Book Chat

Books on a Budget

A few weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook seeking advice on finding cheap/free books since her spending was getting out of hand. I added my two cents and there was a long thread of great ideas. I’ve thought about it some more and couldn’t resist putting together a longer list of my own… and doing so reminded me of some options that I tend to forget about when that tempting “Buy with 1-Click” button on Amazon beckons.

10 Resources for Free/Cheap Books on a Budget

The Amateur Librarian // Books on a Budget


…Physical Books…
1. ILL
Even if your local library doesn’t have the new release you want, chances are they can get the book for you from another nearby location via Inter-Library Loans. I use this option all the time! You never quite know when a hold will become available, but if you’re patient you can get most new releases this way. Sometimes I’ll put a hold on every available version of one title – ebook, audiobook, paperback, and hardback – in order to have the most chances of getting at least some version of it sooner.

2. Friends of the Library
Library sales are the best! They usually have deals like “fill a bag for $5” or paperbacks for $1/hardcovers for $2, etc. but sales only pop up once a quarter, so you have to keep a lookout for signs or on the library’s website/email newsletter.

I’ve been a member for a long time (since 2008!), and this is still a great way to swap my old books for free (used) books. You pay the media rate shipping when users request books in your library, and you get a credit for a free book in return. The only downside is that most new releases are not available, and if the books you have are not in hot demand, it can take a long time for them to be requested. Every so often (like when I’m about to move), I remove all the books from my account and just donate them somewhere so I don’t have to lug them with me. But somehow I never have a problem accumulating more books to swap!

Click here to check it out!

4. Used Book Stores
I always forget about used bookstores… but when you find a good one, it’s a goldmine! In Nashville, I love Bookman Bookwoman; I’ve also heard McKay’s is a great consignment store too, so you can bring in books in exchange for store credit or cash. One option that was mentioned on the Facebook thread that I always forget about is Goodwill – they usually have a big collection of used books (and so do most thrift stores),  for super cheap prices.

5. Chain Book Stores
Don’t discount your local Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million, either. Even though Amazon seems like the cheapest option, you can usually find great deals at a chain store too. The last time I visited B&N (when I didn’t want to wait for Go Set a Watchman to arrive in the mail!), almost all books were discounted at least 30%, and there were lots of tables with 3-for-1 or Buy-1-Get-1 deals. No shipping costs and no waiting for delivery, either!

The Amateur Librarian // Books on a Budget


6. Bookbub
This is my favorite newsletter for ebook sales, and I like that you can customize the genres or authors you want to hear about. You get daily emails with alerts for ebooks on sale – most for $0.99, $1.99 or $2.99 available for 1-2 days at a time.

Click here to check it out!

7. Subscriptions
There are a ton of subscription services out there (Scribd, Oyster, Kindle Unlimited, etc.) but Kindle Unlimited is the only one I’ve used. For $9.99/month, you have unlimited access to over 800,000 ebooks on Amazon – not all ebooks are available, but most of them are. Subscriptions are great if you read a ton of books – especially if you’re into genre fiction – but personally, after a few months I found I wasn’t reading enough ebooks to justify the monthly cost.

The Amateur Librarian // Books on a Budget


…Physical Books & Ebooks…

8. Library (Duh!)
But really, you might forget that there are tons of free books available to check out! My likelihood to use the library where I live is highly dependent on how convenient it is to get there and check out books easily, and luckily I love the one here. Most libraries also have programs to download ebooks and audiobooks now, which also broadens their collection.

9. Write Book Reviews

If you have a blog, there are a ton of sites that offer free books (new releases and/or ARCs) in exchange for an honest review. This is one I need to remember more often… I’ve written a couple reviews for Blogging for Books but I haven’t kept up with it. Click here for more info & a list of sites accepting book reviewers. 

The Amateur Librarian // Books on a Budget



10. SYNC
This program is only available in the summer, but it’s the only place I’ve found FREE audiobooks – and audiobooks are really expensive otherwise! It’s a simple email newsletter for two free titles each week – one Classic and one Young Adult paired for each weekly theme – for about 8 weeks each summer. I’m always get so excited when the SYNC emails start up each year!

Click here to check it out!

(Audible is another option, but like I mentioned above with other subscription services, I can’t listen to books fast enough to justify the monthly cost.)

That’s about all I can think of… let me know if you have any other ideas to find free/cheap books to indulge my reading habit!

4 thoughts on “Books on a Budget

  1. I use to compare book prices when ordering online, and have found it very helpful. I am a HUGE fan of Goodwill for books. They usually do have a fairly decent collection, and one of my local stores does a deal whenever they have too many in stock: 10 paperbacks for $1 or 5 hardbacks for $1. I used to use ILL for my textbooks in college. I haven’t used it much since, but I loved it back then. It saved me hundreds of dollars each semester


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