Money Saving Tips: How to save on books

Books! They're our favorite dead-tree media. (Take THAT, papyrus scrolls!) But, as the forests get defoliated, prices can only go up. That's not a good thing if you're looking to save a little money while building your library. We've rounded up some of the best services we could find to help you continue to be the egg-headed reader you already are, while keeping some extra money in your pocket. (You'll need that extra coin to buy reading glasses, someday, I'm sure.)

But first, I'd like to address some "issues" you might have about our money-saving suggestions:

Firstly, you have to get over the idea that every book you read you'll want to hold onto for ever and ever. Yes, people like to collect libraries. I certainly do. And the two most commonly given reasons for me doing this are: "I'm totally going to re-read this book" and "I like having them around to lend out to others to read!"

These opinions of mine are BS.

You're not going to re-read that Dean Koontz book, and your friends could care less about what you like. (Especially if you like Dean Koontz.)

Secondly, you have to get over the "Ick Factor" of second/third/fourth-hand books. Though you can never know what the last guy reading that book had touched before reading it, I doubt it was hazardous waste. (Unless there is tell-tale evidence stuck between the pages, that is *shudder*.) You'll be okay if you'd just refrain from licking the book.

If you're really concerned, or if your name is Howie Mandell, just stock up on Purell.

Now, with your worries assuaged, here's some places to get cheap(er) books:

The Library
The most obvious. But, also, the most maligned. A lot of people have misconceptions about the library. In fact, the other day, I heard a friend remark, "They don't carry any new-release books." To which my Information Science-studying girlfriend was heard to remark, "How IGNORANT are you?!" In fact, libraries, in order to compete, often ONLY carry new-release books. They want to offer what people want, what will get them into the building, and what will get people to support government funding of the institution. So they appeal to the masses by having a wide range of the books people want.

Furthermore, the library has changed a lot since you were forced to visit it on your 3rd-grade field trip. Most branches now offer online reservation and extensions.

It's also the cheapest solution to your book problem. The only money you have to pay is in late fees that are a whopping ten cents. And, since your hard-earned tax dollars are keeping the system alive, you might as well recoup some of your investment.

Project Gutenberg
If, unlike me, your eyes do not dry up and fall out of your head after reading more than a couple pages of text on a computer screen, then this is definitely a place to consider going to find over 20,000 free eBooks. Sure, all of the books are texts that have lapsed out of copyright, so you're not going to find Harry Potter, but what are the chances that — even though they were assigned to you in grade school — you've actually read any of the books Gutenberg offers? Choose from such "ever-greens" as "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "Beowulf" by some dead English guy, and more.

Used Book Resellers
Among the best online resellers of books are, Alibris, AbeBooks, and Amazon Marketplace. Between these four, you can find most any book you're looking for — and at a discount. Each of these sites has ample information about the book's condition so you won't exactly be buying "blind".

An added benefit of resellers like this is that, since there are multiple individuals trying to sell the same book, there is price competition. Most sellers just want to get rid of the book, so they aggressively price their books to move. Which is great for the buyer, like you, to swoop in and get a bargain. Getting a book for 50% off, using this method, is not very hard to achieve, though sometimes shipping kills the deal.

And if you don't want to take the time to search each of these sites individually, there are meta-search sites like FetchBook. If your tastes run to the "rare and hard to find", try BookFinder.
It's like Netflix, but for books. (I guess was taken ... or, if you think about it, kinda misleading ... so never mind.) You choose a queue of books from their selection of over 100,000 titles and they ship you a couple. When you're finished, return it to them (via a pre-paid mailer that they supply) and another book will be on its way to you. With unlimited plans starting at $9.99 per month, it's a pretty frugal way to get your read on.

A major upside is that BooksFree, literally, has dozens of plans to choose from, so you can custom tailor your reading habits so that you're not paying for your books to just sit around, gathering dust (like your DVDs do from Netflix.)

A major downside to the whole thing is that BooksFree, literally, has dozens of plans to choose from, so you won't know where to start.
This "free" community-based book-trading website connects you with other users who want to give away their books — to you. You reciprocate by creating a list of your books that you want to give away. When you find someone who has the book you want, you "order it" and the other users sends it along. Of course, if someone else wants one of your books, you have to pay to mail it to them. But, if you send books via Media Mail, it should cost you around $2 per book. And since you can "order" three books for every one you send out, that's like getting three books for $2. You just have to hope that the other users have good taste in books.

The Street
Though this is the cheapest means to procure new books, it has its pitfalls. Exposed to the elements and the whims of a dog's bladder, these books have the potential to be way more unsanitary than books simply passed from person to person. But, if you're adventurous — or devil-may-care enough — the curb is a great place to find your reading material.

If you live in a big city, people are always moving into or out of apartments. Since books are heavy, most people prune their collections so they don't have to break their backs moving crate after crate of burdensome books. These same people might post their library to CraigsList, so keep an eye out there, too.

Borrowing from Friends
How ironic! I tell you that you don't need to keep books around so you can lend them to people, only to turn around and tell you to borrow from others. Hey, I'm here to tell YOU how to save money, NOT your friends. If they want to spend their bucks on books, then why not take advantage of them a little. (However, you might not want to phrase it to them as "taking advantage of them" when you ask to borrow one of their novels. That's bad form.)

Now, what about the Amazon Kindle?
Sure, it's like magic, the way you can get a book delivered instantaneously into your hands via the internet. However, Kindle books, themselves, are about $9.99. Yes, that's a bargain if you're used to buying hardcovers, but not much of a steal if you're a paperback type of guy.

Also, the device itself costs $359. For that kind of coin, you're gonna have to buy a LOT of $9.99 books before you're gonna break even. Plus, if you have $359 to spend on such a thing, I'm pretty sure you don't need to watch your book-buying budget. What are you doing reading this article, in the first place? Go on. Git!

Jeff Somogyi is dealnews' Media Editor. Check out his blog, The Somogyi Perspective, to find out why used books still make him queasy.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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