Is there anything better than the thrill of finding the next book that is going to engage your fantasy, teach you something new, or simply make your dull commute a bit more enjoyable?
While reading is hardly the most expensive hobby out there, it certainly can feel rather costly if you buy the newest bestseller every other week and fight your way through it within just a few days. And then there is the insane satisfaction of leafing through beautiful, lovely smelling books at your local book store and leaving with a heavy literary load but a considerably lighter wallet. Within just a few months you might realise that you’ve spent hundreds of pounds on books.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are many locations people can go to find great deals on cheap books, or even get books for free. And with the internet, there are plenty of other possibilities to get affordable reading material which should serve you for years to come.
So without much further ado, here’s a list of some of the best ways to get a free or cheap book in 2018.
Yes, libraries are the good old-fashioned way to go about getting free books. Not to keep, of course, but you can often extend the duration of your loan and they usually have a beautiful collection which are sorted according to different categories, neatly ordered and only waiting for you to grab them.
Libraries are a wonderful place. It’s all about sharing the written word: returning the books when you no longer need them so that somebody else can read. Most libraries also accept donations, so if you have a heap of books you no longer need, do make the best use of this service.
Of course, you may think of libraries as a rather dusty and dull place. However, many of them have gone with the times. Nowadays many of them are done up really nicely, are clean, well-ordered and well worth spending time at.
While some are struggling, you’re more likely than not to have one in your home town. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city like London, there are more libraries than the eye can see – from small ones such as the Camberwell Library to the British Library (the largest one in the world!), there’s something for everyone.
The larger libraries often also host other types of events. The British Library features frequent exhibitions and various talks on book-related topics. Smaller libraries, too, offer things such as readings and related smaller events. So there’s really no reason not to make use of this resource – it may be old-fashioned, but it’s still highly usable.
If you really feel you must own a book, but want to avoid the strain on your wallet, then 2nd-hand bookshops are your option. Most towns in the UK have one, and again, if you live in London there are literally hundreds to choose from – and many of them are absolutely delightful. Charing Cross Road alone features so many that you could spend hours browsing through old copies of your favourite books.
Like libraries, many 2nd-hand bookshops also accept donations, so if you’d like your old friends to find a more private and immediate home than a library, then this is another good option to go for. There are really worse things to do than to support an important, but small trade.
There’s something touching and sweet about 2nd-hand books. They have their own peculiar smell and you know the book you’ve bought for just £2 or £3 received much love before. It’s really a great way to save money and will serve you well for many years to come.
Lastly, the atmosphere in 2nd-hand bookshops feels a lot more homely than in traditional book stores. You may meet interesting people who share your love of the written word. The shopkeepers are usually truly passionate about what they do, and chances are you’ll discover a volume that has been out of print for many years, making a trip to one a unique experience.
If you don’t mind using e-books and read primarily classics (for whatever reason), then gutenberg.org is the go-to place for you! Featuring tens of thousands of free e-books, this website serves to spread the accessibility of reading material which no longer has a copyright.
Run by a host of volunteers who do all the digitalisation, proofreading and conversion to other formats, Gutenberg is an amazing project which lives on donations. There are no charges and the books are available in a variety of formats: kindle, mobi, epub, html and more.
Chances are you’ll discover a huge range of reading material you’d never have considered before, and as an ongoing project, you can even easily get involved by digitalising more books, offering translations or donating a little to help them with their online presence.
If you’re not too fond of classics but still don’t mind reading e-books, most large book chains feature online stores to help you in that regard. E-books are usually cheaper than print versions (since there are no printing costs), so you’ll be able to find a good deal on most of the recent bestsellers.
Amazon Kindle Store is probably the largest with the lowest prices on e-books and thus worthy a recommendation. Just note that they only sell books in their own in-house format, rather than the industry standard epub. Also note that rumours speak of Amazon’s shady business practices, so if you’d rather not support that, go for another option.
Other large e-book stores are Kobo Books, Google Play, eBooks.com and Waterstone’s – Waterstone’s own personal brand. Many of them also feature free or very low priced books for the classics, which is another good reason to use them.
Of course, an e-book robs you of the wonderful experience of smelling and feeling the printed page and you won’t be able to add another treasure to your bookshelf, but they are a brilliant way of having a number of books with you wherever you go – and can in fact be quite addictive.
For poetry lovers: Poetry Foundation
Of course, all above sources are perfectly usable for poetry lovers. But if you’re into poetry, the Poetry Foundation is an additional resource to access free material. The advantage? Sometimes you just want to read one poem rather than browse through a whole volume.
The Poetry Foundation features a huge amount of free pieces, sorted by theme, poet or school of poetry, making it very intuitive to navigate through. And the poems are all featured on their own website, so just navigate to the poet you’d like to read, select one – and there you go!
Since poetry doesn’t particularly adhere to the industry, it’s also possible to find a range of poetry on there which is still copyrighted – even a select few contemporary poets. With frequent updates and the occasional essay, the Poetry Foundation is a definite website to bookmark.
If you use just one or several of these resources, you should probably never fall short of having something to read again. In 2018, reading material is more accessible than it has ever been before – so why not make the best use of it?
Can you think of any other sources I might have featured in this list? Anything to add? And what are your thoughts on classical vs e-books? Then please leave a comment below. Otherwise, why not share this post on the social media of your choice? If you desire to do so, please click on one of the tender buttons below.