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7 Money-Saving Strategies for Book-Lovers

Happiness is a full bookshelf!

Happiness is a full bookshelf!

Resources for Finding Secondhand Books

Books can be expensive! Fortunately, I manage to own plenty of books both in print and in digital format. Below I have listed the different money-saving options and strategies that I utilize to find the used and new books I crave.

1. Paperback Swap

This is my favorite option for finding books. Here are some of its benefits:

  • There is a large membership, so the pool of available books is huge. The site has lots of convenient features, too.
  • Users can create a wish list and get in line to request their favorite books as they are posted by other members. You can search by title, author, subject, or ISBN. The wish list enabled me to find some books I would never have found locally at my used bookstores.
  • The website allows users to view a map to see where you have shipped books and where your books have come from. I've traded with book-lovers in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico from my North Carolina mailbox.
  • The process is simple: First you post your available books, then every time a member requests a book and you send it to them, you receive a credit to use when you request a book from a member. Your only costs are postage to mail your unwanted books.
  • Members also rate books and write reviews so that you can know what you are getting before you make your book requests.

I've also posted books I thought no one would be interested in only to have them claimed almost immediately by a grateful member. The network is large enough to be rather useful.

This has been a great resource for my church library as well. It can be hard to find replacements for some out-of-print library books, but Paperback Swap has come through for me several times. You can subscribe to a daily wish list email to see what other members are looking for.

2. Ed McKay's

Ed McKay's is a great resource for readers in North Carolina. This chain has been around for decades and has four locations in Central North Carolina. I have gone to the Greensboro address for over 20 years and have always enjoyed friendly service as I traded my used books for relatively new books, music, and movies. Ed's is a favorite place for local homeschoolers and college students since they carry textbooks for the local universities and have a large selection of educational resources.

Seek out the used bookstores wherever you live. Get to know the staff and become a favorite customer. If you are looking for something special, then they may be able to help you.

3. Goodwill

Goodwill and other thrift stores can be a source for books on occasion, although it is through serendipity rather than design. Every so often, someone will unload a box of wonderful books, but the selection is generally uninspiring. However, I will sometimes find a book that I know is on somebody's Paperback Swap wish list. I pick up the book for a dollar, post it, and mail it to a member for credit toward a book I want.

Take advantage of free weekly e-books with Kindle!

Take advantage of free weekly e-books with Kindle!

4 More Strategies for Obtaining New and Used Books

1. Start Doing Book Reviews

Find work reviewing books and keep them for your home, school, church, or library. This is the best way I've found to get brand new books for free. Sometimes I even get Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), which come out before a book is officially available for sale. ARCs can't be swapped or sold, but they allow one to be among the first to read a new book.

2. Visit Your Local Library

Support your local library's "Friends of the Library" book sale. Get books for your home library while helping the public library get new books for you to borrow.

3. Use Kindle

Get a Kindle and take advantage of weekly offers for free books. Some of the self-published Kindle books are really good, but you will never know about them unless you take a look!

4. Try Smashwords

Check out the free books category on Smashwords for free e-books in multiple formats. "Buy" the books and gain access to every format the author has created, including online reading, E-Pub, Mobi, PDF for printing, and more. Even if you have an older e-reader, Smashwords offers books in a format you can use. There are plenty of books for 99 cents, too.

Bibliophiles will always find a way to get the best reading material. Buying used books is good for your mind, good for your wallet, and good for the environment. Compile a list of books you want to read, then see how many you can acquire for less than retail. Try these strategies yourself and let me know if you find any amazing deals.

How Much Do You Read?


Lauren from Virginia on July 17, 2013: is another site similar to I use both sites, but in some ways I prefer BookMooch because it's easier to get rid of your own books on that site; and, I like that members leave feedback about each trade. You can also check the condition of a book before you "mooch" (request) it from someone.

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on July 09, 2012:

As of today I have reviewed close to 20 free books. I love to pass them on through my church library or to give a good book to someone I know will really appreciate it.

Christine C from Houston, TX on June 19, 2012:

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Wow thanks for these tips, kschimmel. I LOVE to read and recently am in an economic situation where I can't just buy up whatever book I want anymore. I've been frequenting multiple local libraries, but had not heard of Paperback Swap before. I'll definitely be checking that out. :) Thanks for the tips!

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on February 10, 2012:

I've found that reviewing books is not difficult. I even finally learned to embed images/links to make a review look good. On to my second free review book!

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on January 22, 2012:

I got my first free book to review! This should be fun.

Pixienot from Clarksville, Indiana on January 11, 2012:

What a great hub! Information I never thought about before (not because I am rich, as I read, read, read). In this "new" economy one has to do strange things, but this is just down right practical and fun.

As an author I'm thrilled at the first sale as well as the thought of someone passing my work on to be read by another. What a compliment!

Voted up, useful and awesome!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on January 09, 2012:

I've never heard of Paperback Swap - what a great idea! I love it. I save money by going to the local public library, but sometimes, you just want a book to keep, even if it is a paperback. Going to check this out! Voted up!

glassvisage from Northern California on January 05, 2012:

Such a great idea for a Hub! I definitely used PaperbackSwap a lot. I also like to go to the Goodwill if there's nothing I'm looking for in particular. I live right down the street from a used bookstore where I can pick up books for a couple of books. Also, the library has book sales at the end of the month where you can get books for pennies :)

The Fastionista on January 05, 2012:

Great hub, kschimmel - I love the idea of the paperback swap - it seems like a great way to find out of print books, and, as you said, books that you're not going to find even at the local bookstore. Voted up and interesting!

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on December 29, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by. I'm having a ball with Paperbackswap--just got a new book today, have 3 more on the way, and 3 I mailed to other members.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on December 28, 2011:

Glad to see some resources for a population whose needs have been under assault: the book lover. Voting this Up and Useful.

Earl S. Wynn from California on December 28, 2011:

This is an awesome hub! My wife and I are avid readers and we pick up a lot of our books from thrift stores, but this is the first I've heard of Paperback Swap! Very cool! Thanks for such an awesome source of information!

PWalker281 on December 28, 2011:

Well, I have to say that I love Paperback Swap; a good friend of mine introduced me to it a couple of years ago, and I've been using the service ever since. And we have a huge book sale here in Hawaii every year that's sponsored by the libraries that I discovered last year. I've also donated to and bought books from Goodwill often when I lived in DC.

I can certainly understand why an author trying to sell his/her books would balk at a service like this; on the other hand, many of the books offered through PPS are out of print and can only be acquired from someone who owns the book. Moreover, I don't think there are enough books being swapped to significantly impact an author's sale (I'm guessing here - no facts to back up this statement). Finally, the just-published books are hard to get on PPS and there is an option to purchase the book through Amazon, so authors do get sales through it. So it could be viewed as advertising for the author.

Great info, kschmimmel! Rated up and useful.

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on December 28, 2011:

I'm not suggesting resale is unethical, merely that it cuts the author out of the equation. No need to justify!

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on December 28, 2011:

I understand--I'm a writer, too. If I can't find a book used, I will go to my fourth strategy--earning Amazon gift cards on Swag Bucks and buying them new.

Ethically, reselling is no different from a library loaning a book to multiple patrons. When a person buys a book, it is his to sell as well.

lmmartin from Alberta and Florida on December 28, 2011:

As a reader, I'm all for saving money on our books. As an author, I'm appalled. You see, I get no income from the resale of my work, only on the initial sale. But half of me thanks you for this information. The other half is sulking. Lynda

Kimberly Schimmel (author) from North Carolina, USA on December 28, 2011:

Sorry, Paperback Swap only serves people who live in areas served by the US Postal Service.

Zara Rasul from Mumbai, India on December 28, 2011:

Hi kschimmel

Great hub! Thanks for the info. Do you know if Paperback swap works in India?

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