Four Ways to Buy Books Cheaply

We’re devouring books. It’s wonderful. And we’re doing it cheap and fun. Sure, it’d be easier with a Kindle, but it wouldn’t be as much fun. We’d have too much control, there’d be no serendipity, and we wouldn’t be able to luck into a signed copy of Around the World Single-Handed because you just can’t download that type of thing. Yes, I could just get the mystery novel I’m looking for on-demand, or download Back to Earth, or beam myself a copy of … anything, but there’d be no search, no score, no struggle. Here’s where we’re finding books instead (ranked by how successful we’ve been with each):

1 – “Friends of the Library” bookstores.

Nearly every library seems to have one. Books are usually $1 or sometimes $0.25. Good books, classics. But trash too if you want it. One store had five copies of Eat, Pray, Love. This is where we’re getting the bulk of our books … and where we grab out-of-date magazines too.

2 – Donate / borrow shelves.

Some campgrounds have them, the Jalama Grill has one, and they’re pretty entertaining. You can score a book written in German or a book about Jesus … for FREE! Which, granted, is sometimes not cheap enough depending on the book. This is how I scored Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and how Lisa picked up a Reader’s Digest edition of Jane Eyre. This is also where we dump our stacks of read books and magazines.

3 – Lending from friends.

Bob lent us his copy of Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. Ellen lent us her copy of At Home by Bill Bryson. Both were great books that were fun to borrow and ship back. USPS media mail means shipping a book is only a couple dollars.

4 – Used bookstores.

Been to a few. Julian’s was terrible – the first used bookstore I’ve seen with books priced above list. Carlsbad’s was better, it had a good selection of Edward Abbey books, but not Desert Solitaire. Chicago’s Bookleggers is still the best and I miss it.

Got any other ideas on how and where to score books deals? Let us know in the comments.



7 thoughts on “Four Ways to Buy Books Cheaply”

  • That Shackleton novel kicks. To this day, whenever I’m cold, I think of those burly hardcores and I have nothing to complain about. I think those guys are the toughest men I’ve ever heard of.  Imagine sleeping in a wet sleeping bag (pre synthetic era) every night in a rocking rowboat in the icy Antarctic sea.

  • Can I assume that you’re going through Portland, Oregon eventually? I could spend days in Powells bookstore, which takes up an entire city block- and has a huge selection of used books. They’ll also buy your books back from you, which is useful when you’re traveling. 

    • Definitely. Sounds like a great spot. And if you’re ever in Milwaukee, check out Renaissance Books — they’re in a downtown building and it feels a little like the weight of the books will bring the place down. 

  • This list is pretty much direct to the point. I love reading books and acquired most of them from the list you have just stated in your post. Do you think Amazon can also be added to the list?

  • This list is pretty much direct to the point. I love reading books and acquired most of them from the list you have just stated in your post. Do you think Amazon can also be added to the list?

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