How to Read Great Books Without Spending Your Entire Paycheck

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Here’s a basic truth that all readers know: books are expensive. With single books costing between $15-$20, sometimes more, catching up on your favorite series can be a pricey endeavor. Goodness knows I spend far too much on books, to the point where my boyfriend has to frequently remind me that we have bills to pay, so maybe I shouldn’t be buying three new books right this second.

Reading doesn’t have to be expensive, though. In fact, there are several ways that you can read what you want for free or extremely cheap! Here are my tips:

Get a Library Card

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Hopefully, this is obvious and you already have a card to your local library. If you don’t, go. Right now. Seriously.

The library is my favorite place in the whole world. Every time I’ve moved to a new town, the first thing I do is run to my nearest library branch and sign up for a card. The entire literary world is waiting for you, and if your library doesn’t have a book you want to read, you can request it, usually through their website or a form near the checkout desk.

There are also a ton of other great resources available to you once you have that library card! Every city’s library system is different, but a here are a few cool things I’ve seen:

  • equipment rentals (such as telescopes and 3D printers)
  • free language courses (my own library offers Rosetta Stone for certain languages)
  • magazines and newspapers that you can either read at the library or online
  • digital music, movies, and television shows
  • classes for everything from language to computer skills
  • the ability to reserve study rooms
  • free wi-fi
  • access to select museums

Most libraries these days also offer OverDrive and Hoopla, services that allow you to check out free ebooks, movies, music, comics and more. I use both frequently, and they’re both wonderful.

Online Databases of Free Books

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The internet is a wonderful thing. There are so many websites where you can read public domain books or books that publishers are putting online for free. This is particularly helpful for fans of classic literature, as you’ll have plenty to choose from. Here are some of the best:

A Netflix-Style Subscription Service

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There are a couple of services that allows you access to thousands of books in exchange for a monthly fee, usually around $10.

  • Kindle Unlimited – I love Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 per month, you have access to thousands of books, audiobooks, and magazines. I use this service frequently.
  • Audible – Audible is a great service for people that enjoy audiobooks. The service is through Amazon, and once a month you get a credit for a free ebook. They have a very wide selection so you can find any book you have your heart set on.
  • Scribd – This is another service that I adore. I discovered it a couple of months ago while watching a video from A Clockwork Reader, and I use it every day now. While I particularly use it for audiobooks, you also get access to books, magazines, and sheet music, all for $8.99 per month. And if you sign up at this link, you can get two months free!
  • Marvel Unlimited – A wonderful option for fans of comic books, Marvel Unlimited is $9.99 per month, and gives you access to a massive collection of back issues. They don’t have everything yet, but they are adding new issues every week. I’m currently trying to work my way through all of the Doctor Strange series.
  • Comixology Unlimited – This service is very similar to Marvel Unlimited, but it is better for people who enjoy indie comic series. The service is only $5.99 per month, making it the cheapest option on this list, and if you’re a member you also receive 10-15% off digital issues that you purchase.

Find Discounted Books

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If you are planning on buying a book that you cannot find for free, that doesn’t mean you need to pay full price for it. There are several places where you can get discounted books.

  • Ebay – This is probably an obvious one. In most cases, you can find what you’re looking for. In my own experience, Ebay is best for people looking for a specific edition of a book, old books that are currently out of print, or entire book series.
  • Amazon – Amazon offers used books at a discount. When you go to the page of the book you’re looking for, under the normal Amazon buttons, you’ll also see the availability of used books.
  • Amazon Kindle Deals – Every day, Amazon offers hundreds of ebooks for as low as $0.99. Even if you don’t have a Kindle (which you really should, because they’re very handy), you can download the Kindle app to your phone or computer, and still read these ebooks.
  • Book Outlet – I’m a tiny bit obsessed with Book Outlet, another website I found through my favorite booktube channel, A Clockwork Reader. I’ve mentioned Book Outlet before, but let’s run through the main points again: Book Outlet has a constantly rotating stock of books, so if you see something you really want, you might want to go ahead and get it. The books are heavily discounted – I’ve gotten books for as little as $2! I’ve also heard they do a Black Friday sale, which I very much hope is true.
  • Thrift Books – Much like Book Outlet, this is an online discount bookshop.
  • AbeBooks – I believe it was my father who introduced me to this website originally, but over time I’ve known a few people who used it successfully to get used textbooks.
  • Half Price Books – Yet another discount book website. Hopefully, with this many options, you’ll be able to find that book you really want to read!
  • Humble Bundle – This website offers rotating selections of ebooks and games. The thing that makes this website special is that it is “pay what you want,” with 3 tiers that get you a new set of books. A part of what you buy also goes to charity, so you can do something good while buying books that you want. Right now, they have four book bundles you can choose from:
  • Thrift Shops & Second-hand Bookstores  – I have scored some amazing books at second-hand shops, like this recent haul I got from Goodwill. While it does require a little more work to find the gems, usually in the form of hours of digging through stacks of old books, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Yard, Garage, and Estate Sales – I love going to yard sales, and every time I go I end up with at least an armful of books, if not a whole trunk full. The best part of yard sale shopping is that sometimes you can haggle for a lower price – think an entire box of books for $5.

Those are some of my best ideas for finding cheap or free books. Did I leave anything out? What are your methods for reading cheap?



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