How to Read Books on a Budget


eHow Money Blog

If you’re as voracious a bookworm as I am, then you know how expensive it can be to feed your appetite for reading. It used to be that a book-lover’s choice was to buy new or used books or check them out of the library. After accumulating a mountain of books (not fun when it’s time to move) and tallying up just how much money I was spending on my habit, I vowed a few years ago to stop buying printed books in favor of ebooks (cheaper and lighter) or library books. It’s hard sometimes to resist a colorful bookstore display, but I’ve found several workarounds that still allow me to get my fix without emptying my wallet. Here’s a look at several new options.

For printed books …

Libraries are of course wonderful for budget-conscious book-lovers, but sometimes the wait list for popular books can stretch on for months and you can’t always keep a book as long as you need to finish it. You can also swap books you’ve read for new-to-you titles on websites like BookMooch or PaperbackSwap. I’ve swapped dozens of books on BookMooch, and I like that it allows you to create a wish list of titles you want and receive notifications when they become available. I think it’s a good way to keep books circulating rather than accumulating, and I’ve noticed that some members use a site called BookCrossing that allows you to track a book’s journey as it changes hands from reader to reader. BookMooch is free to use, so you just pay for media mail shipping when you send a book and receive credits to use when someone sends you a different book. Paperbackswap works similarly.

For ebooks/audiobooks …

As ebooks and audiobooks gain popularity, readers have many more ways to access books. Even if you don’t own an ereader, you can download apps for Nook, iBook, or Kindle onto a computer, tablet, or smartphone and read ebooks on those devices. Here’s how to get cheap reading material for on the go:

  • Borrow ebooks through your library or services like The Gutenberg Project, which offers tens of thousands of free eBooks downloads. Websites like, eBookFling, and BookLending also let users borrow and lend ebooks. If you have an Amazon Prime account and a Kindle (not the app, but the actual reader), then you’re eligible to borrow more than half a million titles through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Depending on the publisher’s policies, the lending period for a book might be limited to 14 or fewer days, so ebook lending works best for people who read quickly.
  • Buy free or discounted ebooks. Barnes and Noble sends a daily email with the NOOK Daily Find. These ebooks cover a variety of genres and typically cost around $1.99 or $2.99, compared to the usual $9.99 or more. If prefer you Kindle ebooks, check out BookGorilla, which sends out a free daily email alert listing free and discounted ebooks by genre. You can sign up based on the genres of books you’re interested in. Don’t let these emails pile up, though, because the free or discounted prices are good for a limited time only.
  • Choose unlimited ebooks. If you plow through books quickly, then you might like an ebook subscription service. Described as “the Netflix for books,” Oyster charges $9.95 per month for unlimited ebook reading online and off. I signed up for Oyster’s free trial but found that the selection wasn’t as varied as I’d hoped. Still, it might meet other readers’ needs. A similar service called Scribd is available for $8.99 per month and also offers a free trial.
  • Listen to audiobooks. For people who spend lots of time walking, driving or working out, audiobooks allow them to squeeze in more literature. LibriVox offers free public domain audiobooks, and Audible offers a subscription service where, for $14.95 per month, subscribers can download one audiobook and buy others at a discount. Like many of its ebook counterparts, Audible offers a free trial.

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