10 Free (or Nearly Free) Ways to Get Books

how to get free books

I love books. I’m addicted to bindings, paper, and ink. I become intoxicated by the smell of an old edition. I melt at a beautiful children’s picture book. I truly breathe only when the printed word is being read across my tongue.

My husband tolerates my addiction. I’m forever coming home with stacks and bags of books. He silently helps me move a new bookcase into the house. He understands my love for books, but not my passion. However, my collection is built mostly of books I didn’t have to pay for. Besides getting them as gifts, and ransacking the discount bins at the superstores, I am drawn to (at least) these ten places.

The Book Swap

Usually, the rules are congregate every so often and bring a book. Then, pick one of the books someone else chose, socialize, and go home. I love a well-organized book swap filled with people who like to read what I read. You might have to try three or four to find the right one for you.

The Library Card

Yes, this may seem obvious, but look at it this way: It follows much the same rules as the Book Swap. Once you’ve signed up, you automatically “own” every book in that library. The rules are enter your selection in the computer and bring it back after the allotted time as expired. If you don’t, you pay a fee, because that book also belongs to everyone else with a library card. Oh, and if the library doesn’t have it, there is always Inter-Library Loan. You can truly get (nearly) any book ever. Very nice.

The Library Discard

Libraries must always rotate their stock: remove old and worn books, duplicates of rarely-used books, outdated books, and I have no idea why else. But there are always stacks somewhere. Once a year, our library district holds a huge sale at the armory. Once, I bought 157 children’s books (good ones, mind you), two albums, and one non-fiction book for less than 40 dollars. It was just a matter of getting my husband to take them all home

The Teacher

Similar to libraries, educators frequently clean house. I have about a hundred books I got for free from the secret shelves in the literature department at my college. If there isn’t one where you want it, go knocking on professor‘s doors. Somebody somewhere is dying to thin out their collection.

The Dorms’ Dumpster

College students can be completely un-frugal when it comes to books. When the dorms are moving out for the summer, hit the dumpsters. Textbooks, novels, whatever just seems like too much of a burden can be found waiting for you to rescue it. I always feel like a hero when I extract printed matter from the toss pile.

Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Home Supply Stores, and Goodwill

These charity places do not treat their book section like a used book store does. They price their goods at cents. I recently went to Goodwill, complained to myself about each book having a sticker on it, but was rewarded because they have “colored tag?” sales. Thus, I got several of my selections for a dime apiece.

The Organized Book Drive

No facades. “We’re having a drive for unwanted books to be redistributed throughout the neighborhood to families for free. Do you have any to donate? Thank you very much.” Pull the increasingly heavier Radio Flyer to the next house. Then, hold a free-book yard sale.

Surveys for Gift Certificates

Lightspeed Consumer Panel has rewarded me with a number of Amazon e-certificates, which I always end up using for books. One addiction affords the other, I suppose. There may be several sites with this kind of reward system.

Credit Card Reward Programs

Both of my credit cards have some sort of Book incentive for me. One, I get a discount when I order online at retailers. The other builds reward cash which, if you redeem it for credit at one of their partner stores, they will increase a certain percentage. Every time I use my card, I imagine the book I just put a few cents toward.

Project Gutenberg

This is an online free book archive. They record digitally with searchable text the many classic books of the world. Online readers: peruse, search, read, and most of all, enjoy.

(Image courtesy of kate hiscock)

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7 Responses to 10 Free (or Nearly Free) Ways to Get Books

  1. Marissa says:

    ooooohhh, I understand the passion.
    A book, to me, is a complete sensory experience!…recently, a new company is offering to teach you how to read 200 pages in 20 minutes…to me, that’s like saying they’ll teach me to eat 200 dishes in 20 minutes…where’s the joy??

  2. Bernadette says:

    I too love books. Thanks so much for developing this list. You have places here I never thought about. My daughter just turned 2 and I have begun reading to her. My mother says that “books takes you places you want to go even if your physical body never takes you there.” I love to read and this is going to help me get more books.

    Don’t forget garage sales and book outlet stores. You can always get some good finds there as well.

  3. Hana says:

    As a retired librarian, I’ll explain why some books go for sale. We’ll get a donation of a book (or a set). It costs the library money to process it- someone has to put it in the catalog, some one else to get it physcaly ready, etc. If it doesn’t fit the library’s needs, it’s your taxes wasted. Better to let someone take/buy it.
    Also,space in every library is limited. We have to weed our collections to make room for new books.

  4. Maxine says:

    Books are my life! I have a book tote that says “I cannot live without books.” so, I understand the passion. Like the author, I probably have 100 books in my home. I cannot go pass a bookstore and my husband blindfolds me…Love book sales, outlets. Am the library’s best customer. I simply love books. Also, like Marissa…why would you want to read 200 pages in 20 minutes?

  5. Mary Scott says:

    Don’t forget Paperbackswap.com or bookmooch.com!
    I have more books than I can read in a year now!

  6. Gail says:

    Great article. I’ve put a link to it on my Squidoo lens: http://www.squidoo.com/Book-Reader/ so others can come read it too!

  7. Ruth says:

    Somewhere in between the ultra cheap (ie free) methods and the expensive ones is book swapping through the mail. The cost is the cost of wrapping and mailing a book (mail cost is usually $2.13). Check out http://www.bookmooch.com or http://www.swaptree.com

    Bookmooch works on a points system–you get points for entering a book into their system, points for sending books to others and points for acknowledging receipt of a book sent to you. With their huge membership, there are a lot of books available, and you can create a wishlist such that you get an email if/when a book you want becomes available. Swaptree arranges immediate trades, sometimes involving as many as four people. You create lists of stuff you have (books, cd’s games) and stuff you want and the computer tried to match you up.

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