How to Read on the Cheap

For a long time, I didn’t buy books.  At least, not many.  I would wait until the number of paperbacks I wanted from Amazon tipped me over the free shipping threshold, then binge, then wait a few months before I did it again.

I reread a lot.

This year, though, I’ve read an awful lot of new books, if by “new” you understand that I mean “they haven’t been sitting on my shelves already for years.”

And I didn’t break the bank doing it.

(This advice mostly applies to the US–I’ve seen many booklrs worldwide bemoaning their lack of access to quality library systems and used bookstores and such.  Do your best with what you can!)

  1. Get a library card. Yes, going to a library takes time, but so does going to the bookstore! And really take advantage of whatever your local branches have to offer.  My county not only has a request system in place for materials from other branches, but there’s a statewide request as well, plus e-book lending.  Make lists of things you want to read (you’re on Goodreads anyway, right?) and start requesting the ones that aren’t at your local branch.  If you like them enough to want your own copy, (I’m looking at you, The Raven Cycle) then start hunting for them through other channels.
  2. Borrow (and lend) to friends.  If you have bookish friends.  If you have friends you can trust!  It’s heartbreaking to get a book back in poor condition (my first paperback of The Fellowship of the Ring came back missing half its cover because my friend’s hamster got at it) but seriously, tell your friends not to dog-ear the page corners and you’ll probably be fine.
  3. Used book sales.  Every library in my county has a book-sale room where you can fill a grocery bag with books for a flat price ($3 in my case.)  There’s a quarterly sale at the main branch that’s $2 a bag, and I came home from it two weeks ago with 39 books for $6.  (Though nine of them were for a coworker who gave me $2 and told me to fill a bag for her, since she couldn’t go herself.) You won’t find those shiny new titles that you’re dying to read as soon as they’re released, but this is a great way to try new authors for pennies, and if you end up not liking something you picked up, just donate it back.  Churches sometimes have book sales like this, too, just keep your ears open, search for local book sales online, read the flyers on the community bulletin board at your local grocery (yes I found a book sale that way once…)
  4. Thrift stores and used bookstores. My local thrift store doesn’t have the greatest selection, but at 25 cents for paperbacks and 99 cents for hardcovers, it’s worth a few minutes to look when I’m nearby.  And there’s a used bookstore a town over from me that sells books at 1/2 cover price, or 1/4 if you open a donation account–they credit you for every book you give them and get the cheaper price on books you buy until you’ve used all your credits.  Again, not the best way to read new releases but a great way to expand your reading horizons.  (I actually got my first Sharon Shinn book at that used bookstore for $1.59, which lead me to buy nearly everything else she’s written.  I have great love for that place.)
  5. Used book websites.  I have not used any myself, though I’ve heard good things about Thriftbooks and I intend to check it out at some point.  This would be best if you’re looking for a specific book (especially older works, I might shore up my Ray Bradbury collection here because I’m striking out locally.)
  6. And if you have a e-reader…hit up Project Gutenburg for free public-domain works, and for Kindle specifically Amazon is always bursting with free and cheap books–I check the genre I feel like reading and go to the “free” bestsellers for that category.

3 thoughts on “How to Read on the Cheap

  1. These are great tips! I also use Bookbub – I get an email every day with deals on ebooks (from free to about 2€) on Amazon, Google Play Books and Kobo (and I think they may have Barnes and Noble ones, too). It yields way better results than trying to search for free books on those platform myself.


  2. Wow, this list so isn’t helpful for me because I’m such a freak when it comes to books. I hate sharing my books because I’m afraid people will destroy them.
    I hate used books/library books because other people have touched them, broken the spines, dog-earred the pages. o.O *cringes*

    Though, I have recently gone to Half Price Books and found an online site which has allowed me to buy books that look new and therefore are okay for me to have! ^.^ *is a freak with new book OCD*


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