Now that my bookseller days are over, I need to find new sources of economical books. It’s become imperative to figure out where I can find books for free (or almost free).
So, I did some research, scanned my own archives and made a list of the best ways to find books for free.
- Sign up for giveaways
- Follow authors on social media
- Earn points for gift cards to exchange for books
- Sign up kids for free books
- Join reader rewards programs
- Write book reviews for free copies
- Exchange books for books
Before we jump into the resources out there ready to help you stock your bookshelves, let’s think about the borrowing versus buying debate.
There are some books it just makes sense to borrow.
- You know you won’t re-read it.
- It’s not a children’s book.
- You don’t want to highlight it and write notes in it.
- You won’t be using it to refer back to when you need to.
- There’s no sentimental attachment to it.
- You aren’t planning to support the author by purchasing the book.
In those cases, you should borrow.
But, what if those things aren’t true?
What if you can’t get your mitts on a borrowed copy? Or you can’t wait 20 weeks for your name to come up on the library wait list? If you want to pass it on to someone when you’re done reading? Or you need it on hand to read to the grandkids? Or you’re buying it to give as a gift?
All good reasons to buy instead of borrow.
Is anything ever really free?
Okay, this is a philosophical debate that we won’t get into hard core.
But, the truth is, you’re always trading something. It might be your time filling out surveys or your opinion of a book you read. Maybe the books you have on your shelves that you’re ready to pass on. It might even be your email address to be on a list to get newsletters.
In the case of cheap books, you are trading money for books, just less than you would pay somewhere else. And, in the case of used books, you’re trading the advantages of having brand new books.
How does it all work? Every system has it’s own rules, as well as it’s pros and cons. Scan down the list to zero in on the ideas that are a good fit for you.
Sign Up for Giveaways at Read it Forward
Sign up to be entered into the drawing at Read It Forward, sponsored by PenguinRandomHouse. Every week they sponsor a giveaway.
When you sign up with your email address, you will receive their newsletter and be entered to win the weekly prize.
Find out the rules and enter the drawing here.
Visit Little Free Libraries
I wrote about Little Free Libraries in my post where to find books I like.
Little Free Libraries are part of a growing movement to make books more accessible. They are free standing, unmanned collections of books available to the public. You can borrow books from the libraries, exchange or donate books.
Straight from LittleFreeLibrary.org–
“If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share.”
Here’s the link to check the map to see if there’s any close to where you live.
Get Involved in Paperback Swap
Do you have books that you’re ready to pass on? What if you could pass them on and get credit for books you want?
Here’s how it works, right from the Paperback Swap website:
- It’s easy: List books you’d like to swap with other club members.
- Once a book is requested, mail it to the club member.
- In return, you may choose from 1,245,339 available books!
- You pay postage for the books you send out; the books you receive come to you postage-paid.
- Books you request are yours to keep, or swap again!
On the PaperbackSwap.com website, they do emphasize that the program also includes hardback books, audiobooks, textbooks and more.
I opened an account at PaperbackSwap to try it out and learn more about the process. There is a couple of paid subscription options, but you can also get started for free, paying 49 cents per book when you start receiving copies.
I used the affiliate link from Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations, because she’s a blogger I appreciate and have learned a lot from over the years.
You can start out listing as few as 10 books to swap. I ended up listing 15. Immediately after I posted, one book was requested. I printed out the mailing label and have it ready to ship. Now I have a couple of credits accumulated to request books.
Host Your Own Book Swap
If you don’t want to sign up for Paperback Swap, you could try another idea from Victoria: orchestrate your own Book Swap at home. She got the idea from Jill Nystul who outlines the whole plan.
The idea is to invite your friends over with books they are ready to pass on. They trade them with you and your guests so everyone goes home with books they want.
This isn’t something that I’ve tried myself. But, it sounds like a great idea. It also makes me wonder if it would work online. It might be easier to find people with similar reading tastes if you’re not limited geographically.
Tip: If you’re interested in audiobooks, read my post Free Audiobooks: A Beginner’s Guide for the Non-Techie.
Earn Swagbucks and Exchange them for Amazon Gift Cards
I’ve never taken the plunge with Swagbucks, but reliable sources say it’s a good way to earn Amazon Gift Cards. There are different ways to earn Swagbucks, including taking surveys and letting them track your online searches.
Of course, Amazon Gift Cards can be used to buy new or used books. Elsie of Tea and Ink society wrote a post explaining in more detail here.
Sign Up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
This one’s just for kids.
Anyone who gives free books to kids is my hero, but I’m especially intrigued and inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Project.
The program gives new books to kids from birth till age 5. Every month every child signed up for the program receives a book in the mail addressed to them.
It started out in her home county, but it’s grown across her home state, and across the country.
See if it’s available in your area.
Follow Favorite Authors on Social Media
Sometimes authors will sponsor giveaways of their books. Sometimes they will gather launch teams for their new releases, and offer incentives to influencers who help them launch. Almost always they’ll let you know when their books are on a special sale somewhere.
Find out where your favorite authors are active on social media and follow them there.
Check out my list of authors to follow on Facebook.
Stop in at Library Book Sales at the End of the Day
Of course, libraries have free books to borrow all the time. Borrowing is the best option in many cases. Voracious readers don’t always have the budget to keep up with their reading appetite. And there’s some books you don’t want to own. Some books you never plan to re-read and don’t want to mark up with highlights and notes. Some books you just don’t have room to store. All good reasons to borrow instead of buy.
But, what about the ones you do want to own? Library book sales are a great place to pick up books for cheap. You could even ask them what happens to the unsold books at the end of the day. Maybe they’ll be marked down further or you could follow them to their donation site or dumpster.
Write Book Reviews for Harper Collins Christian
If you have a social media account that reviews books, you may qualify to receive free books to review from HarperCollins Christian Publishers.
They require that you write a review 10 days after you receive a book and post that review on your account in addition to a retail site that sells books.
There are also minimum follower requirements for your social media account to qualify for free books to review.
The website is Page Chaser.
While doing the research for this post, I was intrigued by the founders’ story for starting the Page Chaser website.
“Not so long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Four humans sat commiserating in a room. The problem was this: there wasn’t a bookish community that intersected all of their reading tastes. Current communities mostly excluded books with Christian content while others only featured books with overtly Christian content.
Was there a way to meld the two? Was there a way to build a home for avid readers who just happen to also be believers? Could we take the best parts of the two communities – could we be inclusive and diverse, witty and sharp, while still being uplifting?
There was only one way to find out.
We now present to you – Page Chaser.
This is our space for everyone stuck in the middle.”
I’m intrigued by this conversation, because I’ve found it to be (mostly) true.
There is a great divide, maybe an artificial one that shouldn’t be there.
At any rate, it’s nice to know there’s kindred spirits out there who also wrestle with these issues and would like to see the two worlds intersect.
Earn Free Books from the Reading Rewards program at ThriftBooks.com
If you buy from ThriftBooks, you can sign up for their reading rewards program to get free books. Points are earned for every dollar you spend. After $50, you qualify for a free book valued at $5.
Yes, you have to spend money to save money. But, if you plan on spending that money on books anyway, you might as well earn some bonus books for free.
From what I can tell from their site, the prices are reasonable for lots of titles. So that would be “cheap” anyway.
Earn Points at My Reader Rewards
Sponsored by Tyndale and NavPress, points are earned towards free books from the publishers.
In order to earn points, you can take surveys, refer friends, take quizzes, answer questions and share about reader rewards on social media.
When you earn enough points, you can trade them in for eligible books published by Tyndale and NavPress.
Get the full scoop here.
Put Books on your Birthday and Christmas Wish Lists
You want books. They want to express their love in tangible ways. It’s a no brainer. Let them know which books are on your radar.
Amazon makes it easy to make a wish list and share it.
Barnes & Noble and ChristianBook.com also have a places to create a wishlist.
You could also include books on baby or wedding registries. Why not?
Help Your Friends and Family Move
Okay, there’s lots of good reasons to help friends and family move.
But there’s nothing like moving to motivate people to weed through furniture, clothes and books to get rid of what they don’t want. If you happen to be there helping, you’re the obvious choice to benefit from the cast offs. And who has better taste in books than your friends?
Okay. Now you have new sources to beef up your book collection. That brings up the next question–
Where are you going to store your books?
If you sign up for Paperback Swap, you’ve had a chance to weed out your current collection and have some room to fit in your new books.
If you still have an overflow, RealHomes.com has 19 brilliant ideas for book storage. It is possible to store books in a way that enhances the look of your home.
Where Can You Find Ebooks For Free?
Project Gutenberg has a digital library of more than 62,000 ebooks available online for free. These are books whose copyrights have expired and are now in the public domain. Check out my post The 19 Best Project Gutenberg Books (with links to begin reading immediately).
What did I miss? Where do you go to get hard copy books for free?