11 free things worth consuming on Black Friday

This Black Friday, consume these free, high-quality digital goods instead of cheaply-made, heavily-discounted electronics.

Black Friday: it’s the worst! I say this while fully aware that the RVANews shop will boasts several Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and deals over the next few days. I’m very complicated.

As far as I can tell, the motivation to participate in this holiday–or, at least, in this set of days with proper names like Gray Thursday,1 Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday–fits into four major categories:

  1. You simply must get a head start on your holiday gift giving commitments.
  2. You have an intense Fear of Missing Out in all aspects of life but especially in the “killer deals” department.
  3. You need a new TV.
  4. You have the day off of work and couldn’t think of anything better to do than to become one with a seething mass of humanity crushing each other’s bodies and spirits for cheaply-made electronics.

Well, I can help you with #1, #2, and #4.

Below you’ll find some digital consumables that would make great and quirky gifts,2 won’t break the bank (…because they’re free), and will keep you busy and safely at home this Friday–away from any mass of humanity, seething or otherwise.

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Email newsletters

Email! It’s back, I think. At some point in the recent past, email became a cool way to quietly receive interesting information. Here are two newsletters that I really enjoy, plus a shameless plug.

  • Five Interesting Things by Alexis Madrigal • Anything served in increments of five already has a leg up on the competition in my book. Every weekday you’ll get an artisnal email from Alexis with five links, each tastefully paired with an excerpt. I’ll let you in on a secret: many of the Good Morning, RVA longreads came from this very email newsletter.
  • So What, Who Cares by Lisa Schmeiser • I’m new to this one, but I’m already in love. A couple of times a week you’ll get some handy info with the context (“So what?” and “Who cares?”) you need to sound super smart when you hang out with your less smart friends.3
  • Good Morning, RVA by Ross Catrow • Yeah, that’s right. I’m recommending my own dang newsletter. It’s informative, you guys!


Podcasts! They’re back, I think. Lately, there’s been a lot of positive buzz about the podcasting community, which is a real thing that exists, but of which I am not a part. I wish I were, though!

  • Wham Bam Pow • Science fiction and action movie news and film reviews from some hilarious cats. I just can’t get enough of host Cameron Esposito–especially her new Ask A Lesbian series.
  • Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men • Like me, the X-Men are complicated. Unlike me, they have an entire podcast dedicated to working through their history and timeline. This is not as boring as it sounds! Except the parts about Cyclops, those are exactly as boring as they sound.


After the demise of Google Reader, I fell off the webcomic bandwagon. But now, it is I who is back (mostly due to this episode of The Incomparable podcast). If you’d like to be back, or get started, here are some suggestions:

  • Dinosaur Comics • The art in this comic never changes and looks as if it were drawn in MS Paint (still a thing?). But! It’s oh-so-brilliant, and today it taught me about the ghost word ‘dord’.
  • xkcd • Just your average, run-of-the-mill genius from Richmond who now makes a mega popular comic about “romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” He also write a highly entertaining blog called “What If?” that explores and answers The Big Questions like “What is the farthest from Earth that any Earth thing has died?
  • Nimona • This is a blind recommendation, as I haven’t read it, but everyone’s always yammering on about how good it is and how it just finished and how you need to read it immediately.


Some books are cheap–usually those that have fallen into the public domain. Those books, when read digitally, are free. Here are the three best public domain books money can buy:

  1. Moby Dick • Have you ever wanted to learn everything there is to know about whaling? Maybe even a little about the history and art related to whaling? Or perhaps the biology of a sperm whale as known in the mid-1800s? I know it sounds tedious and boring, but every single sentence in Moby Dick is a wonderful, glistening treasure.
  2. Pride & Prejudice • You’ve already read this, right? Mr. Darcy, etc?
  3. Treasure Island • Picture a pirate in your mind. Almost every trope you ascribe to piratery comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and you never even knew it.

  1. You know, aka “Thanksgiving.” Gray Thursday is a real, live thing which someone committed to print
  2. Kind of, I guess. You’d have to be like, “Hey pal, I signed you up for this really great email newsletter. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. Here, I got you a card, too?” 
  3. This week’s So What, Who Cares is where I learned about dumb Gray Thursday. 
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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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