High-End Content for WWW Prices
Sure, you can get dreck like this blog post for free online, but to get high quality content, you still have to pay. Or do you? Here are the five best high-end content bargains I've found outside of the obvious (the Web, the library):
1) Miles for magazine subscriptions.
Have a few miles at an airline that you flew just once? They'll never amount to a free flight, but instead of letting them quietly expire, use them on subscriptions. I recently ordered The Atlantic Monthly using USAirways miles, which is a double boon because not only will I get a top-flight magazine, I am reassured that I'll never have to fly that bottom-flight airline again. USAirways also offers The Economist and even the Wall Street Journal (3300 miles), but I didn't take either because if I did I would probably never leave my house again and my children would waste away while I flipped page after page.
2) Public radio.
I can see paying for subscription radio when you're a sports fanatic, but otherwise, who needs satellite when there is so much quality content coming across the airwaves of your local public radio affiliate? And if you don't like the programming that's on when you're ready to listen, download podcasts of popular shows such as "Fresh Air." A friend of mine used her downloads of "This American Life" to survive a root canal recently. Of course, if you love public radio as much as I do, it stops being completely free because you end up pledging, but it's still a bargain at whatever you can afford to pledge.
3) Free audiobook downloads from the library.
OK, this is both the Internet and the library, but after years of paying $12 to $15 a month to Audible.com, these legally sanctioned download sites are a revelation. You log onto Netlibrary through your local public library. My local library requires me to type in my card number and then set up a NetLibrary account.
Also, see Nora Dunn's post about Simply Audiobooks, the rental site.
4) Book swapping sites such as BookMooch.
The virtues of the public library are many -- if you have the patience to wait for a hot new book to come in, the time to traipse over to the library to check it out, the conscientiousness to return it on time and in good shape, and the zen ability to let a book leave your home once you've loved it. If you're a little more flawed like me, BookMooch sounds awful appealing. On the downside, a quick search for current hot titles such as "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Love in the Time of Cholera" turned up zilch on BookMooch. Another such site, blogged about here by Jessica Okon, is Paperbackswap.
5) Public-domain literature
As Sarah Winfrey explained earlier this year, you can read public domain literature for free at a wealth of sites, download it to an electronic reader, or even download audiobooks legally.