Three Money-Saving Strategies for Book Lovers

Happiness is a Full Bookshelf!

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Finding Secondhand Books


Books can be expensive! Yet I manage to own plenty of books, both print and digital. I use a combination of money-saving strategies to find the used and new books I crave. Here they are:

Paperback Swap is my favorite. This website has a large membership, so the pool of available books is huge. The site has lots of convenient features, too. Create a wish list and get in line to request your favorite books as they are posted by other members. Search by title, author, subject or ISBN. Look at a map to see where you have shipped books and where your books have come from. I've traded with book lovers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico from my North Carolina mailbox.

The process is simple. Post your available books. Every time a member requests a book and you send it to them, you receive a credit to use when you request a book from a member. Your only costs are postage to mail your unwanted books.

Through the wish list feature I've found some books I would never have found locally at my used book stores. I've also posted books I thought would not interest anyone else, only to have them snapped up almost immediately by a grateful member. The network is large enough to be really useful. Members also rate books and write reviews, so you can know what you are getting before you make your book requests.

This has been a great resource for my church library as well. It can be hard to find replacements for some out-of-print library books, but Paperback Swap has come through for me several times. You can subscribe to a daily "wish list" email to see what other members are looking for.

Ed McKay's is a great resource for readers in North Carolina. With four locations in central North Carolina, this chain has been around for decades. I have gone to the Greensboro location for over twenty years and enjoyed friendly service as I traded my used books for "new" books, music, and movies. Ed's is a favorite place for area homeschoolers and the local college students, since they carry textbooks for the local universities and have a large selection of educational resources.

Wherever you live, seek out the used book stores. Get to know the staff and become a favorite customer. If you are looking for something special, they may be able to help you.

Goodwill and other thrift stores are sometimes a source for books, although it is through serendipity rather than design. Occasionally someone will unload a box of wonderful books, but the selection is generally not inspiring. I will sometimes find a book, however, that I know is on somebody's Paperback Swap wish list. I pick up the book for a dollar, post it, and mail it to a member for credit toward a book I want.


Bibliophiles will always find a way to get the best reading matter. Finding used book values is good for your mind, good for your wallet, and good for the environment. Compile a list of books you want to read, then see how many you can acquire for less than retail. Try these strategies yourself and let me know if you find any amazing deals.


Four More Strategies

1. Review Books and keep them for your home, school or church library. This is the best way I've found to get brand new books for free. Sometimes I even get Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), which come out before a book is officially available for sale. ARCs can't be swapped or sold, but they allow one to be among the first to read a new book.

2. Support your local library's Friends of the Library book sale. Get books for your home library while helping the public library get new books for you to borrow.

3. Get a Kindle and take advantage of weekly offers of free books. Some of the self-published Kindle books are really goo, but you will never know about them unless you take a look!

4. Check out the free books category on Smashwords for free e-books in multiple formats. "Buy" the books and you access every format the author created: online reading, E-Pub, Mobi, PDF for printing and more. Even if you have an older e-reader, Smashwords offers books in a format you can use. There are plenty of books for 99 cents, too.

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Comments 18 comments

sweetzara profile image

sweetzara 4 years ago from Mumbai, India

Hi kschimmel

Great hub! Thanks for the info. Do you know if Paperback swap works in India?


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

Sorry, Paperback Swap only serves people who live in areas served by the US Postal Service.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

As a reader, I'm all for saving money on our books. As an author, I'm appalled. You see, I get no income from the resale of my work, only on the initial sale. But half of me thanks you for this information. The other half is sulking. Lynda


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

I understand--I'm a writer, too. If I can't find a book used, I will go to my fourth strategy--earning Amazon gift cards on Swag Bucks and buying them new.

Ethically, reselling is no different from a library loaning a book to multiple patrons. When a person buys a book, it is his to sell as well.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

I'm not suggesting resale is unethical, merely that it cuts the author out of the equation. No need to justify!


PWalker281 4 years ago

Well, I have to say that I love Paperback Swap; a good friend of mine introduced me to it a couple of years ago, and I've been using the service ever since. And we have a huge book sale here in Hawaii every year that's sponsored by the libraries that I discovered last year. I've also donated to and bought books from Goodwill often when I lived in DC.

I can certainly understand why an author trying to sell his/her books would balk at a service like this; on the other hand, many of the books offered through PPS are out of print and can only be acquired from someone who owns the book. Moreover, I don't think there are enough books being swapped to significantly impact an author's sale (I'm guessing here - no facts to back up this statement). Finally, the just-published books are hard to get on PPS and there is an option to purchase the book through Amazon, so authors do get sales through it. So it could be viewed as advertising for the author.

Great info, kschmimmel! Rated up and useful.


Earl S. Wynn profile image

Earl S. Wynn 4 years ago from California

This is an awesome hub! My wife and I are avid readers and we pick up a lot of our books from thrift stores, but this is the first I've heard of Paperback Swap! Very cool! Thanks for such an awesome source of information!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Glad to see some resources for a population whose needs have been under assault: the book lover. Voting this Up and Useful.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

Thanks for stopping by. I'm having a ball with Paperbackswap--just got a new book today, have 3 more on the way, and 3 I mailed to other members.


The Fastionista 4 years ago

Great hub, kschimmel - I love the idea of the paperback swap - it seems like a great way to find out of print books, and, as you said, books that you're not going to find even at the local bookstore. Voted up and interesting!


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 4 years ago from Northern California

Such a great idea for a Hub! I definitely used PaperbackSwap a lot. I also like to go to the Goodwill if there's nothing I'm looking for in particular. I live right down the street from a used bookstore where I can pick up books for a couple of books. Also, the library has book sales at the end of the month where you can get books for pennies :)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

I've never heard of Paperback Swap - what a great idea! I love it. I save money by going to the local public library, but sometimes, you just want a book to keep, even if it is a paperback. Going to check this out! Voted up!


Pixienot profile image

Pixienot 4 years ago from Clarksville, Indiana

What a great hub! Information I never thought about before (not because I am rich, as I read, read, read). In this "new" economy one has to do strange things, but this is just down right practical and fun.

As an author I'm thrilled at the first sale as well as the thought of someone passing my work on to be read by another. What a compliment!

Voted up, useful and awesome!


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

I got my first free book to review! This should be fun.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

I've found that reviewing books is not difficult. I even finally learned to embed images/links to make a review look good. On to my second free review book!


Mei Eden profile image

Mei Eden 4 years ago from Houston, TX

Wow thanks for these tips, kschimmel. I LOVE to read and recently am in an economic situation where I can't just buy up whatever book I want anymore. I've been frequenting multiple local libraries, but had not heard of Paperback Swap before. I'll definitely be checking that out. :) Thanks for the tips!


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

As of today I have reviewed close to 20 free books. I love to pass them on through my church library or to give a good book to someone I know will really appreciate it.


laurenhow profile image

laurenhow 3 years ago from Virginia

BookMooch.com is another site similar to PaperbackSwap.com. I use both sites, but in some ways I prefer BookMooch because it's easier to get rid of your own books on that site; and, I like that members leave feedback about each trade. You can also check the condition of a book before you "mooch" (request) it from someone.

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