Six Can’t Miss Ways To Get Books Free/Cheap

Many of us want to read more books; you might even have decided on this as a New Year’s resolution. But buying books regularly – perhaps one or two a week, if you’re really determined to read more – might be a problem if one of your other goals is to save money and cut out unnecessary purchases.

Don’t let a lack of cash become an excuse not to read books. There are several great ways to vastly slash the cost of books, or even to get them for free. Here are some to get you started:

  • Use Your Local Library (FREE)
    If you’re not a member of your local library, one of the first things you should do when it reopens after Christmas is to pop in and sign up.
    You might be surprised how much the library provides beyond just books: access to computers and the internet, CDs and DVDs (a small charge is usually made if you want to borrow these), a quiet and comfortable place to study, free newspapers to browse…

    Make a visit to the library a regular part of your life; don’t be shy of asking librarians for their recommendations, if you’re not sure what to read. Many libraries also host book groups and literary events.

  • Hunt For Books In the Wild (FREE)
    I loved the concept of “Book Crossing” when I first came across it, though I have yet to track down a “wild” book and bring it home. The idea is that when a Book Crosser has enjoyed a book, they stick a print-out from in the front, then “release” the book into the world. That might mean leaving it in a café, on a park bench, at a bus stop (part of the fun is being creative with the locations).

    Your challenge is to search the site for books recently released, and not yet claimed as “found”, in your area. Then go out hunting! And even when you’re not actively looking for books, keep an eye out just in case…

  • Swap Books With a Friend (FREE)
    If I read a great book that I know a friend or a colleague on my creative writing course would enjoy, I offer to lend it to them. Most people will gladly reciprocate from time to time, sending great books your way. This is a great method of getting books for free, because someone else can vouch that the book is worth your time (which is, after all, more valuable in many ways than your money…)

    You might even set up a book-swapping group at work or school, where members regularly bring in a couple of books and exchange them for ones they’d like to read.

  • Buy From a Library Sale (VERY CHEAP)
    As well as lending books, many libraries have book sales on a semi-regular basis in order to get rid of old stock. Many of these books are still in reasonably good condition, and they’re often unbelievably cheap (the libraries nearest me sell books for 20p each – about $0.35.)

    The only drawback is that the range of books will be limited. You’ll probably find some popular paperbacks, but don’t rely on seeing recent, popular novelists there (though I’ve picked up books by Joanne Harris, Mo Hayder, and Christopher Brookmyre at library sales). If you’re looking for the latest editions of non-fiction books, go elsewhere.

  • Buy From a Charity/Thrift Store (CHEAP)
    Many charity shops and thrift stores sell books cheaply, as do a number of fund-raising events. Prices vary, but they’ll still be much cheaper than buying new. You’ll probably find a similar range of books to the library sale ones; charity stores may sell books in “nearly new” conditions, whereas school fetes and sales are likely to have more battered volumes.

    As with library sales, the main drawback is that it’s hard to find a specific book; see charity shops and thrift stores as a browsing opportunity, rather than a place to pick up those few books on your “must read” list.

  • Buy Second-Hand From Amazon (CHEAPISH)
    If you are looking for a specific book, you might well turn to If you’ve never tried Amazon’s second-hand service, I’d urge you to give it a go: I’ve always been delighted with the results. For any book you search for on Amazon, check out the prices for “new and used” copies from other sellers. Popular paperbacks often go for as little as $0.01 + S&H.

    It’s not always cheaper to get the second-hand version (as Amazon usually has discounts, and offers free delivery), but in many cases, you can save a few dollars. I’d particularly urge you to do this when buying textbooks or similarly weighty non-fiction works: a lot of students sell these, barely opened, at considerably less than they’d cost new.

Do you have any other great sources of cheap or free books? Let us know in the comments…

Written on 12/08/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: by borrowed time | demi-brooke


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