I am a graphic/web designer and online marketing coordinator interested in reading, green beauty, health and wellness, nutrition, and yoga.
I'm one of those people who has a really hard time paying $15-20 for something I'm going to use once and then will most likely give away (I don't like to keep books sitting around on the shelf if I don't plan to read them a second time). Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to minimize the worth of literature; the contribution that authors make to society is absolutely priceless. But to someone who finishes a book every week or two, it can become quite an expensive addiction. Which is why most of my books are purchased secondhand. After all, someone did pay full price for them initially, right?
There are so many places to find used books, it's almost unnecessary to ever buy one new - unless it's a gift for someone or you've been waiting with bated breath for the next book in a series to hit the shelves. Below are the resources I rely on the most for finding cheap used books.
Get Almost-Free Books via Online Book Swapping Websites
Bookmooch.com is my favorite used book swapping website. It's easy - just sign up for an account and add the SKU's of the books you would like to give away. Then you can either browse the collection of available books already on the site, or add those you want to a wishlist; you will be notified when books on your wishlist become available, but act fast - everyone else who wants that book is notified at the same time, and whoever speaks first gets the book.
It is almost free to use BookMooch - the books themselves are free, but you have to pay shipping on the books you send out. Don't worry, media mail at the post office is rather inexpensive (less than you would pay for most books at a used book store). The books you request, however, come to your home at no charge. This works on a point system. You earn points for books you mail out, and you can spend them to have books mailed to you. Just make sure that when you receive a book, you login to BookMooch and mark it as "received." That way the person who sent it can get their points.
I've used this website often, though a bit less frequently than Book Mooch; but Paperback Swap does have a few perks over the other. First, if you run out of credits, but you really want to request a book, you can purchase more - the cost is $3.95 per credit, which will get you one book. Second, for books on your wishlist, you are put in a waiting list order. This means that if you are the next on the list, you get dibs on the book, instead of having to race to beat everyone else to it.
There are other sites like these, but I have not used them. I'll list them here so you can check them out for yourself.
Find Cheap Books at Local Book Sales
There are a few places you can look to discover any book sales happening in your area.
Online - The easiest way to find book sales near you is with Book Sale Finder. You just click your state on the map, and all the sales in your state will be listed by date and city. You may have to scroll past a handful of paid out-of-state book sale ads first to get to the local ads (this confused me at first, as I thought these ads were showing because there weren't any local sales). Don't see your city in the list? Sign up for Sale Mail and be notified when there is one coming up.
Libraries - It is common for libraries to have annual book sales to thin out their collection and to raise money for library programs. People also donate books to these sales, so they can be a good place to pick up good titles on the cheap.
The newspaper - First, look through the classified ads for garage sales - if a sale has a lot of books, they will list this in the ad. Garage sale books are usually ridiculously cheap, and if you want to buy a large number at once, you can probably work out a deal on the price. Second, skim the rest of the ads in the paper for any non-profit organizations doing fundraisers. My hometown sometimes has book sales at the armory to raise money for the Lions Club.
Flea Markets - I recently attended a flea market, on the hunt for antiques, and was surprised to discover how different each booth is from the next. Antiques, crafts, Avon products, Tupperware, tools, and you guessed it - used books!
Buy at Used Book Stores
Local Used Book Stores - Shop local whenever possible to help support your community. If you buy used books and there is a used book store in your town, try to check there first before looking elsewhere.
Half Price Books - If you are picky about your used books being in good condition, a consignment store like Half Price Books is the way to go. They sell used music and movies, too. Visit the website to see if there is a location near you.
Find Used Books on the Giant Online Bookselling Sites
Amazon.com - To find used books on Amazon, just navigate to the title you are looking for, and then take a look at the box titled "Formats" to the right of the book image. There is a column called "used from" where you can view the lowest priced used book in whatever book format you are looking for. Click on the price and you will be taken to a list of all of the used copies that are available in that format. The benefit of buying used books from Amazon is that the seller will usually list the condition of the book, so you know what to expect. With book swap sites, sometimes you'll get a really tattered copy and there isn't much you can do about it, since it was free.
Half.com (by eBay) - I think eBay is a little better at this than Amazon, because they have kept their used book business completely separate from their main website. You don't have to search as hard for what you're looking for, and Half.com lists book conditions the same way Amazon does.
Other Places to Find Cheap or Free Books
Chegg.com - If you are in need of textbooks, check out Chegg.com. You can rent or buy them. And aren't you basically renting textbooks anyway...even when you buy them?
Craigslist - There is a book section under "for sale," but make sure to look under the "free" section, too. You can also place want ads.
FreeCycle - This website is great for when you have something you want to give away or are looking for something for free. Just sign up and locate the group nearest to you. Then you can search for free books or post the ones you are looking for.
Advertise - This may not be practical for everyone, but when I worked for a newspaper, we were allowed a free small classified ad. Mine said, "WANTED: Free Books," with my phone number. I received quite a few calls from people who had boxes of books they wanted to be rid of. Going through each box and discovering the gems inside was like Christmas morning for me; and any books I didn't want, I advertised on FreeCycle and they were taken off my hands in no time.
I hope this helps all the other book lovers out there find the books they are looking for without paying a lot for them. Where else do you find used books?
© 2013 Kat McAdams
mikethomsss on September 25, 2018:
My favorite seller, www.DiscoverBooks.com sells on Amazon, eBay, Abe, etc., but they price for less on their own site - and they send me coupons about once a week!
Kat McAdams (author) from Midwest on October 14, 2013:
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on October 13, 2013:
Thanks for you fantastic suggestions.. here I find out that there are so many ways to buy the cheapest books I could find. I'll keep this for reference, thanks again.
Sunil Kumar Kunnoth from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on July 25, 2013:
Reading is my hobby. I have a good collection of both fiction and non fiction. Thank you for providing some good options to pick a few. Thanks also for sharing this wonderful knowledge.
Robert Allen Johnson from Fort Wayne, IN on June 26, 2013:
Believe or not, I've picked up some books on Ebay for 1 cent with shipping under a dollar. It never hurts to try there as well, especially if you're looking at sets of books.
Deb Welch on June 25, 2013:
Useful Hub of information - never heard of Book Swapping. Thanks.
Ceres Schwarz on June 25, 2013:
This is a great list of where to find cheap used books. This will be very helpful and useful for those that are looking for places and sites where they can get cheap books to read.
Kat McAdams (author) from Midwest on June 24, 2013:
Stephanie - I've heard of those book exchanges, but I've never actually seen one before. I'm hoping to spend a lot of RVing in the future, too, so it would be good to come across a book exchange or two along the way.
Alecia - You're welcome! Thanks for reading. :)
Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on June 24, 2013:
I definitely need to keep this in mind. I just joined a book club and it's not always possible to get the book from the library. I'm hoping to find a way to get the books without shelling out a fortune. Thanks for sharing this information!
Stephanie Henkel from USA on June 23, 2013:
You have some great ideas for places to get cheap and free books!
We spend months at a time traveling in our RV, and there isn't much room for a lot of books. I pick up free books at the campground book exchange shelf and leave the books I'm finished reading. It's a great way to get a new supply of reading material.
Our Friends of the Library group has an ongoing sale of books at the library where I often get fairly new hardcover books for $1 each. I also always check the bookshelves at thrift stores for reading material.
Nice hub! Voted up and share!