A quick glance at the back cover of any book at the nearest Barnes & Noble will reveal that books are a pricey commodity. With the retail value of hardcovers hovering at twenty-five dollars a piece and trade paperbacks at fifteen, the reality is that most Americans can’t afford to walk into their local bookstore and buy whatever they want. And while many are content to borrow from the library, bibliophiles and book collectors like myself prefer to own the books they read so they can mark them up, share them with friends, pass them down to their children, or simply display them as decór around the house.
How does one build up a home library on a tight budget? I’ve compiled a list of five ways to find books on the cheap. And by “cheap,” I mean prices that are substantially lower than what you would find at Amazon.
1. Check the Bargain Books Section
Most major retailers have a bargain books section on their website or in the store where normally expensive hardcovers and paperbacks are marked down to very low prices, many under $5. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million all have a wide selection of bargain books available on their websites. Also, check out Book Outlet for deep discounts on backlist books.
2. Hook Up With Swagbucks
Swagbucks is a website that allows users to earn “swagbucks” by searching the web, watching videos, voting in a daily poll, participating in surveys, and referring other users. There are many free way to earn swagbucks, which can be traded for, among other prizes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards. Swagbucks is great because it doesn’t require users to share personal information with third parties. The rewards are reasonable and worth the small amount of effort it takes to earn them. I’ve been using Swagbucks for a few months and have already earned $20 worth of Amazon gift cards. I’ve calculated that without much effort, I can earn over $100 worth of Amazon gift cards in about a year if I use Swagbucks consistently. That can go a long way in the bargain books section! (2/14/16 Update: Also consider signing up for a Bing Rewards account. This will allow you to earn points when you search the web, which can be traded in for Amazon gift cards.)Short on cash? Check out these 5 ways to build your home library on the cheap!Click To Tweet
3. Comb the Classifieds
Yard and garage sales are a great place to look for cheap books. Oftentimes it takes combing through piles of moldy, damaged books before finding a gem, but it’s worth it! Check the classifieds section of your local paper to find large, multi-family yard sales. These are the ones that yield the best results.
4. Go to Your Local Library
Most libraries in the U.S. have an annual or biannual book sale to raise money for programs, services, etc. People donate unwanted books which are sold to the public at incredibly low prices (usually under $2 for paperbacks and $3 for hardcovers). Library sales are where I’ve had the most success finding used books in excellent condition for drastically reduced prices. Check with your local library to find out when their sales take place. Many libraries maintain a small running sale year round as well. There are usually some shelves near the front door of the library stocked with donated sale books.
5. Head to the Book Exchange
Less than five minutes from my home is a local used bookstore that doubles as a book exchange. Patrons can bring in their used books and earn credit to spend on paperbacks of their choice. This is a great way to get rid of unwanted books and get used books in good condition without paying anything out of pocket. I’ve also seen community exchanges, where residents of a particular condo community or apartment complex leave unwanted books in a common room where they are free for others to take (different from a little free library). There are also online book exchanges, such as Bookmooch and Goodreads, where you can earn credits for sending books to other users. With those credits you can request the books you want. If you don’t have a book swap available in your community, try starting one yourself.
I hope some of these suggestions have inspired you to take advantage of great book deals. It takes patience and persistence to find a good bargain, but the reward is worth it!