10 Cheap/Free Things for Book Lovers


Hi there book lovers! Or friends of book lovers. Or friends of public libraries.

You already know that you love books and all stuff literary. But you know you would love it even MORE if these things were free or cheap (unless you’re an author or publisher…you probably like a paycheck). Luckily, book-related freebies and events have always been a great, budget-friendly way to optimize on your reading hobby. It’s just a matter of exploring all the opportunities out there!

Book-lover on a budget? Check out these ideas for pursuing your passion without dropping big bucks:

1. Visit your library

That’s right – the most obvious option takes the number one spot. Libraries already have the reputation as the go-to spot for free books but that doesn’t mean they’re not still the greatest source for literary fun (to any non-believers, library fun totally exists and is completely amazing). They have books, of course, but they also are hubs for literary events and info. Many host authors, hold community reading events, and put on periodic book sales where they sell the books that are being taken out of circulation. A sea of discounted books to sort through? Absolutely magical.

2. Download free/cheap ebooks

Take advantage of free ebooks through online sites offering the classics (such as gutenburg.org) or via your local library’s online ebook checkout system (another reason libraries are awesome). The really nice thing about library e-lending is that you can log in from anywhere and browse the online selection. That means you could be living in China and pop onto the San Francisco library site to check out books on your Kindle or computer. Trust me – I’ve done it! Getting a library card before you hit the road is a great way to stay entertained during long flights or drives.

3. Bookstore book readings/signings

Bookstores are another great resource for interacting with authors or attending book readings. Most bookstores have a bulletin board or website calendar that lists upcoming events but if you don’t see one – just ask! Sometimes smaller shops have a less organized event list but still feature great opportunities and experiences.

For a large scale calendar that covers events all over the US, check out the Poets&Writers site, which has a nifty list of events to get you started.

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4. Mark the date for literary festivals

In San Francisco, there’s an epically awesome literary festival called Litquake. It’s a huge literary event that sprawls out in the city’s bookstores and cafes. Over two weeks, it hosts authors, readings, and workshops. While some events come in at a cost, others are completely free. Depending on your location, you might be within reasonable distance of a great literary festival that offers more than a few literary themed opportunities. Start scoping out the prospects! In San Francisco, we have a site called FunCheap SF which maintains a running list of free and cheap literary events. A quick Google search might turn up a similarly awesome site for an area close to you!

5. Join a book club or writing group

Your community is a great way for you to interact with others who share similar interests in reading. Check out sites like meetup.com for book clubs or book themed events or ask your local book seller if they host reading groups. Most groups are free (or with a low membership fee) and offer the opportunity to expose yourself to new people groups of interest. Different meet ups yield different results each time, so it’s a great way to shake up the way you read and interpret.

6. Follow book blogs

Blogs are a fun and  creative resource for book lovers. While they don’t follow the traditional paper-binding kind of literature, there are wonderfully talented people out there crafting great stories and essays… and then putting them up online! If you have a specific interest in addition to reading – there’s probably a blog for that. For example, Paper and Salt combines food and literature into a seriously inspiring combo. For another interesting look at the craft of reading, writing, and mindfulness check out Brainpickings. The Paris Review is online for free now. The list goes on! Pick and choose your favorites and have fun exploring the creativity that abounds in the internet.

7. Get books in exchange for reviews

Some sites offer free books in exchange for online reviews. You get to read something new, and share it? Pretty cool. Be warned, many are in the realm of vampires and bodice-ripping. If that’s not your thing, you can still find other genre gems if you take the time to sort through carefully. A great place to get started is via GoodReads. Their “First Reads” giveaways offer a sweepstakes like review system. Since it’s an entry based giveaway, you’re not guaranteed a winning prize but it’s still worth the easy sign-up if you’re interested in reading and reviewing.

8. Interact with online reading communities

Speaking of GoodReads, it’s a great online community for book readers and writers alike. As a hub for book reviews and literary news, you can often uncover some great leads on newly released novels and tips on speaker events or webinars. It’s also a great place to keep track of everything that you’ve read and to create a “reading profile” which is pretty much a badge of reading honor.

9. For the proactive… write to your favorite burgeoning author

This is free (unless you mail direct, which in that case… include the cost of a stamp) and also just a nice, fun thing to do. Use your sleuthing skills to hunt down contact info for a new author or writer that you really liked. Then tell them how much you liked their writing. Appreciating literature is one way to feel more involved. Plus you’ll feel good about it – and they will too.

10. If all else fails, host your own book-related event

There’s no reason why you can’t be the own source of your free literary experience. Part of the beauty of reading is tapping into your brain and your imagination. Put on your own literary salon (those still exist!) or set aside some time to chat about a book with a friend. Sharing and admiring creativity is one way to inspire and expound on your own creativity. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next featured free and wonderful literary event on the list!

Image Credit: AZ

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  • Hooray for libraries! They’re such an underutilized resource. Ours offers many programs that I only recently found out about, including a pretty extensive financial literacy series. They also have a huge database of free online courses. Pretty sweet!

    • Haha, I’m throwing in a huzzah! That is so awesome 🙂

  • bookishheather

    In the same vein as the local library (also the number one in my life), I’d recommend Bookcrossing and the Little Free Library movement as a source of free books through the community. Bookcrossing is pretty cool because you can find out where a book has passed through in its journey to you!

    • Claire Murdough

      Amazing!! I’m so excited to check out Bookcrossing. And a new Little Free Library just opened up last week in SF. I love seeing them pop up 🙂

  • If you know where/how to look, there are literally hundreds of free books for Kindle. You can find then directly on Amazon:

    Navigate to http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks/b?ie=UTF8&node=154606011
    Click on the Best Sellers link (either top or left)
    Click on Top 100 Free link (just above 1st row of book covers)

    Once you’re there, you can use the genre list on the left to drill in and see way more than just the top 100 free. Just remember to keep checking that the Top 100 Free link is selected – sometimes while navigating it flips back to Top 100 Paid.

    These deals change almost hourly and individual titles are rarely free for more than a day. Once you “purchase” the book, it stays in your Amazon Kindle library until you remove it and can be read on multiple devices (anything with a Kindle app and the browser-based cloud reader). A couple related useful services are

    http://www.ereaderiq.com – browse freebies and books priced under $1. The service can import your Amazon wishlist and monitor for price drops. Very handy.

    http://www.bookbasset.com – this is essentially a “curated” version of the raw dump from ereaderiq.

    http://www.bookbub.com – similar to the other two but supporting more ebook formats/retailers (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Smashwords).

    • Wow, these are great tips! Thanks so much for your comment, Jim.

    • Claire Murdough

      These are AWESOME – thanks so much for sharing!! I’m so happy to learn about new resources 🙂

  • I go to the Festival of Books in Tucson, Arizona each year. They have so many cheap book buys there its crazy. I’ve gotten some real gems for as little as five bucks! Great list, thanks for sharing it!

    • Nice! Sounds like a great place to get some deals. And it must be fun to search through the books. Thanks for your comment.

  • Bryn Bowersock

    Why is it that you guys don’t have a “Share” button for Facebook? You have a like button, but no Share????

    • Hi Bryn, we only had room for one Facebook button and we chose the “like” button. However, if you want to share this or any other post, you can go to your Facebook homepage and paste the link into your status update box. That will allow you to share it. And of course, we always appreciate it when people share our work!