bargain books

How to Get Bargain Books

I am a great lover of books and spend much of my free time reading. This is where I get books at a discount, whatever the genre or the format. 



Paperback, Hardback


First things first: let’s not forget the local library. If you cannot find what you are looking for, you can ask the staff to make an inter-library loan for you. You can browse for hours and no one will wonder if you are going to buy anything.

Not to mention that occasionally libraries will sell their access stock at bargain prices.

The Winner: Charity Bookshelves and Book Swaps

At my local train station there is a small shelf of donated books. Any of these books can be taken, in exchange for putting a 50p donation into a box for the NSPCC. These kind of shelves are easily maintained by volunteers, as commuters will leave their used books here to be read by others.

There are also free bookswap schemes operating both offline and online. Books on the Underground operates in London; its volunteers leave books on tube carriages and in stations. Books for London operates a similar scheme in London’s rail and tube stations.

Members of BookCrossing release books “into the wild” by labelling it and then leaving it in a public place.

There are also online bookswaps, for example Read It Swap It and Bookmooch.  These schemes aren’t quite free, because you have to pay for postage. This works within the UK (a thin book can even qualify as a large letter), but be careful as mailing books overseas can cost a lot. Also, beware of scams and “book ponzi schemes”, like this Facebook scam.

The Runner-up: Jumble Sales

This is where books are cheapest. Held by local churches or occasionally part of village fetes, I can never leave these traditional fund-raisers without an armful of “treasure”. Just before packing up there are usually large reductions, with books selling for 10p or 20p each. Otherwise, the organisers will have to cart anything left over down to their local charity shop.

Where to go?
– Check local papers, Facebook groups and posters (always displayed at the supermarket).

Buying Books Online

I presume that all of you know about this already, right? You can get both paperbacks and hardbacks cheaply. The only downside when buying used books is that the descriptions of the book’s condition (“like new”, “very good”, etc.) is not always reliable. If you are ordering your book from the States, be prepared for a lengthier wait.

Where to go?
Amazon: you might think they are horrible or the best thing ever, but they are the biggest.
Bookdepository: they offer free shipping world-wide. Check out the “bargain shop” section.
The Book People: their book bundles of multiple titles by the same author (called collections) are especially good value for money.
The Works: sells cheap books online and on the high street.

Used Marketplace – many of the books are now dispatched from Amazon’s own warehouses, which means free delivery for Prime subscribers. – the biggest online second hand book-market.
Ardis books – this is my go-to place for beautiful Folio Society hardback books.
Ebay – because you can buy just about anything on Ebay.

Charity Shops

Charity shops are not always the cheapest places to buy used books, or at least the ones close to me aren’t. However, they give you the warm glowing feeling of having contributed to a good cause and I enjoy the serendipity of finding something unexpectedly good.

Where to go?
– Your local high street.
Oxfam is biggest in the charity shop book business, they even have a web shop.

Second-hand Book Shops

Prices vary widely, but trade paperbacks ought to be fairly cheap. My local second-hand bookshop has a box of them next to the door for £1 each. (They specialise in selling more arcane things and sell these cheaply.)

Where to go?
– Your local high street.
– The UK’s second-hand bookshop capital is still undisputedly Charing Cross Road, London.


Ebooks, Audiobooks

Your Library – Digital

Don’t forget that libraries now also have digital collections. Just as with hard copies, they have a limited number of each book available and you have to return them after a set time. If the book you want is unavailable, you can put in a reservation. Usually, you will have to download a special software for your computer, tablet or phone in order to be able to read or listen to your title.

The advantage is that you don’t even have to leave your house to do any of this and the number of books available in UK libraries is phenomenal.

Where to go?
– The website of your local library.

Genuinely Free Ebooks and Audiobooks

Firstly, if you like classics, like I do, you are in luck. All well-known books (and many barely known ones) with an expired copyright are available online. Copyright expires earlier in some countries than in the UK. There are also free audiobooks available on the iTunes store, on Spotify and other music suppliers.

Secondly, if you like light fiction (romances, thrillers, etc.) there are plenty of self-published books out there that the author has made available for free. The age of easy to find free books on Amazon is mostly over (authors used to do this to get into Amazon’s top 10 lists) but there are plenty of other sites worth checking out, just search Google or Twitter.

Where to go?

Project Gutenberg: the oldest and biggest internet archive of free books. probably the biggest library of free ebooks.
Adelaide: an excellent collection of books up to the first half of the 20th century.
Librivox: free audiobooks read by volunteers, the quality varies.

Light Fiction
Bookbub: all categories of fiction and non-fiction available. Also links to cheap ebook deals.
Bookrix: read self-published ebooks for free. I can’t vouch for the quality!

Digital Sales

Three giants, Amazon, Google and Apple rule this category. (Sound like the start of a fairy tale.) Barnes & Noble no longer sell ebooks in the UK. The Waterstones ebook store has closed. There are still a few other survivors, like and Hive, but the bigger companies can offer bigger discounts.

Where to go?
Kindle Daily Deals: from 99p, a couple of books every day.
Kindle Monthly Deals: out on the first Tuesday of the month and well worth looking at.
Audible Deal of the Day: you don’t need to be a subscriber to make use of this offer. A different audiobook on sale every day.
– WH Smith 99p and under: there are some good ones among these.
Google Play Store: monthly offers and “fantastic fiction under £4”.
– iTunes store: various sales, read on your Apple devices.

Advance Review Copies

Also knows as ARCs, these are sent out by publishers to generate buzz before a new book is launched. Readers are usually asked to write a review in exchange for their copy. Many ARCs are distributed through giveaway competitions. If the book you have received becomes a great success, your ARC itself might become valuable.

Where to go?
– Goodreads: the biggest community of readers (now owned by Amazon) has many relevant give-aways and discussion forums, such as the ARC of Authors,.
NetGalley: this is the place to go if you are looking for digital copies of upcoming books.
– Blogging for Books: if you are a blogger, this site helps you get ARCs in exchange for reviews.
– More options: there are many other options, such as contacting publishers directly. Look for blog articles on the topic, like this one.



Author: zsuzsanna

Zsuzsanna hates buying things full-price. That’s why she is Admin and Twitter Queen at

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