Books are a passion of mine. It is basically impossible to have too many of them, don’t you think? But the habit can be a costly one, unless you have good sources for finding bargain books. We’ve built a rather large family library for not a lot of mula by using the places I’ve listed below.
In my recent post about encouraging your children to love reading, I suggested having LOTS of books in the home. You want your child to see reading as something to do for fun, and that’s easier to do when books are always handy.
But books are getting more and more pricey all the time. The days of the 95-cent paperback are LONG gone. (Don’t ask me if I remember them. If I answer yes, then I’m old; if I answer no, then I’m senile…) It can be hard to build up a decent quantity of good literature for our kids to read. But with a little ingenuity, and keeping it as a priority in one’s head, it is possible.
My Recommendations for Finding Bargain Books
1) Don’t shy away from older books. There are decent children’s books that were published within the last 10 years or so, but there are LOTS more that were published much longer ago than that. In older books, the child characters are innocent, humble, polite, and interested in age-appropriate things – if you know what I mean. (See my series on giving books as gifts for book recommendations for toddler through teen.) As a corollary to this, don’t avoid used books, either. The words are still the same, even if the binding is a little worn. And the older, used books will go for much cheaper at the places I list below than the more recent or brand new ones.
2) Library Sales – I cannot pass up a library book sale, y’all. Our library has a table on the way out the door with books that they have removed from their shelves. These books sell for anywhere from 25-cents to a buck or two. We’re talking hardbound books for very little money, so I always stop and look.
3) Garage Sales – I sometimes think reading is becoming a lost art. That conclusion is forced upon me when I see people selling good books at their garage sales, including children’s books that their kids supposedly no longer want to read. I wonder if that’s really true (see my extra tip at the end). Well, their loss is my gain, because the prices at garage sales can’t be beat.
4) Thrift/Secondhand Stores — I usually go to a thrift store for another reason – to scope out home décor or name-brand clothing for cheap, but I ALWAYS check to see what books they have. You never know what you will find. And they usually go for pennies.
5) Used Book Stores — But be careful here. While the prices at used book stores are less expensive than buying new, books there can still be quite a chunk of change, especially if you’re trying to buy several. I look for a clearance table — that is where you will find the real bargains.
6) Ebay — This is a good place to look for a particular book, or for a series or collection. I purchased Georgette Heyer books in lots for what turned out to be about 50-cents a book. I also found my husband’s Winston Churchill WWII series for not too much, and most of the American Adventure series for the kids. Just be sure to read the description of the book’s condition carefully. I don’t mind a few marks or bent pages, but a book that will fall apart the first time we read it is NOT a good deal. (Then there was the time my husband won a full set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas… the shipping was HORRENDOUS… )
7) Amazon — Not always a great bargain, but I look at the used books that go for under a dollar. They usually have shipping tacked on, but if I happen to have a $5 gift card from Swagbucks, then I can get one for free! Again, check carefully for the condition. I don’t usually buy from sellers that don’t describe the specific book I’m looking at. Many of them will have generic descriptions – that’s not enough information for me, thank you. (Barnes & Noble has used books, too.)
8) Other sites such as Alibris, Abe Books, Half.com – Again, if you are looking for a particular book or series of books, these sites are worth checking out. It’s called comparison shopping, right from the comfort of your sofa.
9) Kindle books — I confess that I prefer having a real book in my hands — and I try to limit my kids’ time on electronic devices — so I will prefer buying an actual paperback over getting the Kindle version any day. But with all the free and 99-cent books available on Kindle, I just can’t ignore it as a great source. You do not have to purchase a Kindle in order to read a Kindle book — the Kindle software is available for free to be downloaded to your computer, or there is an app for your phone. A lot of libraries now have online book lending services, as well. You can read the book on your Kindle for two weeks and then return it. It’s not the same as owning the book, but it’s free!
10) Then there are some unconventional sources, if you are a little more adventurous. When my husband was in seminary, he placed a “wanted to buy” ad in the local classifieds. Months later he received a call from a gentleman who GAVE him his entire library of theological books – hundreds of them. You never know what may happen if you’re willing to think outside of the box.
And here’s an extra tip: Keep books for a few years after your kids have outgrown them. Perhaps let them keep their favorite books in their rooms for as long as they like. Your child may want to revisit an old friend, and it would be a bummer if he couldn’t find the book that his friend is in.
There is a certain joy in rereading a favorite book a gazillion times; it’s like giving your old teddy bear a hug. I try to keep most of our other possessions to a minimum, but books are the one thing that I do NOT declutter regularly. Getting rid of a book is like cutting off my right arm!
Suffice it to say, then, that I have a LOT of experience in finding bargain books. The suggestions in this article are tried and true! Give them a try the next time you need to find books for school or work or your own personal reading. Start building your library today! 🙂