‘How to Read a Book for Free on Amazon’

That is the headline of Rafe Furst‘s blog post here, and that is the subject of his post as well. It is a very entertaining read (hardly surprising, coming from Rafe), especially as he leads up to describing the holy grail of Amazon free grazing: the Minimal Amazon Covering Set, about which Rafe has also set up a Wikipedia page. [ED.: See the comment below re: the removal of the Wikipedia page soon after this post was published.] Here is his description of the enterprise:

A set of keywords that lets you read an entire book for free on Amazon is a covering set (CS). If the number of keywords in a CS is less than or equal to that of all other CSs for the same book, then it is a Minimal Amazon Covering Set (MACS). There may be more than one MACS for any given book. (And yes, someone who is highly skilled at discovering these could be considered a “MACS book pro”).

He also addresses Amazon.com directly, asking just the right question:

Before you look to close this loophole, first check to see [if] your sales numbers are positively or negatively affected. Personally, I find it tedious and not that satisfying to read a book electronically and end up buying the book if I’m at all interested.

I am not convinced that Amazon would even consider this a “loophole,” though I am guessing that publishers might. But maybe I am too skeptical. Remember, I am the guy who wondered whether, if public libraries didn’t already exist, you could ever start one today.


Just search for 'page 7' followed by 'page 8', etc.
Better yet, buy the book.


Problem is, after x number of page views, you get locked out. Anyone find a way around this? It doesn't work. I've tried on a couple of books...


Looks like Wikipedia took down his page


Amazon.com would identify you based on your IP address. So if you're blocked after a certain number of views you have to change your IP address by 1)on dial-up disconnect and reconnect; 2) on a laptop you can hit another wifi hotspot.

J Hughes

How do you think I read Freakonomics?



@ Stephen Dubner & #10

Try searching Freakonomics by copying and pasting the following:

economics | freak | this | you | test | school | with | fact | far | who | late | did | his | now

Now I'm not condoning reading this way, but there clearly are some problems with Amazon's system. Still think that Amazon wouldn't consider this a loophole?


I bet if Amazon went public with this, it would actually improve sales.

I know that I often read the first 20 pages or so of a book before deciding to buy.

I must not be the only one -- Borders is filled with couches.


Why bother with Amazon when you can just use google:

David Wilson

Since the webpage was deleted from wikipedia, I added one sentence about the authors observation in this section.



Funny how you linked to The Game when showing that Scribr website... That was the first book I thought of doing this with when I read the post. Funny what our minds first go to.

PS: How do you think Sudhir Venkatesh would feel if I read Gang Leader For A Day this way?

Bronson Fung

Re: 2. & 7

I think the page viewing limit is linked to your login account rather than your IP address. Only accounts that have purchases in the past are allowed this feature.


Wikipedia entry deleted


How to Read a Book for Free: Get Library Card.

Pedantic Prig

Is it merely coincidental that MACS is SCAM spelled backwards?


I'm sure you can mask your IP address via certain web pages. I'm not an expert on this matter in any sense, but I do recall that being a safety precaution for paranoid people.

Paul Butler

You could also read an entire book in a brick-and-mortar store without paying (as with MACS, you might have to come back the next day if you get kicked out). I don't think people consider that a loophole. This doesn't seem much different to me.

Steve K

Has anyone checked out http://www.scribd.com ? It looks like people upload (after scanning??) entire books, and you can either read them on the website using their viewer, or download them in a variety of formats: Word, PDF, audio, etc. I don't know whether it's legal or not, though.

For example, here's the *full* version of Neil Strauss's 2005 book "The Game":



I just figured out how to search through the books using a bitwise OR symbol, which means that every page in the book can be found with just one search. They use the book TALES FROM THE TILTBOYS as their example in the blog. Go to that book and search for:

tilt | poker | hand | phil | bet | luck | odd | win | card | call | one | game | lottery | four | roshambo | kim

That will return every single page in the book at once without having to run multiple searches.

This can be used for any book. Think of keywords and just separate them by the | (pipe) symbol.

Becca Tanner

Has anybody used Google Book Search before? I just looked Freakonomics and it shows me all 205+ pages. Is that normal/ legal? I am normally the last person to hear about anything so I wonder if there is some catch to it.


But, as inflation proceeds, people begin to real- ize that prices are going up perpetually as a result of per- petual inflation. ,