Finding Cheap Books

I haven’t posted in a while due to some dental drama. While I’m sure blogging on Lortab would be hilarious, I had to weigh that against the concept of “potential future employees stumbling across that time I blogged while on Lortab.” Not everyone knows awesome when they see it. Anyway, now back to your regularly scheduled content….

Book bookmarked with moneyCheap Books and Where to Find Them

We’re all aware that times are tough all over. We’re supposed to tighten our belts and spend less on gluxury items, including entertainment. For some, entertainment may be vacation outings, a weekly trip to the movies, or a craft/sporting hobby (see how I included both genders and a variety of personalities there?). For me, entertainment means reading. We’re talking books, and we’re talking lots of them.

How does the voracious reader stay in printed paper when he or she is out of printed money? Here’s a handy guide to free and lower-cost book sources. Maybe you aren’t rich, but your mind can be!


Try your local secondhand bookseller! Many communities have independent bookstores that sell used books at half the original sticker price. These stores often have buy and trade policies, too, so if you don’t like a book, you can trade it in toward a new one. Finally, you’re supporting local small business, which helps the economy in your community. Find your local secondhand store by checking Biblio’s list here.

If you don’t have a secondhand bookstore in your community and still want to support independent business, try shopping online at This site lets you browse and shop the inventories of independent secondhand booksellers all over the world. Although you’ll pay shipping fees, you’ll often still get away with spending much less than you would on a brand-new copy, unless the book itself is a recent release.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t plug a national chain, but Half Price Books has clean stores, great prices, unique inventory at each location, a green ethic, and great clearance sections. Also, I have a couple of friends who work for them and claim to be treated well. At a retail chain? Shocking! They don’t have stores in every state (yet!) but they are spreading, so if you don’t have one near you, don’t give up. When I moved to Oklahoma from Texas, I mourned Half Price Books, but now there’s one 10 minutes from my house!


Garage and estate sales! I find that garage sale browsers look for big bargains, such as furniture or baby clothes. Books are often overlooked. However, garage and estate sales do tend to run heavy on children’s books (score!) and biographies of people who were cool/important/pretty 20 years ago (point deduction.) If you have the time during the season, though, the prices can make the hunt worthwhile.

Thrift stores! They’re not just for Halloween costumes and furniture. Thrift stores like Salvation Army often have entire shelves of donated books. You might not find the latest book club selection, but you might find last year’s hit that you meant to read and never did. Keep your eyes peeled and check phone listings, because many non-profits and churches run thrift stores. Salvation Army and Goodwill are more famous, but scavenge your local independents as well!

Library book sales! Many public libraries have book sales featuring donated books and some collection discards (books that weren’t checking out or needed their numbers thinned.) Some libraries keep a constant sale section, and some have annual or even seasonal sales. Check with your local library for their policy!

Swap sites! Technically the books on swap sites are free, but you do have to pay shipping and trade your books for them, so I’m going to call it low-cost. is a book-only swap site, and is a popular all-category swap site. (No, you crazy 70s folks, not THAT kind of swapping…)

Free…kind of…

Are you willing to work for it? Try these options. You get free books, but you do have to put forth some return effort in the form of book reviews.

Got an ereader/tablet/computer you don’t mind reading on? Join Netgalley. You can create a free account at Netgalley is a site publishers use to push electronic Advanced Reader Copies to reviewers. You create an account, write a profile explaining  where your reviews will be published, and start requesting titles. You do have to download Adobe Digital Editions (for free) in order to read titles or load them to your device. (Kindle users go through some other alchemy to which I have not been initiated.) The books are loan only, usually a 55-day period before they expire. Some publishers only accept requests from long-lead reviewers (the pros, that is), librarians, and teachers. However, many publishers accept requests from bloggers and active Goodreads users, and some books are simply open to any user who asks. All that the publisher asks in return is that you review the book somewhere and send them a copy of the review, which can easily be done electronically through Netgalley’s site.

Goodreads user? Goodreads gives away ARCs in their First Reads drawing. Well, drawing is a misnomer. Books are usually distributed based on your site activity, from what I gather, so the more reviews you write and friends you have, the better your chances of winning. You aren’t contractually bound to write a review or anything, but since reviews are the purpose of First Reads, it behooves you to do so.


Free books are everywhere. You just have to know where to look! The first move to scoring free books is to join a book club or start hanging around with bibliophiles. Many of us need to cleanse our collections to make room for new titles on occasion, and while some of us sell our unwanted books (guilty), others of us are more generous and give them away. You can also find friends and family who will swap or just lend to you. You have to return the books, but often relatives don’t impose the same due dates as libraries. Speaking of which….

If you’re not going to the library…GO TO THE FREAKING LIBRARY. Libraries are awesome. If you live near a good library, you will have access to all the books you could want (though sometimes there’s a wait for new releases), and even if there’s something else you need, generally it can be found for you through interlibrary loan. Plus, while they’re billed as free, your tax dollars pay for libraries, so you might as well go make use of their services!  Many libraries lend not only traditional books but ebooks, graphic novels, and audiobooks as well. Sure, you have to return it after you’ve read it, but here’s a thought: You check out five books. You hate four of them and love the fifth. You buy your own copy of the fifth book and forget about the other four. Let’s say the books are all new $20 hardbacks. If you’d bought them all at the bookstore, you would have spent $100 and hated $80 worth of it. Going to the library saved you $80, and that’s water bill money, my friend. Go to the freaking library!

I hope these ideas get some of you scavenging for good books on the cheap. Feel free to post your favorite source of free reading material in the comments!