6 Ways to Afford More Books

This is an essay by Sharon Rigney.

You can’t put a price tag on the value of reading, yet buying new books can sometimes get cost-prohibitive. Here’s how to pursue reading on a budget.

I don’t know about you, but I like to own a book I’m reading. I like knowing there’s no deadline to when I need to return it to the library or to a friend.

I like the knowledge that if I really love it I can add it to my bookshelf and display it proudly. If I find it would be especially beneficial or relevant to a friend, I can pass it along confidently.

If I didn’t like it, I can surreptitiously leave it behind at the hair salon or doctor’s office. I can donate it to an area shelter or charity no matter what I thought of it. While I am reading it, it’s completely mine. When I am finished, its destination is solely up to me.

Here are some great places to pick up a book or two when other, more costly options are not possibilities:

Shop at thrift stores.

Make it an adventure. Read book jackets. Take chances. You never know what you’ll find. And they’re usually under a dollar a book, even for hardcovers.

Stop and browse at yard sales or flea markets.

Bargains abound here and (especially at yard sales) there’s usually the bonus of a person on site who’s read the book, and can recommend it or offer insight. Bargain prices and personal endorsements make yard sales a terrific option.

Have a book exchange with friends, neighbors, coworkers.

Bring in books you’ve finished reading and exchange for books you’d like to try out. This is a wonderful way to keep your reading options fresh and encourage reading and book-related discussions.

Knowing you and a neighbor, friend or coworker have read the same book offers you both the option to meet over coffee or lunch to discuss what you both thought. You get books, but you may also start great reading-related conversations as well!

Go to community used book sales.

In my community, the local newspaper has one every year. Your library, fire company, church group or parenting group may run one. This is a wonderful way to support your community and also continue your reading habit. If you’re set on keeping your book inventory to a minimum, when you’re finished with your selections, donate them back the following year, or pass them along to another worthy cause.

Look online.

There are many used and half-price book sites out there. For those of us who like a little wear to our books, this is a nice, budget-friendly option that also allows us to find books quickly and efficiently and have them shipped right to our doorsteps. Convenience and lower prices make online used book sites the perfect choice for many busy readers.

Try reading classics that are part of the public domain.

Completely free books are available at several sites and provide an option to fill the gap until when you’re ready to purchase again.

Buying any book, new or used, is exciting! When you can’t buy a new book, however, there are many advantages to purchasing used ones. You can experience a new author. It’s green.

It’s a great way to support the author by passing along your endorsement and recommending it to others. It’s better than not reading at all, of course.

Have you found any great ways to pursue reading that involved buying used books instead of new?


Sharon Rigney is a Bucks County, Pennsylvania-based writer and reviewer. She is a current contributor to several websites and even a blog or two. She loves to travel, really enjoys her morning coffee, and tries not to offend anyone with her snarky sense of humor. Read about her travels here and here or follow her on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: Some rights reserved by 401(K) 2012


  1. Chris Jean Ciolli

    Great piece! Garage sales & e-book deañs make up a lot of my reading pile & sometimes tale me in interesting directions

  2. Anjali

    A useful list for readers — indeed building up a library with new books can become very expensive. Of course writers would wish that every reader out there buys their books brand new.

    A constant tussle.

  3. Alice

    Awesome post! My local supermarket has a charity table stacked with books for 50p – it’s an honesty system so I hope everyone pays the 50p. I got two today for £1, bargain!

  4. Zada Kent

    Goodwill and thrift stores can be a great places to find books. But my local library is my favorite novel-hunting ground. It has a section of withdrawn books that can be purchased for donation. I recently walked out with four new hardbacks for the two dollars I had in my pocket.

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