More ways to get great books for less

How to Become Your Own Library

by Debra L. Karplus

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Whether you're snuggled up under a blanket by the fireplace sipping a cup of hot tea or swimsuit clad at the beach or somewhere in between, reading never goes out of style. Oprah Winfrey, who got Americans excited about reading after starting her book club in 1996 states, "I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi." Reading is the perfect pastime for the frugal-minded, a way to learn, escape, expand the mind, and make connections.

Many people purchase books either at their local bookstore chain or small privately owned shop or at a discounted price from one of the online sellers. But, since the majority of books that you read will be read only once, especially if they're fiction, it might be worth exploring other options. There are a number of obvious and not-so-obvious ways to have access to virtually infinite books while spending little to no money.

Reading e-books has many advantages.

In 2011, the sale of electronic books surpassed hard copy print books, according to the websites of and other reliable sources. That's noteworthy. Why are so many people choosing to read digital books? It's convenient to buy them online. Also, the space-saving feature of owning hundreds of books you've individually selected that fit easily in a purse, briefcase, or backpack is a plus, especially for travelers and people on the go. Look online and you'll find a Kindle reader for as low as $79 on or a Nook on for $99, and these devices continue to drop in price. You can then download books for under $10, and some are even under a buck. It's a very enticing way to read.

There are many inexpensive ways to own print books.

Thrift stores and resale shops always seem to have many books, mostly paperback and some hardback. Yard sales are also a great source for books, and often sell for as little as a quarter. Typically, unsorted, you must be willing to spend time perusing the many titles. It's not the way to find a specific book you wish to read, but it is wonderful if you enjoy stumbling on surprises.

Your public library or nearby community college library has a limited amount of space. Since they purchase new publications on an ongoing basis, periodically they need to unload books that are older or seldom borrowed by patrons. Watch for sales at these spots. One library holds a sale every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in their basement selling a wide variety of books, CDs, and DVDs. They sell a "surprise bag" for only $2, which consists of 20 books of a specific genre like science fiction, mysteries, romance, or children's literature in a bag stapled shut. You take your chances, but for such a small amount of money it's worth the risk. You're bound to find a few that you desire reading.

Barter your way to books you've not yet read.

So you've read all those yard sale acquisitions or library purchases. What to do? Well, you can keep your wallet tucked away and take heed. If you have a relative, friend, or neighbor who enjoys reading, you can trade books you've finished.

Perhaps the people you know have only a few books to trade or are not passionate about Zane Grey westerns, John Grisham legal thrillers, or Elizabeth Berg's fiction about relationships the way you are. Don't despair. There are probably organized book swaps hidden away at places you already visit. The gym where you go for aerobics class may have a shelf that says "take a book, leave a book." Many work places have book exchanges on a shelf in the employee lounge. Some libraries have a place to trade books. Your child's middle school or high school may even have one. You just have to look around and ask.

And if you don't find an existing book barter system anywhere, you may need to do the obvious and organize one yourself. Select a location that is used by many people. If you work in a school, that spot may be in the teacher's lounge. Let others know that you want them to each donate their unwanted books, and you're ready to swap. That's it!

Maybe you think of yourself as old-fashioned and enjoy the ritual of going to your public library and borrowing books. That's great! We need to support our local libraries and use them as they are intended to be used to keep them going. The library is an easy way to obtain whatever you want to read whenever you want it. You already pay real estate taxes that fund the library. Why not utilize its many services?

Become a better person and read. It's a great hobby with no disadvantages. For the dollar stretching person, it's a perfect use for leisure time.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for Learn more about her at

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