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