Review: The Mathematics of Free Books

Books by somegeekintn[Photo by Casey Fleser.]

When I first heard about Swagbucks, I figured there had to be a catch. How could they give away real money just for using their search engine? But over the past four years, I’ve collected nearly $600 worth of freebies, mostly for doing internet searches I would have done anyway.

I trade in my Swagbucks for gift certificates, with which I’ve bought Christmas gifts, printer ink, groceries, and (splurging on myself!) several math books, including Paul Lockhart’s new Measurement.

Would you like to earn free books, too? Check it out:

  • Swagbucks Search & Win
    [To get a quick 50 Swagbucks, enter the code “SPRINGIN2SWAG” (for April 2013) when you sign up.]

Tips and Observations

  • Be sure to read the Do’s and Don’ts page. Breaking the rules will lead to deactivation of your account and loss of all your (unspent) points.
  • 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 me to research future blog posts.
  • Swagbucks are handed out at random, but I usually get at least one search win per day. If I don’t win on the first page of search results, sometimes I will get a prize on the 2nd or 3rd page — or even on the 6th.
  • If you shop with grocery coupons, be sure to check out the Swagbucks Coupons page. Each coupon you redeem earns you an additional 10 SB.
  • Swagbucks offers a wide variety of prizes, including cash (through Paypal), but the best deal is the $5 gift certificate. You can earn up to five of these per month, and I never look at other prizes until after I’ve claimed my five Amazons.
  • On rare occasions, the Swagbucks home page will feature an ad or video that I find offensive. It’s easy to hide such an item by clicking the X in its top right corner.
  • If you live in the USA, the IRS counts prize-winnings as income. Don’t forget to report all your gift certificates on your tax return.

Playing the Swagbucks Game

As with any type of online game, you can play Swagbucks at several different levels, and the prizes you earn will depend on how much of your free time you spend on their site. Over the last four years, I’ve gradually increased my participation from Dabbler to Journeyman…

  • Level 1: Playing for Pennies
    When I first started using Swagbucks, I didn’t change any of my internet habits, except to install their search engine in my browser. I earned a $5 gift certificate every two months, the equivalent of 2-3 free books a year.
  • Level 2: Picking up Loose Change
    After I’d been swagging for a few months, a friend told me about the Daily Earning Checklist. I also began to notice and take advantage of occasional Swagcodes. These two changes doubled my earnings. I didn’t feel right spending all those Swagbucks on myself, so I started using about half of my gift certificates on household necessities.
  • Level 3: Earning Daily Dollars
    By following Swagbucks on Facebook, I learned when to look for “dubs” and “trips” (double or triple search wins in a single day) and discovered other ways to rack up points and earn Swag bonuses. We dropped our satellite TV subscription, so I started watching Food Network on the Swagbucks TV page. I challenged myself to fill up the Daily Goal meter. The last few months, I’ve earned the monthly maximum of five gift certificates — and even after stocking up on printer ink and buying Kitten a nice set of headphones, that adds up to more Kindle books than I can possibly read.

Is It Worth the Time?

If I judged my Swagbuck earnings by the standards of a real job, the pay wouldn’t be worth the time involved. But compared to other ways I could relax online, such as working a Sudoku puzzle or playing Bejeweled, it’s fun to have a hobby that pays me back.

After all, who doesn’t love free books?

On the Other Hand

If you’re in a giving mood, you might want to try GoodSearch instead. Choose your favorite charity and support them every time you search:

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Check out these book reviews on Let’s Play Math! blog:

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