Read It And Don't Weep.
A good writer is always, always reading. Not literally - you need to eat and breathe and all of that other inconvenient nonsense, too - but you get the idea.
Reading is working out your writing muscles. It's where so much of our inspiration comes from, and it's how we connect to the written word outside of our own work. Reading a good book can change your life in manifold ways and broaden your horizons in ways you never could have imagined.
It's also just something to do.
And right now, we could all use a few healthy distractions, right? Whether you're looking for smutty romance novels or self-help books about God-knows-what, it's always fun to go book shopping. Until you run out of money, that is. Or room on your shelves, but we won't talk about that here. Shhhh.
To help you out in the budget department, here are ten ways to keep the pages turning and stop the savings from burning!
Go To The Library, You Fool. Unless...?
Well, pre-2020 was a different time, after all. The good news is that most libraries have (perhaps surprisingly) kept ahead of the times - they've harnessed the power of ebooks! And guess what? They have an app for that.
Or several apps, actually, because they tend to vary from state to state or county to county. Libby (by Overdrive) is by far the most popular option, so you can start by looking up your library there. Hoopla is another possibility. These apps provide all of the ebooks, audiobooks, and other digital content that your library does, and all for free via your library card.
It's pretty sweet.
The library has other options, too - some of us are simply old fashioned, I suppose. You can easily order curbside pickup at most public libraries right now. You simply search for titles via your library's website database, or you can use WorldCat to look up your library's titles and services on a broader scale.
Certain people qualify for the Bookmobile service offered by many counties. Bookmobiles bring titles to those who cannot make it into a physical library - they bring the library to you! It's not for everyone, but if you have a condition which makes it difficult for you to access the library's physical shelves, they'll make sure you still get to enjoy the experience of free books from your branch.
Get Thrifty (Nifty?) With ThriftBooks.
I discovered this one recently, and it is life changing. Okay, that's a bit dramatic - it's not the only place for cheap books...but really, it's an incredible site. The sheer number of selections and the fact that you can have them arrive neatly on your doorstep is revolutionary.
ThriftBooks has both secondhand and wholesale books available, and you can search by title, genre, author, keyword - the whole shebang.
From Sci-Fi to Psychology and everything in between, you can usually find a really great deal on something good by looking through the options on this site!
This is also a recent discovery of mine, but it's pretty neat. Essentially you get to read books before they're published via NetGalley's relationship with authors and publishers - in return, you agree to write honest, thoughtful reviews on sites like Goodreads or Amazon.
If you're a blogger or you review for a larger audience it's even better! You can just sign up and specify the type of reviews you'll be providing, and then follow their instructions to get started. The fact that you can set up your genre preferences ahead of time is very useful.
Basically, you're trading in your honest words for free books. As writers, isn't that kind of a sweet deal?
Better World Books - They Ain't Kidding.
To cut the description short: For every book you order via Better World Books (including ebooks), they donate a book to someone in need. Boom. Mic drop.
Seriously, though - how awesome is that? And since the books are largely secondhand, the prices are extremely low. You can buy them in bundles and get by with a sweet-ass deal AND the knowledge that somehow, somewhere, some poor kid is being force-fed Fahrenheit 451 or any number of Americana oldies for the English lit class their parents talked them into.
And if the sweet, sweet sound of global youth literacy rates isn't enough to make your day, you'll have saved a heck of a lot of money to make up for the cold, dead heart within you.
Also, they have really great sales.
BookMooch, PaperBackSwap, BooksFreeSwap, & More! In Case It Isn't Clear - You Trade Books, Dude.
Sites like BookMooch, PaperBackSwap, or BooksFreeSwap all operate on the same basic model. You trade books for other books - the site acts as a middleman between you and other readers who are looking to trade what they've got for what you've got.
There are some differences in how the sites function, however. Some have points-based systems (BookMooch), some simply have you pay for shipping (BooksFreeSwap), and some have you pay postage but provide packaging (PaperBackSwap). Whichever system you choose, they're all a great way to get extremely cheap books.
I personally like the added benefit of engaging with the reading and book-loving community by participating, but maybe I'm just sentimental. Book-swapping, like any sort of item trading and bartering, is good for the environment as well as your wallet. It's definitely something to consider.
Little Free Libraries - They're Little, They're Free...Do I Really Need To Say More?
Now, I'm sure you've seen these adorable little book houses around somewhere - they're pretty global at this point. And although the whole concept doesn't actually belong to one particular organization, there happens to be a website dedicated to helping you find one near you!
The Little Free Library Map can tell you where the nearest LFL is in your area. Then you just find it, maybe donate a book, and take what you want from the shelves. Easy Peasy.
Is it guaranteed to have something you're interested in reading? No - but as long as you stick to one really close to you, it's still a fun concept. Don't be one of those book scrooges, though. No one likes a book scrooge.
Get a little, give a little, my friends.
Books A Million - BAM, As The Intellectuals Say.
This retailer seems to have been forgotten in recent times, but the old relic lives on. It seems to be thriving, actually, so I guess it hasn't been totally left by the wayside. There are two reasons I am including good ol' BAM in this post...
The Books A Million Bargain section, and coupons.
The bargain section is, at times, somewhat hit-or-miss, but usually I find a hit. You can get bestselling titles for less than $5 a lot of the time. I don't know about you, but that's a pretty awesome deal in my book.
BAM is also really generous with their coupon acceptance, which is nice. You can just google coupons for them and find plenty of options, though I use the Honey browser extension to save time (plus it works on like...every other site I shop with. And it's free to use. Go figure).
I'm going to shamelessly plug my Honey referral code now, because I get like, gift cards and sh** for it: joinhoney.com/ref/uhj97bu. You also get gift cards, I think? Whatever, you can use it to save money on BAM, and that's the important thing right now.
Or is it? Cue dark and echoing chuckle.
BookFinder. It...Well, It Helps You Find Books. Gosh, The Headings Just Write Themselves!
BookFinder is a search tool you can use to do the price-comparing for you, which is nice. Definitely a time saver, anyway. It's designed like a site straight from 2002, but hey, it works!
You just type in any title you're looking for and then sift through the available deals. Make sure you do a double check on the purported quality of the title, and don't trust any sellers that you think look sketchy (though so far I haven't noticed anything suspicious. Must be the 2002 formatting that's got me spooked....).
These sorts of search tools are common for a lot of other products, so it's no surprise that there's at least one out there to help you find books. What a time to be alive.
Amazon Marketplace. Sorry, But The Deals...They're Too Powerful...
As an author, I and my ilk tend to have a tempestuous relationship with Amazon and its mysterious overlord. But as a buyer...
The place has some sweeeet deals on books. The new, the used, the...e? Ebooks are possibly what Amazon is best known for in the writing community, thanks to KDP. They also have amazing ebook sales, however, and those are something to look out for.
By utilizing the oft-ignored 'used & other offers' button on Amazon's book listings, you really can save a ton of money. Even when you have to pay the base $3 shipping cost, you can still get books for about $4. That's not something most of us bibliophiles can resist, I'd wager.
You can also look through the Amazon Bargain Books section and see what's listed. There are a lot of ways to use the service, really. To go into bargain book mode, go into the Amazon bookstore by using the dropdown menu on the search bar, and then scroll down the menu to the left of your screen - there will be a "bargain books" option you can check to filter your results.
To utilize the used books option, pick a title and see if the option is listed (it usually is). For example, if you look up "The Business of Being a Writer" by Jane Friedman, under the paperback and hardcover listing options you'll see tiny little links in blue. One of them is 'used from $____.' You can save anywhere from 90% off to just a few bucks.
Either way it's a win, right?
Ebook Subscription Services - There Are More Than You Think.
Yes, the first ebook subscription service that comes to mind is probably the legendary (or infamous?) Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. Which, I'm going to be honest with you, is incredible. I really do love it, and it's likely the best ten bucks a month I have ever committed to spending.
HOWEVER, there are other services! Scribd, for example, is the same price and has many bestsellers listed. The KU program may not offer the same titles for free (or, really, for your subscription fee alone, I should say).
OverDrive, the parent company for the aforementioned Libby app, provides nearly endless ebook downloads and other digital media for free with the use of a library card - I suppose it's not really a subscription service, in that way...unless you count your tax payments as a slightly unwilling subscription.
They also have magazines, which is nice. Bring the waiting room vibes home with you, am I right?
There are also other subscriptions to choose from such as Playster, but make sure to read reviews before committing to anything.
I'm going to include one last option for free books in here, because I really like the number 10 and I've run out of sections (just being honest). Ladies, Gentlemen, and Assorted Other Nobles, let me introduce you to the Gutenberg Project. This organization restores, scans, and digitizes books whose copyrights have expired and then offers them as free ebooks.
This is amazing not only for the sake of historical value, but you can also read some ridiculous old manuscripts and libertine novels on there. It does my dusty old nerd heart good to see that something like this exists out there.
In Conclusion...Go, Go Forth And Read Cheaply, My Pretties!
I'm just a humble book hoarder doing my duty out here in my cold, lonely corner of the internet. It smells like old cheese puffs and questionably-priced merlot, but it's my corner and I love it. And I love all of you so I figured I should take my cheap-book secrets and share them with you.
Consider this a guiding light to save you from bankruptcy and boredom as this quarantine rages on (and on, and on, and on...). I hope some of these options prove useful to you. No, really, I do, because this post took forever to write.
Share this post with any other bibliophiles out there and spread the love! Until next time!