I’m so glad I don’t live back in the day (really, not so long ago, only a couple generations removed from our time) when books were a luxury, only affordable for the well-to-do. I’m grateful when I realize that I can read a new book every day if I wanted to, unlike women of the past who read and re-read the same book because it was the only one they could access.
In fact, such a situation seems so far removed from me that it’s hard to fathom, and yet I know such a time existed in reality (and still does in many parts of the world). There is no reason the average American cannot educate themselves today, given the ready – and cheap – access we have to books of all kinds.
Even so, the price of books can be daunting, especially if your budget is tight and you’re looking at hot-off-the-press options. If you, like me, can’t afford to shell out $15-20 for each new book that hits the market, read on to find my tips for affording your reading habit.
1. Adjust your expectations.
Ultimately, you won’t be able to read every bestseller that comes on the market if you’re on a tight budget. If your budget looks like mine, you won’t even be able to read the latest books from your favorite authors as soon as they come on the scene.
But you can still read… and read a lot! While there’s certainly a plethora of junk books that aren’t worth your time, you can find plenty of worthy reads that don’t demand top dollar. Just adjust your expectations and maybe your tastes; be willing to read offerings like last year’s bestseller, classic novels from 100 years ago or more, great reads from more obscure authors, and other less expensive options.
If you really want to read the latest novel, get hooked into your local public library system. More than likely, there will be waiting lists for the most popular books, but libraries generally order many copies so you can get your hands on the book pretty quickly, all things considered.
2. Go digital.
Yes, I know, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands, and honestly, there are some types of books I really hate reading on a device (cookbooks, for example, or reference books of any kind). But because of the lower overhead costs, digital books are considerably cheaper than their hard-copy alternatives, so I almost always choose the digital option, especially when it comes to fiction and classics.
And you don’t have to buy a fancy Kindle to read eBooks, either. The Amazon Kindle app is free and works on almost every device, including smart phones and computers. Christianbook.com also has a free reader app.
3. Follow digital deal listings.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the Free & Cheap listings on Amazon Kindle, so I prefer to follow a few different services that notify me of book deals that might interest me. Here are a few services you might consider:
- BookBub sends you daily emails with the top one or two book deals in categories you select. This has been my favorite service because it really does send me only eBooks that are likely to interest me. I’ve read some really great books for $2 or less using this service.
- EReaderGirl.com highlights book deals specifically for women, many of them Christian. You can sign up to receive regular email updates so you don’t ever miss a great deal.
- Spirit-Filled Kindle features Christian books. What I like about this site is that they don’t just post any and all Christian books available; they only post ones they have read or their readers recommend.
- If you’re on Goodreads or Facebook, search for groups that discuss and share genres you like to read. If the group is active, chances are they frequently share deals they come across that other group members might like. There are even groups that exist solely for the purpose of sharing great book deals.
4. Buy used books.
Books, like cars, lose their value quickly. (Unless, like cars, they’re antique. Then they start getting expensive again.) And, like cars, the sage advice remains: Always buy used. I don’t even know the last time I actually bought a brand-new book. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only brand-new books I own are ones that were given to me for birthdays and Christmas. Other than that, I only buy used.
My favorite places to buy used books are:
- Thrift Stores: Talk about ridiculously low prices! Thrift stores receive TONS of books and so are typically quite desirous of keeping a steady rate of turnover going, henceforth they often price their paperbacks at $0.25-0.50 (or less) and hardbacks at around $1. You’ll have to dig for a good book, but trust me. You’ll be happy you did.
- Library Sales: Most libraries have an ongoing sale of used books, even if it’s only a shelf in the corner of the library entrance. They are also typically quite inexpensive, usually around $2 for most books (more for specialty books). Most libraries also typically offer an annual book sale where they have boxes and boxes and boxes of books available for pretty cheap (depending on the library system and the organization that puts on the sale). These sales are particularly a good place to find children’s books.
- Garage/Yard Sales: Sometimes people try to charge too much for their used books ($5 for a hardcover cookbook? Really?), but you can also find some really good deals. Depending on your tastes in books, it might be difficult to find someone with books you actually want to read, but once you do… it will make you very happy.
- Used Book Stores: Used book stores are often pricier than the other options I’ve listed, but they also often have a store credit program, which makes them more affordable. Typically, it works this way: you bring in used books (perhaps ones you’ve bought for $0.50 at the thrift store) that they purchase from you by giving you store credit and you use that store credit to buy books that you really want to read. The trick is to bring them books that they know they will sell: best-selling novels from 10 years ago probably aren’t going to interest them much.
- Once again, there are Facebook groups in various genres where members can post books they want to sell. You can post your own books that you no longer want, or buy them from other readers at a discounted price.
- ThriftBooks.com: I recently discovered this site and it has become my number one favorite place to buy used books. If you buy $10 or more in books (most books are priced around $3.59, so that’s approximately 3 books), shipping is free. Plus, any book with a “Deal” tag on it qualifies for their package deals: 2 books for $7, 3 books for $10, 4 books for $12, additional books $3 each. I always try ThriftBooks first if the book I want is not available in a digital copy, or is one that I’d prefer to have in hard copy. I also always compare the price of a digital book to the price at ThriftBooks; and if it’s just as good a deal, I’ll go ahead and get the actual hard-copy one. All the books I’ve purchased here have been in excellent condition and I’ve been very pleased with the speed of shipping (not as fast as Amazon, but hey, who is?!).
5. Borrow from friends and family.
So my oldest sister has a reading habit that she can afford to indulge. And since we have some overlapping tastes in reading, I’m pretty much guaranteed to find something of interest when I browse through her stacks (and yes, she has stacks upon stacks) of books. I’ve also borrowed and traded books (even on Kindle) with other friends and family – it’s a great way to read a book that interests you but you’re not necessarily planning on adding to your library. And hey, if you decide you do want to add it to your library, you can certainly purchase it for yourself later on.
Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.
Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian Homemaking Community.
Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading: