Longtime readers know how much I love free stuff. In past issues of Hassle-Free PC I've covered online services that let you consolidate rewards cards and share huge files, get a temporary phone number and create flyers, and get a disposable e-mail address (and more, too many to mention here). This week I've rounded up a few more fun and useful Web sites--read on if you want to learn how to find free Kindle books, get a free month of Slacker Radio Plus, and try out a free online organizer designed for groups.
Find Free and Discounted Kindle E-Books
I love my Kindle. (Actually, I love the Kindle apps on my iPhone and iPad even more.) But you know what I hate? E-book prices. I know authors and publishers and everybody in between need to make a living, but there's simply no reason an e-book should cost almost the same as its hardcover or paperback counterpart.
Fortunately, Amazon frequently offers e-book freebies and discounts. And I've found no better way of browsing, searching, and tracking these wallet-friendly options than at eReaderIQ. The site maintains a huge, frequently updated database of free and discounted Kindle books.
Scroll down a bit on the home page you'll find the Recent Activity section, where you can click to switch between recently added freebies, recent price drops, and recently "Kindlized" books (i.e. those that have just made the move from print-only to e-book).
For any of the freebie listings, clicking the little green book icon will launch a preview window, where you can read the actual book in Amazon's currently-in-beta Kindle Web viewer. The orange star icon shows user reviews, while the Info link gives you a book summary.
The site also offers a Price Drop Tracker: Just enter the ASIN or URL for any book, your e-mail address, and a notification threshold (the price at which you want to receive an alert) and eReaderIQ will notify you when the book hits that price.
If you love e-books but hate paying high prices, eReaderIQ is one site you'll definitely want to bookmark.
Get a Free Month of Slacker Radio Plus
When it comes to streaming music, Pandora gets all the attention--but I've always been partial to Slacker. Like Pandora, it creates a custom radio station for you. Unlike Pandora, it doesn't limit you to a single artist. Rather, you build your station based on all the artists you like.
The free version of Slacker limits the number of songs you can skip, plays and displays ads, and shows only abbreviated song lyrics. If you want unlimited skipping, no ads, full lyrics, and other goodies, you need to subscribe to Slacker Radio Plus.
That normally costs $4.99 per month (well worth it for anyone who listens to music all day, every day), but for a limited time, you can get a month of Slacker Radio Plus absolutely free.
What's the catch? For most users, there isn't one. All you need is Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9. With those two items in place, do this:
- Head to the Slacker site.
- Drag the Slacker icon from the Internet Explorer address bar all the way down to the Windows Taskbar, then drop it.
- Click the new Slacker icon to open the site.
- Right-click the new Slacker icon to bring up its Jump List (which is pretty awesome, by the way), then click Get Slacker Radio Plus FREE.
That's it! Now you've got a month of Plus. (Curiously, when I went into the settings for my account, it still showed me as a Basic subscriber. But the Plus upgrade had definitely been applied, as I was no longer hearing the occasional ad, and I could see complete song lyrics.)
You've got until May 31 to take advantage of this offer. Alas, it applies only to the Web-based version of Slacker. Your Android, iPhone, or other app won't absorb the benefits of the freebie.
Keep Your Family's Schedules in Sync With Free Cozi Calendar
My little family is all over the place these days. We've got soccer practices, yoga classes, Cub Scout events, Girl Scout events, lunch meetings, and on and on. In other words, we're like pretty much every other family.
The big challenge, of course, is keeping track of who goes where, and when. That's why I have new and profound love for Cozi, an online organizer that's perfect for busy families.
All you do is sign up for a free account, enter your family members' names and e-mail addresses (if applicable), then start adding events to the calendar. You can color-code appointments depending on which family member(s) will be involved, and set up reminders (which can come in the form of an e-mail or text message).
Any and all family members can access the Cozi calendar online, but the service also offers free apps for Android and iPhone. I use the latter; my wife, the former. They're fantastic for viewing and adding events on the run. (Alas, they don't integrate with the built-in calendars, and lack any kind of alarm option. That's my sole complaint.)
You can important existing calendars from the likes of Google Calendar, Outlook, and even your local school--all huge time-savers. Cozi also has templates (accessible in the Settings menu) for recurring activites like childcare, clubs, and sports practices.
Beyond group calendaring, Cozi offers a shared to-do list, a shopping list, and a family journal (which you can adorn with photos, either existing or snapped on-the-fly). And if you're using the Web interface, you can quickly compose and send a message to any family member via phone or e-mail.
Cozi is, in short, ridiculously handy. My only regret is that I waited this long to start using it. This is without a doubt one the Web's best freebies.
If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.