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Ten Places to Find Cheap, Free, and Green Books

Living Room - Plants and Books

Our Living Room Bookshelf

Last night I went to my first book group gathering with a bunch of lovely, interesting ladies.  It was so nice to just sit around the table and chat for a bit.  I do that at work, but at work we talk mostly about serious things.  It was nice to relax.

Anyway, here is a list of resources we came up with last night for finding cheap, free, and eco-friendly books (thanks ladies!), and I thought it worthwhile to share with you all…

Where to Find Cheap, Free, and Green Books

1.  Trade with friends, family, and co-workers. Duh, but sometimes we forget.  I’m going to ask my mom if she has the book we’re reading for next month before looking anywhere else!  We’re also setting up a lending library at work, to make it easy for everyone to bring in and exchange books regularly.

2.  Free Used Book Exchanges. BookMooch and PaperBack Swap are both good options (BookMooch is run by some lovely people, I know less about PaperBack Swap but I’ve heard good things and they have a better website).  It’s free.  You enter in the books you have to exchange, and the books you want.  All you pay is the postage (which is a cheap “book rate” when you’re sending books.)

3.  Your Local Library. So many books, so easy.  Most local libraries now have their catalogs online, where you can peruse, reserve, and renew books all online!  Some will even send you email reminders before they’re due.

4.  Half.com. Buy and sell used books at half.com.  I haven’t used it, but one member of the group swears by it (and I trust her)!

5.  Online Used Bookstores. Biblio (described in #6), Alibris, and Powell’s are all ones I’ve used and loved.  (If you have a favorite, please share in the comments.)

6.  Biblio. Matt just ordered a textbook on Biblio.com.  He ordered the very same textbook he would have found in the US for $35.  Rather than $165 at Amazon!  The only difference is that the book is printed on thinner newsprint paper versus the glossy textbook paper you normally find in the US.  You do have to weigh the ecological benefits of the more ecologically sound paper with the further shipping distance.  And arguably the economic and social issues with buying foreign products (though I’d argue the book companies could take a hint from this and maybe cut down on the trees they cut down).  Yet the cost is so different, it gives you economic freedom to do more with your money.  You can also choose carbon-offset shipping.  And they have many used books.

7.  Amazon Used, Rare, and Green. If you are a lover of Amazon, or you have a gift certificate left over from the holidays, try their amazing selection of used books.  In the books section, when you search for a book in the top of the site, use the pull-down menu to select “Used Books” before clicking “Search”.  Amazon also has used textbooks, bargain books, Amazon Green, and Rare BooksAudio Books can also be a good eco solution.

8.  Your Local Independent Book Store. IndieBound is a great place to find your local store – many indie stores sell used books.

9.  Blog Giveaways. I’ll be doing more of this in the coming months, as I’m receiving more and more requests to review books.  There are several other blogs with great books to giveaway – keep your eye out (and let us know in the comments if you have specific sources).

10. Ok, I have 9.  Please help with the tenth! Where do you find used, cheap, free, and ecologically sound books?

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18 comments to Ten Places to Find Cheap, Free, and Green Books

  • Christina

    How about your not-quite-local library? You’ve got multiple levels and varieties of bookstores on your list, so another library option wouldn’t hurt! Encouraging our library systems to network and share can make for a stronger library system overall. Here in California, we have a terrific interlibrary loan program called Link+, which obviously costs each participating library some fees (I don’t know the costs). And there is the transport cost of a book that comes from farther than your local library. But I think the environmental benefit of many people sharing one volume probably overcomes those issues. (The system is designed to send you the book from the closest library possible.) Our system includes all the Cal-State universities, private universities, as well as community library systems. http://csul.iii.com/ is the system.

  • Our library has sales every other month sponsored by The Friends of the Library and the books are very inexpensive. They are books that have been donated and also ones that have been pulled from the shelves. The ones that don’t get sold get destroyed, so during the last hour or so of each sale you can get paper grocery bags full for $1. I would imagine that not all libraries do this, but many probably do.

  • Our libraries have annual sales, as well as garage sales and thrift stores. It never hurts to look.

  • I love paperbackswap, and have traded a zillion books that way. Also love library book sales (!!!) and tag sales and thrift stores. A friend gets tons of books at the dump, where they have a little shed where people leave books for others.

  • Susan in NJ

    Library sales and yard sales have worked well for me. I recently got some great cheap finds at one of those book warehouse sales that takes over a vacant store front for a short period of time — seems green themed books may not sell that well at full price.

  • J.

    Bookmooch is international while Paperbackswap is US only. Just a note for your readers who may not be in the US.

  • Bookcrossing! http://www.bookcrossing.com is an international movement whose members share books either through the post or through local meet ups. Many members still keep up with the original idea of bookcrossing which is leaving books in public places for others to find them and then share their reviews on the website.

  • Thrift shops and yard sales are good options. Abebooks.com is another online source for used books that I’ve used with success.

  • Tree

    How about Freecycle? I’m always seeing books on there!

  • Rob

    Thrift stores. Half Price books also sells used books. and records, dvds. I have bought quite a few books from them. Also I notice most bookstores have carts that the books a drastically reduced- kinda like buying books from Discount Grocery. I would rather buy the new books reduced from the bookstore than see them go to a dumpster or recycle bin.

  • Our local Salvation Army store sells paperback books for 10 cents and hard back books for 20 cents each. You do have to search through a lot of books, but I almost always find a few treasures among the shelves.

  • If I’m curious about a book I’ll see if I can view parts of it on Amazon to see if it’s worth checking out or purchasing. Oftentimes when you look at the thumbnail photo of the book it says, “Look Inside,” over the photo. You can get a preview of the book and scan through actual pages. Otherwise http://www.scribd.com/ has full copies of older versions of books; just depends on what you’re looking for.

  • One of our local used book stores puts out several boxes of free books everyday. At times I take books in to trade at used book stores or at our local independent book store (which is new/used) as well.

  • Kelly

    Library sales are a big favorite of mine as well. I’ve used both Paperbackswap (big fan!) and Book Mooch, but I wound up canceling my BM account because of frustrations like people waiting forever to ship their books (on PBS you’re expected to ship within a few days). Swaptree.com is a similar site where you can get trade books (and cds and dvds as well). You can also sell your books to Powell’s online. You type in the ISBN numbers, they tell you which books they’ll take and what they’ll give you for them (Powell’s credit or a PayPal deposit), and they pay for the shipping. I’ve done this a couple of times and used the Powell’s credit to get new books!

  • Used book stores don’t have to be online – there are probably several in your town. We have Hyde Bros., Every Other Book, Half Price Books, and more! Also, local used book stores may buy your unwanted books as well.

  • Used bookstores, Book Crossing (http://www.bookcrossing.com/ ), laundry mats, some cafes, garage sales. Also some work places hold a book sale each year to raise funds for charity. This is a good way to get rid of some books and buy some new ones.

  • I love used books! Although I know most of the things on your list (I use the library pretty much all the time, then our local used bookstore when I’m at home), I am glad you’ve taken the time to write it all down for everyone. :)

  • Alison

    Just a note of caution – when I was in nursing school, several classmates bought a very cheap “international” version of our textbook for logic class which printed on the thin paper you described. We had to submit homework which were problem sets from the book. The problems from the international version were totally different from the US version, so those students had a lot of problems submitting the homework.

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