6 Tips on Buying Books Without Breaking the Bank

7 June 2014 by 20 Comments

If you’re like me, returning borrowed books from friends or the library is not fun, especially when you loved the book enough to instinctively tuck it in to your bookshelf next to the last book you read. However, we all know that buying books is expensive – and buying as many books as you could borrow from the library would routinely leave your bank account empty. Never fear, though; there are ways to own those books you love without going broke. Here are some of the ways I hoard buy books I want without spending too much cash.

1. Check your local thrift shop or used bookstore regularly.

One of my favorite places to visit when I go back to my hometown is the thrift shop I’ve visited since I was little. I’ve found some books that I had been looking to read for 99 cents and under. I got my copy of The Lovely Bones, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Joy Luck Club there, to name a few. I’d spend almost the entire time my mom was walking around browsing the housewares and clothes, searching frantically through the titles on the three sections of books in the store, looking for a title I recognized or one that grabbed my attention. And usually, I’m not disappointed.

Check to see if there is a thrift store like this in your area, or a good used bookstore. You usually won’t pay much for the books you find and it vaguely resembles a treasure hunt when they aren’t organized by author or title.

2. Keep an eye out for the titles you want at places that regularly offer discounted books or that sell used books online. 

My fellow booksluts suggested quite a few websites and stores that offered discounted books that I didn’t know about, such as Better World Books, Abebooks, and Half Price Books (I am  bit sad I’ve never been to a Half Price Books). I like Half.com by eBay, which saved me a lot of money on textbooks in school as well as for my own reading habit.

Amazon Kindle Deals of the Day and their $1.99 Kindle books also help me find some new authors and spend less money than usual. Algonquin has Lucky Stars sales monthly, where you can get certain ebook titles for $3.99 or less. Other publishers may run similar sales, so check out your favorites!

3. Sign up for subscription services where you can pay less for the books you read.

Subscription services like Oyster have become more popular lately. I like the idea of being able to read as many books as I want in a month, while paying a flat fee that is usually less than the cost of one book. I started a subscription with Audible recently, too. It’s good because, unlike some other subscription services, you own the books; you buy audiobooks with the credits you receive from your monthly fee. Audiobooks are expensive, so the Audible plans help me save a little money.

4. Library. Book. Sales.

Library book sales are a great place to get pricing in the same range as used bookstores; they also support your local library and arguably your community. Library sales are likely to have books that apply to the readership in your community since you are the ones who have checked them out of the library for several years. Some libraries even have an in-house permanent book sale that you can browse through at your convenience and put funds toward buying new books for the library to use.

5. Sign up for discount memberships at your favorite bookstores.

Memberships at your favorite bookstores are a great way to save money if you buy a lot of books. Ask at your local bookstore if they have a rewards card or a newsletter that announces specials and discounts.

6. Free options besides the library, because who doesn’t like free?

Book exchanges are a fun alternative to buying books. Meghan and Susie both have newspaper-vending-machine style book exchanges in their local area. My local coffee shop has a bookshelf that’s “Take a Book, Leave a Book” that’s based on leaving a book every time you take one, whether it’s the same one or not.

Amazon has a program called Kindle First that lets you select one book from a selection of new releases to read ahead of its release date for free. I have a collection of these books on my Kindle. The first one I read was excellent, it even made it to my staff recommendation a few months ago.

Check your favorite publishers to see what kind of deals they have on free books. CCLaP Publishing (who published Historia, Historia), has a voluntary payment to buy ebooks, but you can download them for free.

Sarah mentioned The Book Thing in Baltimore, which opens on weekends only to provide a full warehouse full of books, all for free. I don’t know about you, but this idea should spread far and wide, until it’s in every city. It’s a fabulous idea, and I’d definitely volunteer to get it going.

How about you? What do you do to buy books and keep from going broke?


Samantha loves stories. When she doesn't have her nose in a book or a story-based video game, she blogs at S.Owens Writes, photographs the world around her, and reads everything else she can get her hands on. You can follow her on Twitter at @sowensphoto.

20 thoughts on “6 Tips on Buying Books Without Breaking the Bank

  1. The Oyster link takes me to a travel site. i didn’t find a link for books.

    I LOVE my Friends of the Library sales. Our main branch has a year-round sale there. The books are not all discards, either. Whenever people donate stuff that can’t, for whatever reason, go into circulation, they sell the books for $2 apiece for hardcover, fifty cents for soft. I paid under $5 for the entire Game of Thrones series.

    My favorite, favorite, favorite used bookstore has a free bin in front. Any books that they can’t take in trade get dumped in that bin. I found a copy of a book I had JUST put a $40 bid on at Ebay right there in the free bin. I didn’t win the auction, either. That sucker went $100 beyond my minimum. Their book prices are hit-or-miss. High demand stuff is close to retail. In fact, some earlier edition paperbacks of Jim Butcher’s Dresden files are actually MORE than cover price because cover was $6.50, and they sell for $7.50 there. But other books, more obscure ones, can be super-cheap. There’s a 25 cent YA section, bargain fiction (where stuff isn’t more than $1.50). So many ways to save money!

  2. I totes dropped off a load of books at Half Price Books this weekend and bought MOAR BOOKS with my $20 credit. Circle of reading life.

    • That is amazing. I am going to have to take a trip to a Half Price books. I think the closest ones are about an hour away :( There’s a bookstore about 40 minutes away that is called something like the Paperback Palace, and I REALLY want to stop by there sometime.

      • Paperback Palace sounds really fancy. Like you should browse for the collected works of Austen with your pinky out! :D

  3. Pingback: Monthly Wrap-up: Goodbye wet, sticky June. You will not be missed | Lovely Literature

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