The Frugal Literate’s Guide to Affordable Reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Reading is one of the most frugal hobbies in existence, and is something, in my opinion, that everyone should do. Not only is it entertaining, but it can be beneficial and educational in many ways. In fact, reading is (along with watching period films based on classic literature) Madoline’s and my favorite hobby, and when we’re not working we can often be found with a book in front of us, even while eating.

The virtues of reading (even light-hearted, entertaining fiction) are as follows:

  • Subconsciously improves your knowledge of language, grammar and writing
  • Acquisition of vocabulary through example in context
  • Expands your horizons and knowledge of people and the world
  • Teaches a sense of perspective and the ability to see more than one side of a situation
  • Improves overall reading comprehension skills and better prepare you for life
    • Good reading and writing skills are essential for success in career and business
    • The ability to better read and understand contracts, terms and conditions (such as credit card terms) helps you to be a more conscientious consumer
    • Proper writing and spelling is a necessity if you want to be taken seriously whether it be in letters, on message boards, your own website or blog, etc.

So now that I’ve convinced you of the virtues of reading, here are some tips for reading on a budget (or ) and sources for affordable reading. While we try to borrow from the library as much as possible, we do sometimes purchase books.

A few reasons we purchase books are:

  • Collecting
    Book collecting is just as rewarding a hobby as stamp or coin collecting. Some people collect for fun, and others for profit. We personally love books so much that we would rather keep old and rare books than sell them.
  • Reading more than once
    We have favorite books and series that we often read more than once (sometimes once a year) and feel it worthwhile to purchase and collect them.
  • Study and reference
    Madoline is currently studying in preparation for graduate school, so we often purchase reference and related materials that will be useful both now and later.
  • Home library
    We live in a remote area without much to do and our local library can be rather lacking in some areas, so if there is a book we are sure of liking and re-reading, we sometimes purchase it. Also, if you live a frugal lifestyle and often opt to stay home instead of going out and spending money, it’s sometimes nice to have a handy library to pick from when in need of some entertainment or activity.

You don’t have to purchase new books to fill your collection or library. In fact, we often prefer to purchase used books just because they’re more comfortable to read. When we read a new book, we always feel the need to keep it pristine and hate seeing them get dinged or creased. But with used books, we don’t have that problem, and can read in total comfort (after wiping it over with rubbing alcohol). There are many sources for very affordable books, as low as 10-25 cents per book, which I will share below. I will start with the most preferred (frugal) sources and work my way down.

Continue on for a list of affordable reading resources.

1. Libraries

Every city, county and/or state has a public library system. You’ve already paid for the resources offered by the library, so you might as well use it. Most library systems these days are very up-to-date and offer the latest bestsellers and new releases. For more on the benefits of libraries, refer to my post .

2. e-Books

I personally prefer physical books that I can carry around and read in bed or a comfy chair, but for those who don’t mind reading on the computer, e-Books are very easily available from a variety of sources these days. Most free e-Books are classics and other works that have entered into the public domain as a result of expired copyright, but libraries often offer free access to thousands of new release and bestsellers in e-book and audio-book formats through their websites. A couple of good sources for free e-Books are:

3. Library and Friends of the Library Book Sales

Most libraries have a Friends of the Library group that collects donated books and organizes regular sales to raise funds for the library. These book sales often sell old, used, like-new and sometimes even new books for incredible prices, often at 10 to 25 cents for a paperback, 50 cents for softcover trade paperbacks, and $1.00 for hardbacks. These types of sales in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles are especially plentiful in current bestsellers in new condition. They usually occur once a month in most areas, but even when there isn’t a sale, many libraries have a cart or shelf near the entrance where you can pick up books and deposit the money into a collection box.

The Book Sale Finder website is a great place to search for and sign up for notifications of book sales in your area.

4. Thrift Stores

Thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army usually have a book section with decent prices. They’re not as good as the library sales, but cheaper than most other used book stores, with prices between 50 cents for smaller children’s books to $2.00 – $3.00 for other books.

You can search for thrift stores near you at The Thrift Shopper.com.

5. Used Books Online

My favorite online source for used books is abebooks.com. Prices start at $1.00, even for some new books, and there is a vast selection from booksellers all over the world. The sellers that sell on this site also sell on other used book sites such as Amazon Marketplace, but at AbeBooks, the combined shipping rates for additional books from the same seller are sometimes better, as it would seem that AbeBooks allows the sellers to set their own rates for additional books, while the other sites set a flat rate. Some sellers on AbeBooks offer combined shipping rates of only $1.50-$2.00 per additional book (within the United States), while most other sites charge between $3.00-$3.99 per additional book.

6. New Books Online

If you can’t find a book used or free from the library and must buy it new, then I’d say go with Amazon or Overstock.com. I recently learned that many people are not aware that Overstock.com carries books and movies. In fact, Overstock.com actually often has better prices than Amazon even when you add shipping charges, but Amazon has a wider selection, competitive pricing and free shipping on orders over $25.00.

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10 thoughts on “The Frugal Literate’s Guide to Affordable Reading”

  1. Thanks for all of the tips, I really love to read – not only for learning new things, but it also keeps the mind fresh and the neural networks firing. Project Gutenberg is a great resource also, I’ve gotten a couple of books from them.

  2. I will not go into detail, about dumpster diving behind book stores, but instead suggest another source for books – Book Sharing. Many independently owned coffee shops, for instance, have book shelfs where people can either buy, share, or donate books.

    When I owned a small hotel in Costa Rica, we had a shelf in our lobby, dedicated to book sharing. Tourists love to read on vacation, and they would leave the book they had just finished, and pick another for the rest of the journey.

    If there isn’t a place in your community, that already does book sharing, maybe you can find a coffee shop or some other location that would work. It’s also interesting to see what everyone else is reading :)

  3. Great article. I’m a big fan of used bookstores, but I’m also buying more new books now that I have more disposable income. One advantage to buying new is that it encourages publishers and writers to make more books available. If you’re interested in a specific genre or topic that isn’t popular, buying the occasional new book is probably a good idea.

  4. Great article. I am one of those people who haven’t used the library enough…until I start working for one that is.

    However, there are some books that I buy to keep.

  5. Thanks for all the good info.

    Checked out bookswim, but the cheapest plan they have is $20 per month (the $9.95 is a promotional rate for your first month only). I never spend $20 per month on my reading…

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