If you're like me, you love to read, and you're always looking for good books. And if you're like me, you're also a cheapskate who doesn't care if they're new or used books... just as long as they're cheap. For bargain-hunting bookworms, there's a world of free or cheap books, if you're willing to look. And sometimes for the price of gas to go somewhere, or the cost of postage, you can get some wonderful books. Here's how to save a bundle on books.
This is one of the best ways to regularly get free books. These books are not totally free, as you usually have to pay for shipping, but they're close.
Bookmooch. One of the more popular of the online bookswapping services. Give away books to get credits, and use those credits to get other books you find online. Pretty good selection. It's a free service, although you pay the price of shipping the books you give away.
PaperBackSwap. Pretty much the same deal as Bookmooch — give away books to get credit, use credits to get other books. You pay for shipping (typically $2.13, according to the site). More than 1.3 million books available. No membership fee at this time.
Readers United. Again, get credits for giving away books, use them to get other books. Free service, but you pay for shipping to give others your books.
Similar to book swapping, bookhopping is a way to exchange books over the Internet. Basically, you list the books on your shelf, and agree to ship any of your books when they're requested. In exchange, you can request any books you like. No points are earned or exchanged.
BookCrossing. An extremely unique system, it's more like karma for books. A very basic explanation: read a book, label it with a unique book number, and then leave it somewhere. Anywhere. You can leave it in a coffeeshop, with a friend, on a park bench ("releasing it into the wild"). There are designated book crossing spots all over the world, but they're not required. If someone picks up your book, by chance, they write a little review of it online, and you can read all the reviews of the particular book you "released into the wild". Now, you can also look at book crossing spots in your area to see what books have been left there, and go pick it up if you want. Interestingly, there's a map that shows where books are "released" or "caught" all over the world — in real time. Fascinating. It's definitely a must-see.
BookHopper. Works very similar to book swapping sites, but it's slightly different. First, you list books that you're willing to ship to people, and when they're requested, you ship them (at your cost). You can also request anyone's books. The more books you list, the more you can request. There's no credits, but there's a sort of karma system that incorporates how many books you list, how many you send, and the feedback you leave for others.
Library. The classic method, and it's totally free. If you haven't been to your local library recently, I'd recommend you give it a try. Many of them are surprisingly great.
Friends, family, neighbors, classmates. Set up a little exchange with people you know. It can be a formal book club, or just set up a place to leave books, and when you're done reading a book, leave it and take another. Get creative — no shipping costs are involved, so you can exchange great books for free.
Free ebooks. If you don't mind reading books on the computer, you can get thousands for free. There are a lot of sites for free ebooks, but a couple of the more popular include Project Gutenberg and Free-ebooks.net.
BooksFree. It's like Netflix, but for books. Fairly low monthly membership fee, and you can check out multiple books at the same time. When you're done, send them back (you don't pay for shipping) and get the next ones on your list. No late fees. Lowest price is $9.99 for 2 books at a time; plans go up to 12 at a time.
Thrift shops. I make a regular trip to a couple of charity thrift shops (help a good cause and get books for only cents), as well as a very cheap used book store — I give them my used books for credits, and then pay only a couple of dollars for a couple dozen used books.
* Hot deals expire quickly. This deal may no longer be valid.
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