How to Be a Book Lover on a Budget

May 27, 2014

I admit it, I’m a bibliophile.  It sounds like a long word for a painful condition, but it really just means that I love reading.  A lot.

It means that at any given time I am in the middle of reading at least three to four different books (generally, novels) and that if the novel I’m reading is particularly engaging, then there’s a good chance that I’m up at two in the morning squinting at my electronic reading device.  So maybe this is actually a painful condition.  But the amount of money that can be spent on feeding the book habit can also be really painful.  Below I’ve compiled some of the ways you can save.

Use Your Library

Sure, that’s a bit of “duh” advice, but really, libraries have changed since the days of yore (i.e. 4-5 years ago).  Granted, I can visit my local library branch and check out all the historical fiction novels I could possible want to read.  But I can also go online anytime, day or night, and check books out electronically through the library district website.

Electronic books may be available in varying formats and downloadable to your PC, phone, tablet, or electronic reader.  For example, I can download a library book directly onto my Kindle or Nook and I can do this from anywhere. You may also have the option to electronically check out library books in audio format.  Just like with regular books, you may have a bit of a wait for the newer popular titles.  But again, it’s free.

Libraries are also a great money-saving resource if you have kids.  Many libraries have great children’s sections with an excellent variety of books geared toward various ages and reading levels.  Take your kids on a Saturday morning library adventure and have them pick out all the books they want without worrying about the cost.

In the summer, your library may also feature a reading program that lets kids register and track the books they’ve read in exchange for a prize (generally, more books) at the end of the summer.  Check on your library district’s website if downloadable books for children are available.  These children’s books are often interactive with pictures and sound.

You can also often find great used books on sale at your library, including children’s books, and generally they’re just a few dollars at most.  Sign up for email alerts from your library district and keep an eye out for their annual used book sale.  Come early for the best book selection but if you want to wait and really save money, go on the last day of the sale for “fill-a-paper-bag for $5 bucks” type deals.

Read the Classics

Are you into the classics? Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to score them at little or no cost to you.

Project Gutenberg – This is a huge free online database on books that no longer have copyright protection – generally, this means the classics published prior to 1923.  This means that you can read Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Mark Twain to your heart’s content and do so absolutely free.

Free eBooks  – This membership service offers a large database of free books.  There are varying levels of membership.  You can join for free and download up to five books a month in limited formats.  There are also monthly, annual and lifetime fee options that basically allow unlimited downloads.  The database features a lot of classics, non-fiction and independent authors.

Kindle and Nook – Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer many books for free on the Kindle (for Amazon) and the Nook (for Barnes and Noble).  Many of these are classics that have entered the public domain.  You don’t have to own a Kindle or a Nook; there are free downloadable apps available.

Downloadable Apps – Speaking of downloadable apps, the Free Books by Wattpad app offers a selection of classics as well as other, often user-generated, books and stories ranging from historical fiction to mysteries to romance.  The eBook Search app is free and links to Project Gutenberg books as well as to other free e-book catalogs from the web. offers a service where for $9.95 a month you can read an unlimited number of books from its extensive selection, and there is an app available as well.

Consider Electronic Books

Amazon – You can find great deals on e-books and lots of free e-books too, through Amazon.  Amazon has the well-known Kindle e-reader, but even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can use the free downloadable Kindle apps.  You can download the Kindle Cloud reader to your PC or download the app to your mobile device.

Find deals through Kindle Daily Deals and Monthly Deals which offer a variety of books for $3.99 or less.  If you have an Amazon Prime membership, the membership includes access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library on your Kindle device, allowing you to borrow one book for free each month.  Also, Kindle editions of many classics as well as books in other genres are available for free.

Barnes and Noble – As mentioned above, you do not necessarily need to own the Nook reader from Barnes and Noble in order to take advantage of all the e-books and other reading material available on the Nook.  You can read on a PC through Nook for web or use the free downloadable app for your electronic device.  You can read books, newspapers, magazines and even comics on the Nook.

You can find great deals on a large selection of books, including the Nook Daily Find (a new featured book daily at a discount), Nook Books under $5, 101 Nook Books under $2.99 and 101 Kids and Teen Books under $2.99.  In addition, you can find interactive children’s books featuring narration and animation and free Nook books available in various genres such as classics, romance, mystery, and others.

Internet Archive –  This website was founded as a way to build an internet library.  You can search for books and other written texts on various databases including American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, Project Gutenberg, and Children’s Library.  The texts are downloadable in various formats.

Trade Books

Consider trading books in your family and social circles -- a tactic that is especially great for children’s books.  Kids go through various interests and reading stages very quickly and it can be difficult to keep buying new books.  If you’re in a parent group/book club or just know a lot of parents with kids, consider initiating a trade.  Does your coworker have the same painful condition as you -- reading the latest bestseller on her lunch breaks and always stopping by the local library on the way home?  If you share similar reading interests, consider trading books to keep up on the latest bestsellers out there without breaking the bank.

There are online resources for trading books as well.  PaperBackSwap is a free service through which members can trade books with each other, paying solely the costs of shipping.  You can list the books you wish to trade and also create a wish list of books you’d like to receive.  You earn credits for each book that you send to another member and you can use those credits to request books you would like to receive.  You can also purchase books in combination with credit or just purchase books directly.  BookMooch and WhatsOnMyBookshelf work similarly, allowing members to send books to members while earning credits in order to request books from other members.

Find Your Local Used Book Store

Local used book stores often have a great selection, including the latest bestsellers.  You may also find hidden treasures at used book stores which just may not be available at the more mainstream stores.  All that and an atmosphere that can’t be beat, at a great price.

Are you a bibliophile?  Do you use electronic media to obtain and/or read books?  Tell us your strategy for saving!

This post was written by Julie Borisov from Colorado PERA. Would you like to write a guest post for The Dime? Email us at