Free books. Is there a sweeter phrase?
If I have an addiction, it is books. My office is full of books that I have read. My home is full of books I have read, want to read, and started but never quite finished. I like all kinds of books: self-help, business, novels, travel, children’s, young adult, and more.
Books are a relaxing escape. They expose me to new places and concepts that I can share with my friends and family. Because we are a family of readers, when my kids were younger one of our favorite activities was to browse in a big bookstore. There were always so many tempting choices. But, alas, one must set limits and show some discipline. Luckily, I found several ways to get free or almost-free books.
1. Free Books from the Library
No list of cheap books would be complete without the public library. Shelves and shelves of books await you for the low, low cost of nothing. There’s not much chance of being bored with the selection. However, if you live in a small town and cannot find specific books you want, an inter-library loan gives you access to a huge number of other libraries.
Even if you are a regular library patron, you may not be aware of everything at your disposal–for free! Of course you can borrow regular books from the library, but did you know you may be able to get ebooks? Even virtual picture books? For example, our local library’s website contains a link to a catalog of ebooks just for kids. You can enjoy a fairy tale, a science lesson, nursery rhymes, and much more from your computer or tablet. There are options for the kids to read along, to use the recorded narration, and for a parent to read to their child.
You can virtually check out Kindle books at our library too. They are automatically returned when due, no trip to the library needed. The problem is, if you are not quite finished in the allotted two weeks, your book disappears.
Libraries are a terrific resource for all kinds of media. When I have a long car trip, the library is the first place I go to search for intriguing audio books. You can even get early reader books that have a book as well as audio.
To get started, simply ask your librarian what your local library has to offer.
2. Do Your Friends Have Free Books?
If you have friends who read, they will probably be glad to loan or give you their books when they are done reading them. Of course, you will want to return the favor and share your books once you have read them too. Some of my friends like the same authors that I do so we share books. Other friends have introduced me to books I would have never thought to read, but found I enjoyed. Some workplaces have swap boxes for coworkers to share books they have read and do not want back. If your workplace doesn’t have one, maybe you could start one.
3. Swap at Coffee Shops
Could you use a latte with paperback on the side? A couple of the coffee shops in my town provide shelves for customers to swap books they have read. It is a great place to pick up a new-to-you book to read or drop off a book.
4. Little Free Libraries
Speaking of swapping books, have you seen those cute Little Free Libraries? There are two within a short walk from my house and many more in my city. They are great places to check for a new book, and the libraries themselves can be charming. Usually not much bigger than a microwave, Little Free Libraries are available for book swaps 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
5. Hotels Have Free Books
Books can make you feel at home when you’re traveling. Hotels.com offers a free download of one of seven books with a qualifying stay. At Country Inn and Suites, you can borrow a book and return it later. Do you know of other hotels that offer free books?
6. Apps Have Audio Books for Free
Kindle has several free books and even more for less than three dollars. The Audiobooks app has many classic books for free. Just because they are free doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them! Many of them are classics.
7. Online Used Books
Often you can get a used book from Amazon for $3.49 shipping and less than a dollar for the book. If you have an Amazon credit card, you can earn points and trade them in for free Amazon merchandise– including books. Half.com saved our family hundreds of dollars on required college textbooks, but be sure to note the edition if you are buying it for a college class. Speaking of college textbooks, most colleges have a Facebook group where students sell their used books.
8. Thrift Stores
Goodwill and other thrift stores often sell books for less than a dollar. We have a lovely ice cream shop with a room they call the philosophy room and you can buy one of the used books in there for a few dollars.
9. Used Bookstores
Used bookstores’ prices are usually a little more than thrift stores’, but still cheaper than buying new books. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a used bookstore where many of the books are less than a dollar. I shopped in one used bookstore where customers could trade in three books for one new-to-them book. Our library has a used bookstore where I have bought many best sellers and quality paperbacks for $2.00.
10. Garage Sale Books
Garage sales are one of my favorite places to buy used books. The owners are often willing to give recommendations or information about why they liked a particular book. I always feel like I have hit the jackpot if I am at a sale and there are several books on the table that I have read and enjoyed. That usually means I have run across someone with similar taste in reading. If you are wondering which used children’s books to choose, there are ideas in Best Books for Young Children.
Fortunately, you do not have to give up reading new-to-you books just because you are on a budget. Make room in your budget for a special book purchase now and then. However, if you have a healthy appetite for reading, free and used books are the way to go. And when you’re done reading, swapping, selling, or donating books is a great way to avoid clutter (and sagging shelves). For more ideas about living on a budget, check out Budget Like a Boss and Budget Friendly Ideas for Real Life.
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What are your favorite ways to save money on books? Do you have a favorite book or author to recommend? Garage sale season is coming up and I will add it to my list. If you found a new idea or two share this with a friend who likes books.
Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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