free copy of Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein. I succeeded, but in the process I also stumbled upon a treasure trove of other books I had been trying to find but hadn't had any luck. And here they were all in one place, discovered by simply exploring the parent directory that this book was found in.

You could say I stumbled upon a backdoor. If you remember the movie WarGames, which is where I first heard the term backdoor in relation to hacking, the main character in that movie was trying to guess the password to be able to get into a game he wanted to play, and he discovered it by first going through the list of games created by the designer of the computer system he was trying to hack into. If you know the movie you'll know that he went right through Falken's maze. The point is he was able to figure out the password for the game by looking for clues found in the game creators other works.

What does this have to do with finding free books?

Easy. Look for a backdoor. If you're looking for a specific book, and you're not having any luck perhaps you should look for other works by the same author. See if you can find any free e-books posted online of this author, even if it's not the book you're looking for. Carefully look at the URL for the parent directory where this e-book is found so you can explore its contents. If somebody posted a link to one e-book, it's possible they may have posted links to other e-books.

It's highly probable you'll find what you're looking for there. If not, the other option is to look for a related genre. Figure out a list of books having similar subject matter to the one you're looking for, and search for those instead. Follow the same procedure. It's worth a shot. And even if you don't find the book you were originally looking for, chances are you'll probably find something else even better.