How to save money on books

The best discounts, freebies and tricks to buy books for less.

I tend to go through spells where I’m reading loads followed by periods where I can’t get going with a book. But when I get into a good book, there’s nothing quite like it.

And the more I read, the more expensive it can get. So it helps to find a few ways to find the best price, add extra discounts or even get books for free.

Here are the tricks I use to avoid paying full price.

Shop around

Don’t just head to Amazon and assume it’ll be the cheapest place to buy a book. Yes it often does sell at reduced prices, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find it for less.

I use a website called 123 Price Check, which lists most major online retailers. This alone should get you the lowest price – though you can often save more.

Get an extra discount

Obviously look around for voucher codes and offers to bring down the cost of your books. If there are bookshops you like particularly then it’s worth signing up to email lists – WH Smiths for example often emails promo codes to use online.

Most of the online retailers will also offer money back via cashback sites Quidco and TopCashback. In an ideal world you’ll be able to combine this with a discount code, though check the cashback site terms and conditions.

You can save more when you payout Quidco cashback earnings by opting to receive National Book Tokens rather than a money transfer. Do this and you’ll get a 10% top up.

It’s worth checking other membership schemes or work perk sites you have access to. For example I get 9.5% off National Book Tokens via an old Scottish Friendly ISA account.

Use loyalty schemes

My local independent has a stamp scheme where you get a stamp for each £5 you spend. Get a full card and you’ve £10 credit to use. So it’s worth seeing what your local shops offer.

Larger chains also have loyalty schemes, with Foyle’s giving three points for every £1 spent, with each point worth 1p. Waterstones Plus is a stamp scheme, giving a stamp for every £10 spent, and ten stamps worth £10.

Visit your library

It’s easy to forget you can pick up free books from your library, including new releases though you might need to wait your turn.

Most libraries will have online catalogues and ordering systems which also let you renew if you haven’t finished.

If they don’t have the book you want you can request it. They’re often a small fee for this, but it’ll be less than buying a book outright.

Though it can vary depending where you live, you can often join a library online and even order books for collection.

Here’s my article on the books, magazines, ebooks and more you can get from libraries.

Buy second hand

You’ll also be able to pick up a decent read from your local charity shop, and your purchase has the added benefit of supporting a good cause. Obviously you’ll probably struggle to get a specific title, but if you’re open to what you read it’s worth a look. It’s worth seeing if there’s an online option, such as this one from Oxfam.

Or specialist second-hand book stores – both online on the high street – could give you a wider range of titles and perhaps a more knowledgeable staff to help you pick a decent read.

Swap books with others

Finished a book? See if a friend, colleague or family member wants to switch it with something they’ve loved.

If you’ve young children see if anyone is clearing out books their kids have outgrown – parenting groups on social media can be great places to look.

You should also see if there’s a swap box in your local area or workplace. These are generally set up by individuals – we’ve got one on our street where you can leave a book and take another. If there isn’t one, maybe look at setting one up yourself. This site has some listed, but it’s by no means a full list, and there’s this one too.

Go digital

Ebooks might not give the same experience as handling a paperback or hardback, but they can make reading a lot more convenient, especially when out and about. And they can also be a lot cheaper.

You can borrow them for free from your library, or get access to titles out of copyright via sites like Project Gutenberg – though these won’t work on a Kindle unless you convert them.

If you do have a Kindle then you can still save, with regular 99p offers on Amazon, and tools that help you track price drops and other promotions. You can read more about these in my article to help you save on Kindle books.

Sell old books to fund new purchases

If you need to sell old books to raise funds for new books, then it’s worth looking at sites such as We Buy Books and Music Magpie. From my experience you won’t get anything for any popular titles, but rarer books and text books could get you a few quid. Here’s my guide to how these sites and apps compare.

Avoiding Amazon

Obviously lots of people will go to Amazon first for books, but I’m consciously avoiding any spend with them. Yes it does mean I could pay more for my books, but high street chains tend to be fairly competitive if you can’t afford smaller indies.

And even if you do still use Amazon, if the book is sold by a different retailer, take a note of their name and see if you can buy from them direct. They’ll get more of the money, and it could even be cheaper.

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