We're all hopelessly addicted to books. But how to feed that addiction without going broke? Today we share with you the creative ways we've discovered to score books: whether it's from our favorite book stores, book exchanges, or the library. And let's face it; we're not above begging.
This is how it used to be. I have a new book philosophy now. Maybe it is because there is a limited space on my bookshelves and I want my bookies not to be crammed into small spaces anymore, or maybe those purchases of Oprah books and bodice-rippers I once loved seem like such a waste of money and space now, or maybe I just gotten a taste for decluttering. But most likely I have to credit discovering Goodreads and joining online book community about 3 years ago for my transformed view on reading. I read and appreciate books differently. Goodreads and my book friends exposed me to more books, better books, new free sources of books, and best ways of acquiring them. I now only own books that I love and am willing to read and reread over and over again. I no longer have books that look back at me with accusation, waiting for me to read them, but books that I can not wait to read again.
So, where and how do I get books these days?
There are two big categories I divide books in my life now: books I want to read and books I want to own. I hardly ever buy books without reading them first anymore, even the books by my favorite authors. God knows, they've let me down in the past.
If I am unable to obtain advanced copies of books I want to read, my public library has been very generous with honoring almost every purchase request I have placed, that in addition to already offering thousands and thousands of paper, audio and ebooks. At each moment I probably have at least a dozen of books checked out.
If the "approved" book was published a few years ago, chances are I can get it through swap within days. This is how I acquired my new collection of Jane Austen books just recently (had to replace my old Penguins). My favorite swap site is Paperbackswap. If you are savvy and keep track of all new releases, you might even be able to position yourself at the top of the line on new titles and get them swapped to you fairly quickly, but in that case you have to wishlist the books you are interested in months and months before their release dates. It can be tricky.
Another great source of getting older books is of course library book sales. Mine has them semi-annually. Like I said, I only buy what I plan on rereading, so I do not go wild anymore. During my last trip I ended up with some Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.
These two places are great for getting rid of your unwanted books as well. You can either offer them for swap and receive credits you can use later on the books you want. Or you can donate them and they will be sold at the next library sale. All my bodice rippers and Oprahs went directly to the library sale.
And, of course, the last resort - Amazon. It is very popular these days to hate on Amazon and campaign for supporting independent book stores, but the reality is, not everyone can afford the luxury of paying premium for the books just because they disagree with how Amazon handles its business dealings. New book releases and pre-orders are probably the cheapest on Amazon and I will continue using it.
I set a goal for myself: no more purchasing of brand new, print books. This was a lot harder to stick to than I anticipated…but I actually managed to be 100% faithful to that goal for about two years and I still mostly avoid buying new books in print (I admit that my main breaking point is hard-to-get Australian books *cough* Froi of the Exiles *cough*.) Limiting my book-buying that strictly wouldn’t have worked in the long term (because let’s face it…Quintana of Charyn is getting pre-ordered so hard) but I am still so glad that I did it, because it forced me to get creative.
Another way that I love to support libraries (and get cheap cheap books of course) is through the friends of the library book sales. Book Sale Finder is a free service that will email you each week with a list of library book sales near your home. (Be careful because this can become very addictive.) Many libraries have a final “sale day” where everything left is priced super low – like $1 or $2 per bag. The first time I went to one of those sales, I saw people lined up at the door with rolling suitcases and giant Tupperware bins and thought…these are my people.
And of course, here’s my most recent favorite way to get free books: become an amateur book reviewer. It can take up a lot of time (most of said time may or may not be spent on random and fruitless internet activities), and it’s not a paid job. But for the chance to read amazing books before they’re even released? Yeah…I think I can unearth a few creative impulses for that.
I've lived all over the country and fed my addiction wherever I went. In Pittsburgh, I got tons of books at Half Price Books on McKnight Road and at the one in Robinson Town Center. (I still go to Half Price books in Seattle.) I loved walking around the Borders in downtown Boston and the one on Newbury Street before they closed. This past year, I probably bought 30 books at the demise-of-Borders sales all over Seattle metro area. But when I think about the places I get books that make me the most happy, these are the ones that come to mind first:
2. Brookline Booksmith: The basement of this bookstore is like walking into a dream. The top floor of the store, which is in a neighborhood in Boston, is filled with new books and gifts. The basement is filled with magical unicorns and rainbows. Fine, not really, but it IS filled with used books. And it isn't just the also-rans and former bestsellers, it is a legitimately wonderful selection. I went there once with a printout of my Goodreads To-Be-Read list and probably found twenty of them--from The Magus to The Raw Shark Texts to The Power of One. The selection for children's and YA used books leaves a lot to be desired but the overall selection makes up for it.
3. The Boston Public Library: I miss the Boston Public Library. The main branch in Copley Square was a daily haunt for me during my grad school days. I'd stop there on my way to or from school and pick up some audiobooks for my commute. The building is old and the marble on the stairs is worn down in that way that only 100+ years of use can produce. (see also: Carnegie Library and the museum in Pittsburgh) I never really adventured to other branches of the system but the selection was amazing and the holds system (especially after they renovated and reorganized) was efficient.
4. The King County Library System: I seriously believe that KCLS should hire me as their mascot. I will tell anyone who will listen about how amazing my current library system is. I've probably been to at least 10 different branches of the system, which is the busiest in the nation, and each one has impressed me. Everything I put on hold is delivered quickly, everything is automated, and the selection can't be beat. I utilized their "Ask A Librarian" feature to find some space-related YA and emailed back and forth with wonderful results. (I'm still secretly wishing I could make friends with the librarian who helped me!) The only downside of the King County Library System isn't a downside at all--it is so busy! It makes me happy when I can't find somewhere to sit or park because it means people are utilizing the system. I'll just pick up my books and be on my way, thank you very much.
5. University Bookstore: I'm probably biased because I worked at a branch of this bookstore but I do love it. It always fascinated me to know that they will wrap and ship books for free nationwide. (call in your order from anywhere!) I recently went to the Mill Creek location for an author event (Marissa Meyer and Lissa Price) and that store has donuts. DONUTS, people.
6. Third Place Books: My feelings about Third Place go back and forth. They have awesome book events. They have tons of people playing board games on the weekends. They have some (SOME) great used books. But they don't always have a great selection of backlist items nor do they carry all the books I think they should. For example, I went to purchase a new Sookie Stackhouse book and a new Chicagoland Vampires book on the day they came out. They had the Sookie book but not the CV book--and that series is pretty popular! I had to go to Barnes & Noble. But I'm including Third Place on my list because I am a frequent visitor.
7. Powell's: So I've been two Powell's locations in the Portland area and it is basically not kosher to make a list of kickass places to acquire books without listing it, so here it is! I LOVE prowling around Powell's when I'm down in Oregon. (I'm assuming The Strand is the Powell's equivalent for the east coast but I'm ashamed to say I've never made it there. I've spent all my time in New York causing ruckuses with my friends instead of buying books.)
8. When I remember, I try to keep track of the Amazon daily discussion board on freebies. There are some seriously dedicated members of the Kindle forums over there who list every free book they find and there is a new thread every day. At this point, I have over 1,000 free books I've amassed solely from Amazon freebies. I've read several of them but I really had to stop hoarding because it was getting ridiculous. Nowadays, I only download about 5 or so per week.