Seven Ways To Get Books For Free (Or Close To It)

After reading the summary lists of the 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks series, some of you out there are probably yearning to pick up a book or two from the list. Or, perhaps you’re just yearning to read something else. Either way, there are a lot of ways to get books for free – or something close to it. Here are the options I use to get stuff to read on the cheap.

The local library The most obvious answer – and still the best. You can get almost any book you wish to read from this place for free. Better yet, you’ll likely find a lot of resources there that you didn’t know about, such as CD and DVD rentals for free. It’s well worth the time to stop there.

PaperBackSwap If you’re willing to spend a dollar or two to mail your own books that you no longer want, you can dive into a giant book swap at PaperBackSwap. As I wrote about in detail in the past, PaperBackSwap is basically a book trading service that operates via the US mail. You go there, list ten books you have, and you get two credits for your time. Spend a credit and you can pick any book listed on there and have it shipped to your house for free. When someone wants a book you have, just ship it to them and you’ll earn another credit. That’s it – easy as pie. Shipping a book in the United States costs a dollar or two, and that’s your only expense.

Trading with friends/borrowing from friends I often lend books to my friends – in fact, I have probably fifteen or twenty books loaned out right now. In exchange, my friends often lend books to me. If you know of an interesting book that your friend has, ask to borrow it – you’ll often find a book you’ll really enjoy reading right in your hands, for free.

Cooperative buying If several people are interested in buying a book, have everyone contribute a dollar or two, buy the book, and pass it around through the group. One big benefit of this is that all of you will read it and thus all of you will be able to discuss it as well. Usually, we all agree to give the book to Goodwill or something when it’s done, or agree to designate someone as the permanent owner. It was because of this that I was able to read several brand new novels while in college.

Used bookstores There are several used bookstores within driving distance of me. While they’re not too good for picking up the latest and greatest book, they are very good for hunting down older ones and also classic literature. If you’re seeking a slightly older book, try giving a ring to a few used bookstores near you and ask if they have it. In fact, I’ve used my local used bookstore to pick up three or four books that I intended to mark up with notes quite heavily – the dollar I paid was well worth the learning I got out of the books.

Project Gutenberg For those unaware, Project Gutenberg is the place to go if you’re looking for free copies of classic literature. Pretty much any classic novel you can imagine is there in its complete text, and there are several different ways to read these books at your convenience, either on your computer or printed off. While this might not be useful for modern books, I am planning on reviewing at least one book that exists in Project Gutenberg in the future.

Gifting I keep up a wishlist on Amazon and add books to it all the time, often so many that I can’t remember what’s on there (and thus I check it each time I finish something new). Many of my family members have the URL for this list and then use it to give me books for gift-giving occasions, as they know few gifts will make me happier than a fresh book I’ve not read. It’s a far better gift to receive a book than just about anything else I can think of under $20.

Hopefully, you can use one or more of these methods to add to your reading in the near future. For me, this is particularly valuable, as I view reading a thought-provoking book to be one of the best uses of time available to a person. Do any readers have additional ideas for how to get books on the cheap?

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