How to Save Money on Books at Bookstores, Online, and Elsewhere

by Mira

So you like to read but feel you spend too much money on books. Here’s how to spend less by reading some books for free and buying others at low prices.

Here’s a little bit about why I buy books. First, I love ‘em. Second, I like to read in English and there aren’t too many titles available in libraries here in Bucharest, so I have to buy a good deal of what I read. Which, of course, is expensive, whether I resort to a brick-and-mortar bookstore or an online bookseller. The brick-and-mortar bookstores sell them at a higher price because they don’t sell many copies of any given book (well, except for a few bestsellers), and the majority of online booksellers add quite a hefty shipping & handling fee. The situation seems pretty grim.

Well, in fact, there are a few ways to save money on books even here in Romania. There are far many ways to do that in the US and elsewhere in English-speaking countries. I will address them both, drawing on my experience and on what I’ve been reading online over time as well as for this article about options available in the US, UK, etc. I welcome all your comments about getting great deals on books in Romania, the United States, the UK, or any other country.

I’ll start by telling you quickly about my experience buying books here in Romania, and will then move on to a more detailed discussion about getting English-language books for cheap in English-speaking countries.

[Buying Romanian-Language Books]

I use several bookstores here in Bucharest

Carturesti, great bookstore, with many English-language books

but I do have a favorite: Carturesti. I like them best for several reasons. First, they have created a library with a great feel to it and with great titles, including a large selection of English-language books. Second, they offer discount coupons. Third, they have a great online presence, with a site, blog, email newsletters, Facebook account, etc. While there aren’t many English titles on their site, it’s a good option for Romanian books. They have a number of sales promotions running at any time.

I also shop at used-book stores and used-book stalls downtown.

If you’re interested in ebooks in Romanian, note that Polirom has a selection of ebooks on their Web site. You can download them for free for personal use. Also, if a book you want is out-of-print, you can email them and they might be able to give you an electronic version. It’s all on their Web site here.

I. Tips for Buying Books at a Bookstore

I still buy on impulse now and then but that’s not the way to go if you want to save money. Here’s my advice:

Ask a sales clerk whether the bookstore has any discounts at that time, whether they offer 20% off on future purchases (in a certain time interval), or a coupon if you spend a certain amount, etc. If they do offer certain deals such as 20% off on future purchases and you want to buy, say, 3 books, get the cheapest at full price, wander around a bit, and come back and get the other 2 at 20% off.

Buy books cheap at your local bookstore

If you want to buy a classic book, look for Wordsworth Classics or Collins Classics editions. These are the two major publishers that offer classic works of literature at low prices. But there’s a way to get an even better bargain online if you want to read a classic like Alice in Wonderland or the wonderful poetry of William Wordsworth. It’s called Project Gutenberg and is accessible online at

Before I move on to finding the best deal online, I should say that sometimes, despite the low price of a Wordsworth edition, I go for a Penguin book on account of a great introduction about the work. But then again, you can find great book reviews online as well. (These two publishers of cut-price classics print only the text and little else. Collins Classics does offer some sort of very small dictionary at the back and a few words about themselves and the author, but it’s mostly some raw facts.)

II. Getting the Best Deal on a Book Online

Okay, here comes the serious stuff. There are so many great ways to find bargains online, that I don’t know where to begin. I’ll try to write them in list format, so they are easier to follow.


1. Project Gutenberg

Now this is definitely the best deal, because at you get ebooks for free. They are older books, now in public domain, which have been digitized by thousands of volunteers. You can read tens of thousands of ebooks on the Gutenberg site, or download them in various formats (HTML, epub, Kindle with images, Kindle with no images, and others).

Read public-domain books for free at Project Gutenberg

2. Amazon

For those of you who shop on Amazon, there’s probably not much that I can say that you don’t know, since Amazon does a great job of promoting their deals and services. You’re probably familiar with the free shipping they offer for purchases of at least $25. I think that’s a great deal. (I’m paying quite a lot of money on shipping when I shop from Amazon UK.)

Amazon also offers great deals on some books at certain times of the year. The Hunger Games, for instance, sold for only $1.96 during one Black Friday Deals Week.

Through its Marketplace, Amazon also offers the option to buy many of their titles used from various sellers. Check the shipping costs to see if it’s worth it. I’ve tried buying used books online from various places, Amazon Marketplace and others, and in the end it wasn’t worth it. I should have thought twice. (Of course, shipping costs are much smaller if they're US to US or UK to UK.) The good thing is that by having such a Marketplace on Amazon and on other online bookstores, you can actually find books whose print runs were exhausted.

Amazon Prime ($119/year) also offers access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, where you can borrow one Kindle book a month for free.

There’s more. If you go to Amazon and search for “free ebooks” you’ll find that there are quite a lot of them.

Amazon also has Kindle Daily Deals as well as monthly selections of Kindle books for $3.99 or less.

3. The Book Depository

While I do shop on Amazon, sometimes the shipping costs are so high that there’s no deal left. So I the had to try, which offers free delivery all around the world (well, almost: to over 160 countries). It’s a great company. It was bought by Amazon in 2011 (the funny thing, in more than one way, is that The Book Depository was founded by a former Amazon employee) but you still get the sense that they have their own way of doing business. Two of my books got lost (well, the post office failed to tell me about them and then they returned them) and Book Depository UK replaced them at no charge. Also, they seem to have even more books than Amazon, if that’s possible – or at least it so happened that I found here books I didn’t find on Amazon.

Book Addict Mug


Books from take 12 days to get here to Romania. For those of you in the US, there’s also Remember they offer free shipping on all books. It’s worth the wait if it’s a book you get for fun. But if you’re in the US and compare prices between bookdepository and Amazon, you’ll notice Amazon has better deals IF you spend over $25 and get free shipping.

Speaking of comparing prices, the best place to do that is probably


FetchPrice compares prices for new and used books from 145 book stores, among them all the Amazon country Web sites,, eBay, Alibris, AbeBooks, Biblio, and others.

Get out-of-print books online
Get out-of-print books online
Image source: Pixabay
5. Hard-to-Find Books

A great place to find out-of-print, hard-to-find books is AbeBooks. I’ve searched some titles and was amazed at the results. Sellers come from all over the world.

Another great Web site for those trying to locate copies of books that were printed in small runs or languages other than English and are now off the market is

Do note, however, that sometimes BookFinder gives erroneous information. I was looking, for instance, for a book published in Romanian, and BookFinder said it was printed in English. But look at the title, and you’ll find out the language, I guess.

6. Book swapping / book exchanges

If you’re not the kind who holds on to paperbacks after reading them, then you may enjoy book swapping. There are many such book exchange arrangements online. Just do a quick search for “book swapping” and you’ll get a good number of them in the first results page: Paperback Swap (US), BookMooch (International), Book Swap Australia, (US), Goodreads Bookswap (which apparently didn’t worked out – required too much support from Goodreads).

7. Lendle

For those of you who love their Kindle but don’t want to pay $119 a year for Amazon Prime, there’s Lendle. Lendle is a place where you can lend and borrow Kindle books. The more books you add and lend, the more books you’ll be able to borrow.

8. Goodreads Giveaways

Goodreads posts prerelease books in their giveaway section every day, and hundreds of Goodreads members sign up for them. The giveaways have country restrictions; some are available only in the US, others only in the UK, some in both, others include Canada as well, while still others include a larger number of countries. As far as the number of copies that are available for each book, this can be 1, 2, 5, 10, 12, 15, 30, or any other number up to 50, from what I’ve seen. It’s a great way to get a free book, especially since they’re not on the market yet.

9. Blog and Ask for an Advance Reading Copy

A way to get advance reader copies (ARC), is to start a blog and get serious about writing book reviews and building a following. Once you have something to show (content and stats), you can contact a publishing house and mention your interest in getting ARCs.

III. Other Options Besides Local Bookstores and Online Booksellers

Keep Calm and Ask a Librarian Button

1. Libraries, of course!

Now, as I said, they don’t help me much when I look for titles in English but if you live in the US or the UK or Canada, etc., you can save a lot of money using various libraries in your area. Of course, if you like to make annotations, and read your books several times, and refer to them often, you’re better off with your own copies. If that’s the case, refer to my advice above or read on for more. Oh, I almost forgot.

Look out for book sales at local libraries! Libraries get rid of a lot of good, valuable books. I never completely understood their reasons for doing it, other than the obvious one: lack of space.

Also, if you’re into ebooks, remember to ask your library about them. You will need to install an application on your iPhone, Android phone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, computer, etc.; the way I understand the borrowing works is that the file expires after a set time.

2. Check out local thrift stores

They may not have a whole range of books, but you may be surprised to find titles you would have never considered, some of them published decades ago.

3. Visit yard sales

I love the idea of yard sales. It’s such a great way for a community to help someone who needs to raise a certain amount of money, or simply to get rid of stuff which people in the community might be happy to pay for (for the joy of owning a particular item or selling it further).

4. Remember you can swap books while on holiday as well.

If you’re on holiday, your hostel or bed-and-breakfast may run a book exchange, where you leave one book and pick up another.

Well, that’s all from me for now on the topic of how to indulge your reading habit for less money.

If you have other tips, please share!

IV. Kindle Daily Deals

P.S. October 15, 2014. Now that I have bought a Kindle Paperwhite, I check Kindle Daily Deals regularly, sometimes daily. I have found great books that way, some of them literary fiction and others great fun. If you haven't purchased a Kindle yet, I recommend you do. The savings are worth it, and you also get to sample books which you wouldn't consider otherwise. I have read a lot of light fare of good quality (published in the last 2-3 years) for $1.99, and many books by literary greats also at $1.99.

Then there are Monthly Deals on Kindle, for $2.99 or less, usually.

Here's an article I wrote on pros and cons of reading on Kindle Paperwhite.

All-New Kindle Oasis, Now with adjustable warm light, 8 GB

All-new Kindle Oasis - Now with adjustable warm light - 8 GB, Graph...
Only $269.99

V. BookBub

P.S. December 2020. I've been using BookBub for quite a while now and they offer impeccable service. There are many companies now that send out daily newsletters with book deals, but BookBub offers all the bestsellers along with many other prestigious books out there, all of them at great discounts ($1.99 and $2.99, mostly). Unfortunately this is not only a plus, as there are great indie titles too and they don't make it into BookBub newsletters, where promotion is quite costly. For indie titles and books from smaller publishers or publishers which run smaller promotions, I recommend Book Lemur, which also features many free books. BookBub does too, but ever more rarely now, and they've also started to feature more and more books at $2.99 rather than $1.99. Best thing to do: subscribe to both these book deals newsletter services!

I hope this has helped you find some new sources of book comfort! :) Enjoy your books and please share your own tips for finding good books at bargain prices.

Updated: 12/24/2020, Mira
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Mira on 11/29/2016

That's a great idea, to ask libraries when they plan to hold book sales.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/29/2016

Mira, Very nice! Libraries in the United States regularly have book sales as part of their community outreach and fundraising activities. Public libraries sometimes leave water-damaged books in free, grab piles but tend to charge for as many former holdings -- whose presence in sales tends to be correlated with low circulation -- as possible. Community colleges in the process of digitizing collections may leave books and magazines in decent condition in similar free, grab piles.

Mira on 10/15/2014

Thank you. I have just added a section on Kindle Daily Deals.

Tehreem on 10/14/2014

Nice resourceful article on saving money on books. Tweeting :)

Mira on 01/14/2014

Just look around at bookstores then. They often get rid of old titles at very low prices. If you don't see any books outside, just ask. Space is a problem for many bookstores, especially ones that sell used books.

anneforest1994 on 01/14/2014

My library doesn't do book sales. Never knew about Lendle. Joining books clubs might also help, I guess.

Mira on 08/29/2013

It is. Now I need to figure out more ways to save on print books. As far as I can tell browsing online, there's only one book exchange in Romania! How very strange. It's run by a hostel in Bucharest. I think I'll go ask if I can get a couple of their books in exchange for some of my own :) I see they do want their books to travel as much as possible.

ologsinquito on 08/29/2013

I've never heard of Lendle. What a great idea!

Mira on 04/13/2013

I love print books, too. They're easier to browse, and from the statistics I've seen, they also read faster than ebooks. Also, they're easier on the eyes. But technology is advancing in great strides and I have to say I've been tempted for a while by the Kindle Paperweight. The way I see things now, I'll get one so I could travel as light as I can, but keep enjoying paper books for a while at home, in bookstores, and at libraries. It's wonderful to leaf through books and take a few home with you. Of course, you can make a note of the titles and order then online. But the reading experience overall is much better with print books, I feel. Thanks for stopping by!

katiem2 on 04/12/2013

I love real life books, it's always nice to get a good deal on books and save money. The new low comparison between ebooks and hard back books makes many lean toward the kindle books but I do love having real books on an actual shelf. :)K

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