books · Publishing

Jellybooks: Free e-Books for Test Reading


I recently stumbled across an interesting opportunity for readers to have access more ebooks for free. Jellybooks is a website that helps publishers understand reader interests by collecting data on reader behavior. It works like this: a reader signs up for the program and gains access to free advance reading copies or simply free versions of ebooks. (Titles include general fiction like Micheal Deon’s The Foundling Boy, romances like Rachel Caine’s Devils Bargain, and crime novels like Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger.) In exchange, Jellybooks tracks how that reader interacts with books. This means that the company looks at how much of a book an individual reads and how long it takes a reader to finish a book (assuming he or she does finish it). The company also asks if the reader would recommend a book.

This program is for a very specific audience: people who don’t mind sharing how they read. I imagine the dissemination of this data seems very intrusive to many people. On the other hand, at least Jellybooks has provided full disclosure about what is happening to the data. Facebook and Google are much less open about what they do with user information.

Some authors have also expressed concern that data from businesses like Jellybooks could adversely influence how publishers treat books. Depending on the book, that may be true. If 80% of readers don’t make it past the first few chapters, that could be a sign that the book doesn’t have broad appeal, and publishers could market certain titles less. However, I doubt that this type of data will ever fully take the place of editorial and marketing departments in making those types of decisions. After all, classic or controversial books often lose many readers but maintain sales and renown. Think of the people who may be horrified by the raunchiness of Henry Miller; their rejection of his ideas would probably alter his data in a program like Jellybooks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about programs like this one. I haven’t heard of publishers investigating reader behavior in quite this way before, and it engenders a lot of passionate emotions. Alternately, if you are already a Jellybooks user, please don’t hesitate to share your experience. I’m nosy and am interested in hearing more about how people have found the system.



22 thoughts on “Jellybooks: Free e-Books for Test Reading

  1. Interesting concept but, people read at different paces. I know people that will or don’t have the time to read a book they purchased because of personal commitments that come up, Then they will get a day or two with time on their hands and pick up the book and read it through to the end with in that time. There are those that read a little each day. Some read while traveling, only to put the book down for a few weeks or longer, I think there are to many variables in this sort of pole. I don’t think the company will get a true analysis. We can not over look the people who will join just to get something for free.
    This is just my personal opinion and you know what they say about opinions. :o)
    Good luck though. :o)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true! Jellybooks isn’t a company that I’m affiliated with – they’re just a group that I found interesting – so I am keeping an eye on how they develop their works. I am curious about what they do with the cases you describe. I know that I have a list of books waiting to be read, and I’m sure other people do to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was never going to get a Kindle, I always wanted to hold the book in my hand it felt more personal to me, then one Christmas my daughter bought me a Kindle. I now love the thing and have so many books waiting to be read. It is easier to just pick up the Kindle and be on my way. Of course I still love the paper book and do have some still. Authors that I have become friendly with will send me a singed copy and that is a wonderful feeling. I now like the idea of having a library in my Kindle. I can browse through it and read at my convenience, for a writer that is a wonderful tool because most writers love to read. :o)

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I too struggled against getting a Kindle, but ebooks can be exceptionally handy, and I’m always a fan of space saving devices like that even if they don’t quite have the beauty of physical books. I’m glad that you found a method of of making both types of libraries work for you!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I was also never going to get a Kindle. Now I have two. Netgalley is still my go to for ARCs. I did go on and register for this one, but I doubt the rewards will be as great as the other service. Rewards meaning ebooks. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As a reader I wouldn’t bother with it. I have enough on my to-read-pile from friends’ recommendations, goodreads/social media recommendations, and new releases from favourite authors. As a writer I think it’s an interesting idea but I’m not really sure how it adds to the discoverability of new writers. Data to a degree measures trends, I think, rather than uncovering new talent. But I could be completely wrong about that!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm… This is an interesting concept, to be sure. It reminds me a bit of Netgalley, except for the research aspect going on in the background. However, I prefer Netgalley because, while I do have to be accepted to receive a copy of the ARC by the publisher, I don’t have to pay for it. Honestly, if I’m getting an ebook, I don’t want to pay. If I’m going to pay for a book, I want a hard copy. That’s just my mindset, which is why something like Jellybooks probably isn’t my idea of an interesting draw. That and I have so many other hardcopy books and eARCS to read right now that I’d probably never get around to the books I found on Jellybooks. (Just like I’m not getting around to the books I currently own. :p)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wanting physical books for your money is completely reasonable. (Besides, it is much more fun to look at a bookshelf full of books than it is to scroll through covers online.) I’m also fairly sure that some countries charge extra taxes on electronic books because they believe ebooks don’t offer enough ‘value’ on their own. Those taxes may only apply to public libraries/universities though; I’m not as certain about how it works with individual readers.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmm… I reckon this would only provide data about the very small subset of readers who hang around online and join things like NetGalley. Most readers just buy books or go to the library – only bookish obsessives (like me!) are likely to sign up for these kinds of things. So I reckon the data will be seriously skewed towards avid readers who enjoy trying new things, and we all mostly have hundreds of books hanging around on our e-readers already. And of course it excludes entirely the vast number of readers who don’t use e-readers at all. I’m not sure therefore how useful it would be in finding out anything about the “market”…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely only provides a small subset of data! I imagine that marketing folks would have to keep in mind what types of people are using the service. I do, however, think that it may be good for seeing very broad patterns. For example, if one book’s data drastically differs from the collected data norms either in a positive or negative way, the publisher will likely look into why that is.

      You are right though that the vast number of readers still go for physical books, and I don’t blame them! My bulging bookcases say that there is still something special about being able to turn pages and smell ink.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Once you sign up for the program, Jellybooks sends you an invitation to begin reading. Not everyone who signs up receives an invitation, and it is region specific. For example, if they don’t have any spaces for people from Brazil available, they won’t send out an invite. I do believe there is a waiting list though, and Jellybooks keeps names in a system and gives out new invites as spots open.

      Unfortunately since I don’t work for them, I don’t know the ins-and-outs of their process, but I hope that the information I did provide helps!


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