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Where to Buy Books Cheap: Finding Discounted Used Books In-store and Online

Updated on June 10, 2014

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Barnes and Noble and other national chain sellers tend to sell books at extremely high rates that are frankly, unaffordable in large quantities to most. Don't get me wrong, I love the look and feel of a new book just as much as any reader; however, I cannot let myself succumb to these prices. The average cost of a hardcover Harry Potter book goes for about $17, when this same book can be purchased from a different seller for $2-3 in good condition. The most important thing is knowing what you're looking for. Every store and online site has something different to offer. If you're searching for that right book, What Should I Read Next check out to discover the best online tools for finding books designed on your preferences.

The first place to try if you're looking to purchase discounted and/or used books is the library. Not only can you borrow books, often times libraries will collect book donations and sell them for $2 a pop. At the Charleston, SC library, an entire shelf was dedicated to these books, running at $1 for a hardcover. These are not old, deformed or marked-up texts either, most are in extremely good condition only showing a few signs of wear.

The next stop is the local used bookstore. These are more abundant than you may think and definitely worth a visit. While these books are not as organized as you may find at Barnes and Noble, large used book superstores have, what feels like, everything. Prices run from $.50 to usually no more than $8 for the typical paperback or hardcover. Vintage and old relics of text can also be found here in a variety of versions that will make any book enthusiastic ecstatic. At the same time, these stores do not just have out-dated books. Books published in that year can be found at these stores (maybe at higher prices that $.50) well worth the purchase.


Online Stores

A variety of sites exist that are easily accessible where you can find most books at discounted prices. While the delivery is not always hurried, these prices are worth the wait. With (usually) free shipping, novels, non-fiction, classics and even books for school can be purchased at prices around $3 each.


AbeBooks is an online retailer that sorts through a vast amount of outside online used book sites and sells them directly from their website. Easily navigable, AbeBooks allows you to select a variety of options: the condition, bookseller rating, shipping option, editions, etc. At the same time, you can weed through the browse feature which shows bestsellers, signed books, sales and the like. AbeBooks also has rare books for sale as well as discounted textbooks. Collectibles, such as the E. Nesbit books, can be found here. Not only can you buy used books (or even new books) here, you also have the option of selling books on the site, similar to an eBay or Amazon account. While this site does not have everything, the prices are incredible and some unique books, not otherwise sold at B&N can be found here.


Better World Books

This site is set up more similar to the B&N site, with popular categories and lists of books. This site features the ability to create a login and set up wish lists. CD's, DVD's and eBooks can also be found on Better World Books. Similar to AbeBooks, Better World Books also sells discounted textbooks. While AbeBooks allows you to sell your books, this site lets anyone donate books. At the top of the site, a count is kept of books donated, money raised and recycled books. This seller provides free worldwide shipping and is more user search friendly that AbeBooks; however, if you're looking for a rare read, AbeBooks is your place.

Thrift Books

Similar to Better World Books, this site features lists of popular book categories that make this seller extremely user friendly. Thrift Books features up and coming popular reads for prices in the $2-4 range that can be purchased in a variety of conditions. This site also features foreign language and large print books as well as textbooks. Deals on multiple book packages are always a steal, along with the free shipping in the US. Thrift Books also features a comprehensive children's book catalog organized by age. Similar to Better World Books, this site is extremely search friendly and a go-to place for popular discounted texts.


This well-known website is great for all buying purposes, including that of used books. Easy to find, search and navigate, Amazon is a quick solution to popular favorites. Deals can be found, like any website, you just need to look for them on Amazon. This may require a bit of scrolling and reading of descriptions, but the cheap prices will be worth it in the end, similar to the other used book sites.



This site provides a variety of products - rare books, textbooks, CD's, DVD's. There is also the option of renting textbooks, a process similar to that of Chegg, which can be a cheap alternative for a student. Alibris also features a Deals and Gifts section, which lists books for just 99 cents, rare book gifts, music bargains, and new books on sale. These are unique features and can be extremely helpful when searching for an affordable gift for that book lover in your life. An Adele CD can be purchased for less than $4, while a signed copy of Fahrenheit 451 can be bought for $75. At the same time, TV series can also be purchased for extremely discounted prices that you won't find anywhere else.


Comparison of Book Prices

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Hardcover)
The Catcher in the Rye (Paperback)
The Hunger Games (paperback)
Barnes and Noble
Better World Books
Thrift Books
*includes shipping

Used Book Search

This simple search engine prompts you to type in the title or author of the book. It will then give you a list of multiple sellers and their best prices. It is extremely easy to compare prices here to get the best deal. In a search for The Fault in our Stars by John Green, 8 sellers were shown, with the best price from AbeBooks at $6.08. If you really are thrifty, this can always be your first step in your online search for book deals.


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