8 Ways to Get Books for Free (or Almost-Free)

Marlena recently emailed in and asked the following question:

I’m motivated by all the books that YOU read! I’ve made me a list of (just) TEN books for this year for myself. My library only carries two on my list. I can’t afford to go out and buy all these books. (I doubt you do the same). How can I find all the books I want to read on my tight-stay-at-home-mommy budget? Thanks for ALL you do! -Marlena

Way to go on making reading a priority, Marlena! I promise that you won’t regret it.

I’m constantly on the lookout for new book ideas to add to my crazily-long list of Books I Want to Read. I always say that I’m a minimalist in every area but books, because you just can’t have too many good books.

Since I read so voraciously, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to feed my reading addiction without running us out of house and home. Not all of my ideas may work for everyone, but here’s a list of eight ways I get books for free to almost free:

1. Request Review Copies From the Publisher

I used to do this a lot back when I had my other blog and was writing regular book reviews. If you’re a blogger or review books for another type of media, you can fairly easily obtain free review copies from the publisher. Just search for the publisher of a book (you can often find this on Amazon) and then find their website and look for contact information for review copies.

Most publishers state their review copy policy right on their website and many are extremely generous in their willingness to send review copies to bloggers. However, please do not take advantage of this. Only request books you are truly interested in, and those that you truly plan to actually review on your blog.

Many publishers are also more than happy to do a giveaway along with your review and see this as extra exposure for them. So it never hurts to ask, if you’re sure you’ll like the book!

I no longer actively ask for review copies, but I do receive a few each month from various publishers who are wanting me to review their book on my blog. So occasionally, some of the books I read come compliments of the publisher.

Tip: Find links to publishers and programs that offer free review copies to bloggers here.

2. Swap Books Through PaperBackSwap

PaperBackSwap is one of my favorite resources for getting books inexpensively–or even free! You only pay postage to swap books you already have on hand for books you’d like to add to your library.

You start out by adding 10 books to their system. Once you’d added your 10 books, you’ll get 2 free credits. And then every time someone requests a book of yours and you send it out, you’ll get another credit. Most books only cost one credit–even big hardcover volumes.

I recommend that you add books to your wishlist, instead of looking through the books they currently offer. You’ll get an email notification when the book is available and have 48 hours to respond and request it. I’ve been amazed at some of the really nice almost-brand-new $20 and $30 books we’ve added to our library this way!

If you want to keep your costs down, stick with only listing books that are lightweight. Also, the more popular your book is, the more likely it will get requested–which means another credit for you!

In addition to listing extra books you already have around your home, you could pick up 10 cent books you find at thrift stores or garage sales and list these as well, if you’re needing more credit.

3. Check Out Books at the Library & Through Inter-Library Loan

Of course, no list of ways to get free books would be complete without a mention of the library. I’ve checked out countless books from the library over the years; it’s an invaluable resource!

If you have a relatively small library that doesn’t have a great selection, check and see if they offer Inter-Library loan. Most libraries do, and this offers a much, much broader selection. You have to request the book and then wait for it to come in, but it’s free–which usually makes it worth a bit of a wait!

You can also suggest books for your library to purchase. They might not heed your suggestion, but it’s always worth a shot.

4. Borrow Book from Friends

I’m always swapping books with friends–and this is a great way to keep your reading materials varied! Just be sure that you keep track of what books you’ve borrowed and loaned out.

Also, it goes without saying, but return the books in the same condition they were loaned in. Otherwise, your friends might not be so excited to loan you books again.

5. Download Free Ebooks

If you have any sort of mobile device — an iPhone, iPad, iTouch, or other mobile device — there are dozens upon dozens of free books you can download on a daily basis. Follow my other site, eReaderGirl.com, for a daily dose of some of the best free ebooks available.

I read at least 4-5 books each month that I’ve downloaded free from Amazon.com or from some other free ebook promotion online. I don’t have an e-reader (I know, I know! I’m so behind the times!), but I can read the ebooks on my phone or iPad while on-the-go or when I have a spare minute here and there.

Tip: Most public libraries also offer free ebooks on their site that you can borrow and download to your device for a few weeks.

6. Check Thrift Stores, Used Book Sales, and Garage Sales

Thrift stores, used book sales, and garage sales can be a goldmine for book lovers. Best of all, they’ll often have fill-a-bag sales where you can fill as many books into a designated bag as you’re able to — all for a few dollars.

You can also find bargains on hot titles that you can swap on PaperBackSwap for books you really want or that you can trade into Amazon (see below) for credit.

7. Use Amazon’s Trade In Program

I’ve fallen in love with Amazon’s Trade-In Program this year! I trade in books that I no longer want or need for free Amazon credit that I use to purchase books that I have been wanting to buy and haven’t been able to get through the other sources listed above. Not only does this free up space in my house, but I love that Amazon pays for the postage, too.

Note: You may earn more money by selling your books directly to a book seller site. I recommend double-checking other sites to see what prices they’ll offer you if Amazon is not offering you very much for your book.

8. Buy Used From Amazon or Barnes & Noble

When I do actually “buy” books, I use my Swagbucks credit to buy them. Swagbucks offers a great deal on the Barnes and Noble and Amazon gift cards so I often request those as rewards.

However, I usually do not buy books brand-new, unless I’m buying them to support an author (which I’ve become pretty passionate about doing after releasing a book myself!). Instead, I typically purchase the book used from Amazon or used from the Barnes & Noble Marketplace. I’ve been amazed at how much money I’ve saved just by being willing to go with a book that has a little wear and tear on it!

In addition, Barnes and Noble sometimes runs free shipping deal or I’ll find a coupon code. Combining that with shopping through a cashback site, I can usually get a great deal on a book I really want – all for free because Swagbucks is covering the tab!

Related: 15 ways to Find More Time to Read

photo credit #1, photo credit #2

What are your favorite ways to get books for free or significantly discounted? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Comments

  1. Aleah says

    If your local library doesn’t offer inter-library loan but you live near a community college or university, look into getting a membership there. Most university libraries let residents sign up for a library card and they have much broader connections in their ILL. There is almost nothing they can’t get you! :)

  2. Casie says

    You might also check local school libraries so see if you can borrow there. And our church has an awesome library – even if you don’t attend a church, you might find a church library willing to lend books. Good luck!

  3. Laura C says

    You are definitely not behind the times :) I don’t have a smart phone, ipad or any sort of e-reader, that is much more behind the times!

    • Jen says

      I was going to comment on this too. I don’t think “I’m behind the times” should be followed by “I can read on my iPad”. If having an iPad is behind the times then I’m in big trouble, lol!

      • says

        Well, it’s not an iPad Mini, so that does put me a little behind the times. ;) I won it last year and didn’t think I’d use it (and almost gave it away), but I actually have found that I’m loving it more and more for reading ebooks on it — something that is surprising me!

  4. denise says

    Interlibrary Loan books are wonderful. I sign onto the library at home and request books and get an email when they are at my local branch! Sometimes it takes awhile but it is free so who cares!

  5. Celeste says

    I use Audible.com. I love to listen to books. It cost $14 a month, but with that you get one free book credit a month. Also every once in a while they offer free books. They have deals where it is free the first month or that it is $7 for 3 months. My sister found a deal for it on a groupon type site.

  6. jk says

    I just went to our local library today and bought a book for $1. It’s a hardcover, looks brand new and something I’d love to read! The library bookstore does not distinguish the condition of the book, just a flat price for the genre.

  7. Carisa Stahl says

    Don’t forget that you can get a FREE Kindle App to read books on your computer. Nook also has this too. There may be free ebooks available for one and not the other.

    I was very encouraged by the 15 ways to read more list. I’m accomplishing a lot more reading.

  8. says

    Don’t forget that libraries also offer free loans on eBooks and audio books. (listening to one right now, actually!)

    If you have a little spare cash on you, always check out library sales, or what we used to call “Quarantine” sales. I used to work at my college library, and any books with too much wear or of which we had too many copies would get put up for sales. I bought a beat up copy of The Count of Monte Cristo for a nickle. The cover had been taped back on, but that book kept me entertained for an entire summer. It was a nickle well spent!

    • Sara T says

      I used Paperback Swap until someone ordered ALL 25 of my books at once! I didn’t have the funds to mail that many at one time. Now I just use the local digital library and free ebooks on Amazon.

  9. Amy says

    Library Book Sales! We usually hit the fill-a-bag-for-$x days.

    For instance, the library where we live now has a deal on the last day to fill 2 standard reusable shopping bags for $10! That’s a steal!

    After we read them, we keep what we like and pass on or sell at a yard sale the rest.

  10. Liz S. says

    I’m part of a website called Bookcrossing.com. Here’s how it works: you leave a book somewhere in a public place (post office, coffee shop, waiting rooms, etc.) marked with a bookcrossing bookplate, bookmark, which includes your username for the website. Someone else comes by and picks up your book, takes it home, and with the user name you provided can track where the book has been, and leave an update about it. I’ve done this several times to give books away, and to get books that other members have left behind. I usually get an email every few days to let me know if someone has released books close to me. It’s quite fun, almost like a treasure hunt, to see what books you can find and where they’ve been!

  11. Whitney says

    I buy a lot of books on a regular basis and it’s almost always second hand. Of course, that doesn’t work for new releases, but for those, I’ve had good luck at Costco and Amazon. Most of the time, I read it and turn around and sell it through my second hand sources, getting most of my money back. The money I don’t get back I consider a good deal for a chance to read it. My favorite sources are:

    1) local consignment events. THere’s a great consignment sale event that’s several times a year near me. It’s only for kids’ stuff, but they sell homeschool and parenting books as well. I get money when I sell, so it’s like free/credit.

    2) thrift stores. The Salvation Army near us is a gem for books. I’m not sure why, but I find the best books there for a buck. I’ve added a large number of Christmas books with ones bought there – I love it!

    3) a used book store near us has fabulous prices, especially for kids’ and homeschooling books (often under two dollars). I get credit when I sell books to them (not a lot, but they are the books I don’t sell in other ways) and I often walk out with an armful I’ve paid five dollars for.

    4) our local library. They always are raising money by selling donations at the front of the building. They’re about 50 cents each or fill a bag for 2 dollars. I’ve find all kinds of goodies, including piles of Ladybug magazine and Childhood of Famous Americans books. Sometimes, I’ll buy a pile of books I’ve already read or own and sell them elsewhere for more or give them as gifts. It’s too good of a deal!

  12. Katie L says

    A tip I got from this site was to sell our used books (we had lots and lots) at a used book store for store credit. (In our case, they’d give twice as much store credit as they would cash). We could buy new or used books with our store credit.

  13. says

    I’ve gotten many books used via Amazon for extremely reasonable prices — sometimes just a penny!
    Marlena, if you can’t find all of the books on your list via Crystal’s suggestions, e-mail me your list — if I have any copies of the these books available, I’d like to help out by permanently loaning you them.
    I love to read, and would love to see you read more, too…and if I can be of help, I will.

  14. says

    I use the library and ereader girl. Also, if you go to the amazon website under kindle store, they list the top 100 free books everyday. You can narrow it down to the category you want (science, romance etc.) I was slow to warm up to the ereader but once I got one for Christmas, I haven’t paid for a book since.
    When there is a book I want that isn’t free, I use my swagbucks trade in for amazon gift cards. I can usually get $5 in gift card to amazon a month, and kindle books tend to be $5 and under.
    Kate

  15. says

    I read about this one mother who use to buy books at yard sales and thrift stores for 10 cents to 25 cents each and then take them in and get store credit at a local second hand book store and use that credit to buy the books she did want at the second hand book store. I tried it once and it really does work books that cost me 10 cents were traded for $1. Of course the prices in the secondhand book stores are more too, but it is a great way to trade a title you did not want for a title you do want and save a lot of money. For instance lets say the book in the second hand store cost $2 but you got $2 credit by trading two books you paid 25 cents a piece for, then your book really cost you fifty cents.

  16. Meredith says

    I get most of my books from the library. Another way is to just ask your friends. When they start talking about what they are reading, just ask if you can borrow it sometime. Unless a book is groundbreaking, most people don’t read them again and are happy to lend them to you. My neighbor is a working mom and is always buying books because getting to the library is difficult with her schedule. Most people are happy to oblige.

  17. Shandy C says

    Our neighborhood association office accepts donations of books that others are able to borrow, and the office doesn’t keep track of what people check out. If you return it, great! If you don’t, no big deal. I use this especially when going on vacations to the beach where I don’t want to take my ereader. If a book gets sandy or wet I don’t have to worry about returning it in poor condition. I don’t have to return it at all if I don’t want to! Nice perk for this book lover!!!

  18. Julie says

    Hi Crystal!
    I honestly prefer reading books on my iPad instead of my Nook Color. I love being able to read my library books, books from Kindle app and Nook app all in one place and I like the iPad screen better. Also, when I go somewhere I have my books plus everything else I do on iPad all one one device. I will say that I do like the way you can organize your books on the Nook. I haven’t found a way to organize them in the Nook app.

  19. Michelle says

    Request that your library buy the books (or DVDs or CDs or whatever). I have requested my library buy tons of things and 99% of the time they do. Then I can check it out free as usual! Also like amazon there is a site called half.com where you can buy books or movies or any other media related stuff. I have bought school textbooks for just 75 cents! Good luck though :)

    • Brandi says

      Wow, I wish my library was that accommodating! I’ve requested 3 books in the past 6 months or so and each time I get an email back saying, thanks for requesting, we were unable to get the book at this time”.

  20. Cathy says

    I am also a voracious reader and normally read several books each week. You have some really good ideas listed but I wanted to caution people that Interlibrary Loan is not free everywhere. At our current location, it’s $1, still a great deal compared with buying a book, but if you order several books it might be a shock to have to pay when you pick them up. So I’d suggest asking your library if you don’t already know for sure that this service is free.

  21. Bridget says

    If you are eligible to join the Amazon Vine program, they give away lots of paperback books. I was surprised to find some books on my to-be-read list on Vine, but they offer some from established authors and not just new, unknown authors.

    Also, try Goodreads.com/giveaway

  22. says

    I need to find more time to read more. I know you recently wrote a post on how to find more time to read. I definitely need to heed those tips!!

    I think you covered all the ways I’d find free or inexpensive books! Borrowing is always a great option! Typically, if I find myself borrowing it more and more, I’ll tend to purchase it.

  23. says

    Between the main article and the comments, this is such a great collection of places to get books for less! Thanks for getting it started, Crystal.

    I wanted to add another one to the list – If you live in a place with the “Half Price Books” chain of stores, its worth checking out (list of stores can be found at http://www.hpb.com/stores/). They sell mostly used books at half the list price, and their clearance section is awesome! You can get paperbacks for as low as $0.25 and hardcovers for around $1-$2 it in the clearance section. The stores (at least in our area) are quite large, well organized, friendly staff and a great bonus is that have nice seating areas – my daughter loves reading books with me in the store :)

  24. Corinne says

    I’ve used half.com a lot over the years; usually I compare to Amazon’s lowest price since Half’s shipping is $3.99 and Amazon sometimes beats the price (book plus shipping) due to free shipping with Prime (OK, honestly, it’s pre-paid shipping, right?). The only other drawback to Half is that books labelled “new” often have remainder marks–which is only a problem if you had hoped to give them as gifts. Board books are my baby gift of choice!

    My boys have also done the “trade books in at local bookstores for credits” and both amassed libraries of a couple of hundred books. They have found with the downturn in the economy that the used books stores near us are either going out of business or not buying as many books.

  25. says

    Awesome tips! Thanks! Used bookstores can also be a good option. We have a couple in my area. They are huge warehouses, with books sorted by genre, and you can get great books for $1 or $2.

  26. Jen says

    The only problem with Paperback Swap is that it seems all the books I want are the same one everyone else wants. I’m like number 200something on the list for most that I’ve requested!!

  27. jennifer says

    Love the tip to recommend books for your local library to buy! My Library recently bought “Money Saving Moms Budget” and Jon Acuff’s “Quitter”! They don’t order all I request, but they do order some! :)

  28. says

    I get the majority of our free books from the free Kindle downloads, and I do learn about a lot of them here on MSM.

    Kindle lending system has also been a great source for me lately–sharing between friends. I don’t have a Kindle, but I use the Kindle app to read books on my iPhone.

    I do have an Audible subscription, and find that worth it for me at this season of life. I occasionally buy paper and Kindle books, but get a majority of my reading free from free offers or borrowing from the library or friends. I also share audiobooks with several friends, as well.

  29. Lisa S. says

    HA! You stated, “you just can’t have too many good books.” YES! You can! You should see my house. When we moved, the movers estimated that we had 12,000 pounds of books to move!!!! We had several yard sales and made a few trips to Goodwill and the Salvation Army and only (??!!) moved about 3,000 pounds! With a family of four book lovers, our Kindle Fires have become our best friends. (By the way, my Kindle has over 3,500 books on it!)

  30. Brenda says

    I use PaperbackSwap & I LOVE it! I also use bookmooch.com. I am also checking out my local Goodwill all the time for great books at a great price!

  31. says

    Thank you for these ideas, Crystal. I’ve always used my Swagbucks to buy books from Amazon.com but recently began going to thrift shops. I was shocked to find hardbacks at Salvation Army for 79 cents – and many books on my wish list were there!

  32. Pam D says

    I found a site a little over a year ago that I have been using to get books for cheap. It is called swap.com. You can trade cds, games, books. All that it costs is the cost of postage. You can print your label through their site or take the book to the post office. You can trade one media type for another if you wish. I have been very happy with the service. You may want to check it out. I believe that printing the shipping label and postage costs you $3.60 (that may have changed). You list the books you own you want to trade and add the books you wish to receive to your wishlist.

  33. says

    If you have a Kindle, a book can be loaned to you from a friend’s Kindle. The only catch is that you can’t read the book at the same time.

  34. Katie says

    If you ask the librarian to order the book, they usually will. Not sure if they can only do this every so often though.

  35. Jenn says

    I’ve used Better World Books in the past with great luck. They almost always have a “Bargain Bin” at about $3 per book and many times the books come from independent booksellers. They offer free shipping (and the last time I ordered I had the option to purchase a carbon offset for the shipping which came to about 70 cents or so), support literacy programs worldwide, raise money for libraries, and save books from landfills. The books I’ve ordered have always come in much better shape than I’ve been expecting and almost always come sooner than I’ve expected. I’ve never had a problem with a single order.

    • Antonella says

      I second Jenn, I love Better World Books. They’re cheap and support literacy programs. It’s a win-win

  36. Tori Ross says

    Goodreads! It’s a website where you can track what books you’ve read, but there is also a section where you can request giveaway books and the idea is that you write a review for them. They are usually newer books that will soon be published. As a tip, it always helps if you register the day if the cutoff for some reason. I’ve won 2 free books this way.

    Also check out library book sales. I bought 26 children’s books for my kids for $6 at the last one. We are set for books for awhile.

    • Heather Dubbels says

      Thanks so much for all of the ideas on ways to read good books for free or nearly free! I just got my first smartphone and we have an iPad at home. For those of you reading ebooks on apple products (iPhone, iPad, iMac), do you use the kindle app or iBooks? Is there an easy way to read kindle books on the iBooks app? Curious to hear what other readers use who are reading ebooks on apple products. Thanks so much!

      • says

        My husband uses iBooks, I use the Kindle app. We’ve currently been having this very discussion because he thinks I should switch over to iBooks. :)

  37. Heather Dubbels says

    Thanks so much! From what I’ve read, it looks like you might have to convert kindle book files in order to read them in iBooks…is that right? Or, could I download books that you feature as free ebooks and read them in iBooks? I can experiment with both, but just thought I’d ask :)

  38. Sue says

    I’m another “behind the times” reader. I never thought I would want to use ebooks until I found out how many great old fashioned classics & out of print books are out there for free! I recently downloaded Kindle to my laptop and have been enjoying dozens of free books both from the past and present, including some recommended on MSM. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  39. christina says

    Libraries also have book sales and sometimes after, they will either sell them for dirt cheap or have boxes of free books. Ask what they do with unsold books from their book sales.