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eight ideas for saving money on books

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My name is plonkee and I am a bibliophile.

I currently own quite a few books, including a large collection of children’s books (yes I am child-free). I am an absolute sucker for blurbs on the back of books, especially novels - to me many books sound a lot better than they actually are. If I could, I would have an entire room dedicated as my library (with one of those little ladders on wheels), I’m lucky to be a quick reader and so I could take full advantage of this.

Here are eight strategies that I use to save money on books and the order in which I use them:

Not Buying Books

1. Reading before I buy - whilst browsing in a bookshop, I pick up many books whose blurbs take my fancy and read the opening, the ending (assuming its not some kind of whodunnit) and a bit in the middle. This allows me to decide whether I’m really going to like the style of the book in question and stops me acquiring books that are rubbish. It also has the side-effect of generating for me a list of books that I do want to read.

2. Using the library - if I just want something to read, and I don’t fancy any of the books in front of me, I just go to the library and pick up a few there. This has the advantage of being pretty much free (as long as you return them on time), however there isn’t a great selection of non-fiction (my preferred random reading style) that can be taken out.

3. Acquiring other people’s books - people are often willing to lend me books. Some of my friends who read books more slowly lend me books to read so that I can see if they are worth bothering with. As I am known as an avid reader, people often offer me their unwanted books as well as lending me books that I have stated an interest in. I have also been known to win books in competitions.

4. Asking for books as gifts - I’m lucky enough that I get gifts for my birthday and for Christmas. I often use this to channel people into buying me books that I have had my eye on for a while.

Buying Books

5. Second hand books - if you like books apart from the most recent of best sellers, they can often be found cheaply second hand. Car boot sales and jumble sales are an excellent location for genre fiction, like sci-fi, crime or romance novels. Second-hand bookshops are great places to pick classic novels and quirky retro pieces (such as domestic science from the 1950s).

6. Discount bookshops - in my town there is an excellent discount bookshop that has a particularly large selection of science fiction, I can satisfy my craving at a third off regular book prices. These may not be the best books in the world, so I combine this tactic with no.1 above to make sure I’m taking home a book I will read. Discount bookshops are also a good choice for books as gifts, the ones near me have excellent selections of coffee table and recipe books for example.

7. Special offers - Waterstones, Borders and WH Smith quite often have special offers on books, like two for �10 or three for two. This works out in my favour if two or three of the books that I’m interested in are in the special offer, or there are books in the special offer that would make good gifts for someone else.

8. Comparison shopping - I use the internet and the high street to comparison shop books that I am interested in. I did this for the latest Harry Potter, which I wound up ordering from Amazon. In this particular case, I wanted to get it on the day of publishing and I didn’t want to have to buy something else to get it cheaper e.g. in some shops you could get it for �1-�2 less than I paid, but you had to spend �10-�15 on something else.

What else could I be doing to reduce the cost of my books?

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19 comments for “eight ideas for saving money on books”

  1. Another way to save money on books is to sell the ones you don’t want to keep. I used to keep most of my books (hundreds and hundreds of them), then eventually decided to keep just the books I thought I might re-read someday. But someday never came…those books sat there for years, sometimes decades. So I got rid of those too. I’m down to less than 100 books in my house and I’m determined to cut even further. Now it’s very rare for me to keep a book after I’ve read it. I first try to sell it to a local bookstore, and if that doesn’t work I try to sell it on Amazon. If that doesn’t work I give it away.

    Posted by brad | August 20, 2007, 7:03 pm
  2. You could get a rewards credit card that’s affiliated with a bookstore (in the US, the Borders Visa has no annual fee - and you can actually get the money back as cash). Sign up for the store rewards programs if they’re free (Borders Rewards is free but last time I checked, Barnes & Noble’s program cost $). Do they have bargain sections in your bookstores? It pays to check them every visit - last week, I picked up one of our family’s favorite books, John, Paul, George & Ben, for $10 off the list price to give as gifts.

    Posted by Chief Family Officer | August 21, 2007, 3:46 am
  3. Excellent suggestions.

    I’ve never tried selling books before, although I do give them away if I don’t want them.

    I might check out some local bookshops and see if there is a rewards thing.

    Posted by plonkee | August 21, 2007, 12:40 pm
  4. If the library doesn’t have the book I want to read, I fill out a “suggestion for purchase” form. I suggest about 2 books per month and so far they have decided to buy all my suggestions. If the book is out of print and can’t be purchased, I make an interlibrary loan request and they will get it for me from another library, from the other end of the country if need be, completely free. So I can read anything I want for free (sometimes I have to wait for it though).

    If I have already read/looked at a book and know it would be worthwhile to own, then I look into options for buying it. If I’m looking for an “obscure” secondhand book, I often try Abebooks.com.

    Posted by Monica | August 22, 2007, 1:11 pm
  5. I would use my library a lot more if they didn’t charge 80p for an interlibrary loan. Doesn’t seem much, but you only get it for 3 weeks potentially then they might want it back. You can sometimes get books on Amazon for not much more than that although the postage kills you.

    Posted by Not Fred | August 22, 2007, 1:32 pm
  6. I wonder if my library has a suggestion for purchase thing. I must look into that next time I go.

    I tend to use the largest library in my city, so I’ve rarely needed to check out the inter-library loan, although I know that if its in the same library system its free.

    Posted by plonkee | August 22, 2007, 8:40 pm
  7. In the UK I’ve found the book people to be very good. Every month my parents get a new magazine filled with offers like 10 books for £10. I would say that there is something worth buying every other month or so. Between them and the library we’re never short of books to read.

    Posted by Jonathan Street | November 20, 2007, 8:37 pm
  8. The best idea is to just steal them. Let’s face it, bookstores are a lot easier to break into than, say, an electronics store. They haven’t nearly the number of alarm systems. Libraries have gotten so annoying, what with there door sensors and what-not.

    Posted by Bill | December 14, 2007, 12:04 am
  9. @Bill:
    LOL. It certainly would save money. But sadly I’m an ethical personal finance blogger.

    Posted by plonkee | December 14, 2007, 12:38 am
  10. This is going to sound very strange, but you should purchase an Amazon Kindle. Now, it is true that a Kindle will cost you a pretty penny up front, but it will save you money in the long run because you will be able to try out books before you buy them. And, then you can “save them for later” instead of buying them. It’s saved me tons of money already. I blogged about it here a while back. http://alexismartinneely.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/do-you-lifehack/

    Happy reading!


    Posted by Alexis | April 20, 2008, 4:07 am
  11. @Alexis:
    I’m not sure whether a Kindle would work for me, as I love owning actual books. It could however work out to be great money saving advice for lots of people. Thanks.

    Posted by plonkee | April 20, 2008, 8:18 am
  12. i loooove reading books! but since prices are increasing, i decided to buy used books from ebay and sell my books that i wont read anymore

    Posted by jacqueline | October 20, 2008, 4:12 pm
  13. There is a website that I discovered for swapping books that I love! http://www.paperbackswap.com. You post your books on it, I have over 100 posted, someone requests your book, you receive a credit. You do have to pay the shipping and handling to ship the book out, but then with your credit, you can request a book and whoever sends it pays the shipping and handling. If you check out the forums on the website, you can find people who offer 2,3, sometimes even 5 books for 1 credit. So I am always receiving more books than I actually ship out!

    Posted by Tonya | November 11, 2008, 6:26 am

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