Free Books? What’s the Catch?


[Photo by Jayel Aheram.]

When I first read about Swagbucks, I figured there had to be a catch. How could they give away $5 Amazon.com gift certificates just for using their search engine? But over the past 12 months, I’ve collected $45 worth of free books, just for doing searches I would have done anyway. I bought a couple of Christmas gifts and an Ed Zaccaro book to supplement Kitten’s schoolwork.

If you’d like to try it out for yourself:

A Few Observations

  • Friday is Mega-Swagbucks day, which means I’m more likely to win a large prize for searching then. That makes Fridays a good time for researching future blog posts.
  • Swagbucks are handed out at random. If I don’t win on the first page of my search results, sometimes I will get one on the 2nd or 3rd page. Therefore, even when the result I was looking for is right there, I will often check at least one more page.
  • The SB search engine doesn’t seem to go as deep as Google does. When I want something beyond the top 20-30 results, I switch back to G-search.
  • I support the SB company whenever I can. If what I was looking for offers a sponsored link, I’ll use that one. Otherwise, however, I avoid clicking advertisements.
  • The SB home page carries annoying Flash ads, so I use the Firefox search toolbar instead. Or you can click Search in the SB page sidebar to go to a cleaner search page.
  • Most of the other prizes SB offers are no great deal. It’s cheaper to get Amazon certificates and then buy whatever I want than to save up for a specialty Swagprize.

On the Other Hand

If you’re in a giving mood, you might want to try this instead:

Update: Swagbucks Inflation

This week, SB inflated everyone’s old bucks times 10 (and, of course, also inflated the prize prices). They claim this will give them freedom to hand out bucks more frequently, in larger denominations. It’s yet to be seen whether or not this means it will take longer to win Amazon gift cards, which are the only prize I’m interested in.

They also changed their software so that you have to be logged in to win the bucks. It used to be that you could log in after winning, to collect your buck, but now you need to stay logged in whenever you search.

One advantage of the inflation: You can get up to 4 3 guaranteed Swagbucks every day, in exchange for a few minutes’ hassle. Click the Earn menu and visit Trusted Surveys (1 SB for the visit [this hasn't rewarded me the last few weeks, and I've never had any success with the surveys themselves, so I no longer bother], Daily Polls (1 SB for voting), and NOSO (you can click “Skip” until you reach the end, then get 2 SB for answering the Gotcha clue).

If you use grocery coupons: Be sure to check out the Printable Coupons page. Each coupon you redeem earns you an additional 10 SB.

Final note: As I mention in the comments below, I highly recommend the Firefox browser with the AdBlock Plus add-on and Element Hiding Helper, whether you are using SB or not. The Internet is a wonderful place to be when you get rid of all the ads!


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13 comments on “Free Books? What’s the Catch?

  1. A quick note for anyone who tries this out: I just went to claim my 10th gift certificate today. (Wow!!) I noticed in the Swag Store that the Amazon.com gift certificate deal has been bumped to the second page of gift certificates. If you’re looking to cash in some Swagbucks, it’s here:

    Swag Store home > Gift & Reward Cards > $5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card

    You need to save up 45 450 Swagbucks to claim the certificate, which for me usually takes an average of 5-6 weeks. They only process gift card orders a couple times a month, so depending on when you order, you may have to wait for your gift certificate to come through. But meantime, you can be racking up points toward your next certificate.

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  2. There are also free versions of published books available in PDF form. You might get some ideas for teaching from some of them. I recommend A=B, by Petkovsef, Wilf, and Zeilberger. It’s on finding systematically sums of various combinatorial identities, and is probably suitable for some AP high school students

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  3. I just started using Swagbucks and have redeemed a couple of certificates already. It did help with Christmas. :)

    I also like Paperbackswap, which is another way to find good books for the mere price of a few stamps.

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  4. I’m just getting started on Swagbucks and don’t have enough to redeem for anything yet, but won’t complain about earning some free books! As if I need more…

    Just stopped by from the Carnival of Homeschooling. Blessings!:)

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  5. Renae—I’ve heard a lot about PaperBackSwap.com, and it sounds like a good way of clearing off some shelves. But whenever I’ve checked for books I want, I can’t find them on the list, which makes me hesitant to join. Maybe I just want the wrong books?

    Tonya—thanks for stopping by! Homeschoolers do tend to collect books, don’t we? I have 12 tall shelf units, and it’s still not enough.

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  6. On my Swagbucks account, they offer a chart of my SB friends (first names only, for privacy’s sake), and I can see that several of you are nearly up to your first gift certificate already. Congratulations to Tonya, Paula, Nakia, and Jennifer — enjoy your free books!

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  7. I tried Swagbucks a few months ago when a friend posted the link on her blog but I couldn’t stand the search engine. There were so many ads and it did such a poor job of finding things compared to my usual Goodsearch that I gave up and haven’t touched it since.

    I do love freebies, books and earning money, so it sounded perfect. Perhaps I’m too picky or grumpy. I am glad to be supporting my favorite charity through Goodsearch though!

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  8. Pingback: Earn $5 Amazon.com Gift Card the Easy Way « Blogging 2 Learn

  9. Pingback: Hey, Look — I’m Famous! « Let's Play Math!

  10. Pingback: Free Math from Dover Publications « Let's Play Math!

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