Great Sources For Free Or Inexpensive Books


“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Although a worthwhile endeavor, reading can be a very expensive habit if you consume a large quantity of books. Fortunately the Web offers plenty of online sources for inexpensive books, and for those who prefer a physical location, a few places still exist where you can buy books cheaply.

Electronic Books

About half the books I read anymore are eBooks (Kindle, Overdrive, etc.) and even though generally speaking they are at least 50 percent cheaper than their hardback counterpart, they can still be pricey. When I need an electronic book — and it is not available free on Overdrive at the library — here are a few places I use.

Book Bub

By far the best service I have used so far is Book Bub. I get a daily email with cheap books based on the subjects I am interested in. At least once or twice a week, there is a free book in the mix and most titles are under $3.


If you catch a book when it is older or when Amazon is running a sale, you can find quality books for under $3. Another option many people overlook is if they own a Kindle they can download one free book a month. My experience, though, with the free monthly book is often the quality is not there.

Project Gutenberg

With nearly 50,000 free book titles this is a great place to find books in the public domain (generally speaking all works more than 75 years old). If you want to re-read the classics — or read some new ones — there is no reason to pay for these types of books. You can read them in a Kindle, online or as a PDF.

  • For a list of 15-20 additional sites with free or inexpensive eBooks and audiobooks, check out this article from Daily Kos.

Scholarly Books or Textbooks

I have used Abe Books for this category as well as Amazon. In my opinion Abe Books tends to be a better source for University-produced books and Amazon can be better for textbooks. Abe Books is basically an online store with lots of vendors — so even though the purchase goes through Abe Books they don’t own them. The main thing to watch for when buying from either site is the condition of the book, the seller’s rating and shipping costs.

Paperback Books

I buy the bulk of my paperbacks from Amazon and Better World Books. With both sites you are locked into a minimum price of about $4 per book due to shipping costs. Both sites have a wide selection and a seamless online shopping system.

Offline and in a Store

Three non-online sources for free or cheap books are the public library, thrift stores and book stores. Whenever I come across a title I want to read I first check if the library has an electronic or paper version of the book. Since I have a library card at a couple of libraries — and they have access to libraries throughout the state — I find a lot of popular titles this way.

Since all the used book stores of my youth have faded away I am forced to use new book stores, but scouring the clearance racks has produced a few good, cheap books.

Of all the physical locations, thrift stores have always been the most interesting source of books for me. I use the stores to expand what I read because I have found book about obscure subjects. Subjects I would never had read about if I hadn’t seen the book at a thrift store.

Also, often thrift stores have older out-of-print books for $3 or less. Some out-of-print books can be very expensive if you purchase them online.

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