How to Read Free or Low-Cost Books

Happy Friday!

As a librarian I love sharing information on how to access free books. I worked in the public library system for about 3.5 years before transitioning to the high school library I’m currently at. Many of my patrons don’t have the means to go buy a new book whenever they want or just don’t want to spend the money.

I’m the same way! I typically only purchase books I’ve read, loved, and know I’ll want to read in the future (or just look at it and go “ooh pretty and I love you”).

Regardless, I think it’s safe to say most people love free things, so I’ve put together a list resources where you can access free or relatively inexpensive books. I hope you enjoy!


Local Public Library

I think this one is a given, but of course I’m going to list it anyway. Public libraries are a wealth of free information. Beyond checking out free books, you can also attend free classes and programs, get tax preparation assistance, borrow movies and audiobooks, and use electronic research databases, just to name a few things. Most libraries also have computers you can use for free as well as low-cost printing options. A lot of libraries are also a part of your city or county, which means you should have access to all the libraries (and their resources) in the same system (I have access to 36 libraries in my county with my one library card).

One thing I love about my local library is that I have the option to select specific dates I want my holds activated. If I know I’m going to be out of town, I can still place a hold to have the book sent to me but I don’t need to worry about picking it up right before or after my trip. This lets me request all the titles I want without being overwhelmed with too many books at once.

Beyond these things, most libraries are associated with programs like Hoopla, Libby, and OverDrive. All you need is one magical item: your library card.

Hoopla

Hoopla is basically an online database that isn’t directly a part of the library. All you need to do is make an account with your library card and select your local library. I personally have used Hoopla primarily for movies, but there is much more digital content beyond just movies. I believe you can access Hoopla on your computer and through their app. Not all libraries have Hoopla, but if yours does you should check it out!

Libby/OverDrive

Libby is a product of OverDrive. It contains the same selection as OverDrive but is a faster and easier way of accessing the collection. I have the app on my phone and am always checking out what books they have. Like Hoopla, Libby has thousands of ebooks and audiobooks, but it doesn’t have movies or soundtracks like Hoopla. All you need to do is download the app to your device and create an account with your library card.

Again, these are just a few of the resources available at public libraries. Each library varies slightly with what services they provide, so check in with your local librarian and ask them what they have to offer!

RivetedLit

RivetedLit is the YA blog for Simon & Schuster. Every month they have free reads posted to their site. Some are just extended excerpts (which will give you an idea if you want to borrow the book from the library or buy it) and some are the entire book. I try to check at the beginning of every month to see if there is a book on my tbr or one I’ve never heard of but might be interested in. I’ve read many free excerpts like Five Feet Apart and This Lie Will Kill You. I also recently read a full ebook of Starfish. All you need to do is create an account with them; just a simple username and password situation. You also get to select a free ebook when you sign up, and they offer sweepstakes you can enter for more free books!

Speaking of sweepstakes…

Goodreads

Goodreads hosts book giveaways you can enter as long as you’re signed in to their website. I’ve entered many giveaways and have won 3-4 books, so it isn’t by any means a guarantee for a free book but you can indeed win!

 

EpicReads

EpicReads is another publisher blog, this time for HarperCollins. There are a few ways to get some free reads from EpicReads. The first way is through EpicReads Insiders. This is a panel of passionate readers who work to help shape the publishing industry through newsletters and surveys (along with free reads!) from EpicReads. I don’t have personal experience with this (yet) but it sounds like it is a bit of work, so think about it before jumping in! Another EpicReads source is First5. This is an email you sign up for to receive the first 5 chapters of a book. Every weekday they’ll send you one chapter of a book, so this is another “excerpt of a book” situation like RivetedLit. I get the First5 emails and always enjoy them!

 

NetGalley

If you’ve read any of my reviews you know I use NetGalley all the time. I signed up as a librarian but you can also sign up as a reviewer, educator, bookseller, or media. You can view thousands of books in various categories like cookbooks, graphic novels, romance, and YA, request a download of the book, and leave a review in exchange for the ARC (advanced readers copy). I usually review my books on my blog and on Goodreads, but there’s also the option to put reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There’s a bit of work involved in this, but I find it very worth it.

A similar site is Edelweiss+ by Above the Treeline. I’ve never explored this too much but I’ve heard great things from fellow librarians. If you check it out let me know what you think!

 

For more free ebook sources check out this post by EpicReads!


These are some of my favorite ways to buy low-cost books.

Half Price Books

Sadly when I moved from Minnesota to Southern California I left behind one of my favorite bookstores: Half Price Books. Northern California is lucky enough to have a few Half Price Books shops, but I’ve had to make do with their online store. Half Price Books always lists their books at a lower price than most other booksellers. For example, Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan is about $19 on Barnes & Noble’s website (currently on sale for $14) and is about $10 regular price with Half Price Books. On top of that, if you’re lucky enough to live near one of their stores, all of the stores I’ve been to have had a clearance section with books ranging from $.25-3.00 each. But wait, there’s more! (Anyone remember those commercials? No? Just me?) You can bring in your old books, movies, and CDs for in-store credit or cold hard cash. Again, this is if you’re near a store, but it’s a really great bonus and can help pay for your new books.

 

ThriftBooks

ThriftBooks is a bit different from Half Price Books in that they don’t keep a consistent stock of all their books. For example, Wicked Saints is currently unavailable, 91 people are wishing for the book, and ThriftBooks receives “fewer than 1 copy every 6 months”. So this might not be the best resource to buy a new book, but books like The Hobbit and Harry Potter are selling for about $4 on their site.

Also, they have textbooks!!

Seriously awesome.

 

Your Local Library (Again)

Yes, you can also buy books from your local library! Many public libraries have a Friends of the Library organization that raises money for library events and activities, among other things. One way they raise money is by selling donated book the library couldn’t use and by selling old library books that have been removed from the collection. I’ve been to Friends stores that sell bookmarks, holiday decorations, and other items as well. They sometimes have their own store separate from the library and sometimes they have displays of books for sale in the library itself. I’ve seen ads for bag sales where, for a certain amount (usually around $5 in my experience), you can fill up one of their bags with as many books as you want for just $5. On a regular day I’ve seen Friends books priced anywhere between $1-4. Ask your librarians if they have a Friends of the Library!


These are just a few of the resources out there for reading free and/or low-cost books. I hope this helps you read more books in a more pocket-friendly way. I would love to hear any suggestions you have and your experiences trying these resources!

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