The Broke Bibliophile: Finding Deals on Books

22 Oct

Reading a book is one of life’s simple pleasures. No matter where you are or what you were doing, you can crack the spine of a book, start reading and be somewhere else entirely. Your day as an accountant, nurse, or teacher was bad? Open a book and you can vicariously enjoy the adventures of a tough cop, a society blonde, a tortured vampire, a spy with a memory problem, a bounty hunter with jersey-girl hair, or anything in between. No matter what is going on in your family, your relationship, your job, or the economy, a little break and escape from it all is just a few pages away.

There are a few things I am well acquainted with, books and being broke rank somewhere near the top of the list. And, in this time of economic uncertainty, with everyone needing a break and trying to find a deal, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned to help keep us all well-stocked with reading material despite the economic forecast.

Welcome to the library. As I wrote in a previous article, if you are broke, then it is a good idea to learn to love your local library. In addition to the free internet access that we have been enjoying for a few years, it turns out all those books aren’t just décor. Armed with your library card, you can borrow them for free. And, depending on your library, you can also rent videos very inexpensively too. I think Cerise commented that people can rent videos for free in the Minneapolis libraries. But, if you absolutely must own your reading material (late fees are a pain), the library may still be able to help you. Many libraries have a Friends of the Library used bookstore and Friends of the Library book sales. These are great opportunities to find cheap books without the worry of late fees and glaring librarians.

Old chum! In addition to public libraries, there are also private ones. Connect with your friends who love to read, you may be able to borrow books from them. Unlike the public libraries, this involves a certain amount of finesse and charm. And, unlike the public library, the rules when borrowing books from your friends are not as well publicized so here are a couple things to remember. If your friend lends you a book try to return the book in the same condition it is in when you borrowed it—this means you might not want to read while you’re tub or eating a really messy sandwich. Try to return borrowed books in a timely manner—read them promptly and return them promptly.  Finally, plan to return the favor to your friend if you have a book s/he wants to read.

Playing the favorite. Consider reading bestsellers if you want to find inexpensive reading material. I was at a big used book sale over the weekend and realized that if I was looking for books by Nora Roberts, Stephen R. Covey, Janet Evanovich, Rick Warren, Dan Brown, David Eddings, or Tom Clancy, I could have cleaned up. It is a simple numbers game, even if only a fraction of the new books out there find their way into used bookstores, thrift stores, and garage sales, you are going to have more potential reading material if you are looking for bestsellers because there are just more of them. With a little patience, you can read just about anything on the bestseller lists for a fraction of what it cost when it first came out. For example, there is no reason to pay more than a dollar to read The DaVinci Code. There are so many beat-up copies of it in used bookstores that many of the copies are relegated to the clearance section.

Patience is still a virtue. Not only will patience enable you to find used bestsellers for a fraction of what they cost new, sometimes you can even find new books for less than you would think if you are willing to wait. In some stores new, hardcover bestsellers will sell for about $8 around the time that the publisher is releasing them in paperback. Or, if you simply wait for that hardcover book you have been itching to read to be released in paperback, you can save $10 or more.

There are a few of my broke bibliophile tips. There are more tips and tricks for getting low-priced books, but this is a good place to start. From one book-lover to another, I would love to hear your tips and tricks too. Happy reading!


Posted by on October 22, 2009 in Books, Lifestyle, Series


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6 responses to “The Broke Bibliophile: Finding Deals on Books

  1. Jonathan

    October 23, 2009 at 2:55 AM

    A few hostels we stayed at in Europe had ‘take one/leave one’ boxes of books. I’m afraid I took more than I left. One funky hostel in Cologne Germany was particularly useful. Great tips, PM.

  2. chinspeaks

    October 23, 2009 at 3:44 AM

    Instant karma is gonna get you. Better leave a book or lend a book somewhere soon 🙂

  3. Jonathan

    October 24, 2009 at 3:59 AM

    Hah! Will I be ok if there are books I’ve lent years ago that I never expect back? I think that should even the karma score.

  4. CëRïSë

    October 24, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    Ooh, yeah, a few of my coffee shops do free book exchanges, too–good suggestion!

    A while ago I discovered Better World Books, which offers free domestic carbon-offset shipping and whose profits go to global literacy efforts. They don’t always have as big a selection as or others, but their prices are often great on used books they do have, and I like their philosophy so much that I generally check them first.

  5. Jonathan

    October 24, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    Oh, yeah. I’ve purchased used books for years on & Delayed gratification, but you can usually find what you want cheapish.

  6. chinspeaks

    October 26, 2009 at 4:51 PM

    I like finding deals on books online, but I have found that the shipping costs might negate the savings on the book. Thanks for the tips.


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