Friday, August 1, 2008

Frugal Ideas for Bibliophiles

I am absolutely a bibliophile (a lover of books). However, I am also very frugal, both by nature and out of necessity. The Internet has, therefore, been a godsend for me with all the opportunities to find free books online, the ability to find inexpensive used books, and the ability to look up books online from our local library. The cost of shipping is so minimal -- usually under $3.00 for media mail -- that it is often cheaper to buy online than at a local book shop.

Let me share with you the steps I take to save the most time and money I can on reading materials, research, and building our personal library.

Free Digital Copies Online

Any time I wish to read or research a book, the first thing I do is look for a free digital copy online.

My favorite sites are:
  • Google Book Search at This site has many different types of digitized books, old and new, secular and religious, and everything in between. Sometimes you will be led to this site when you Google a particular book. If you have a Google account, you can even save your favorite books in your online library. I found a full-copy version of Secrets of Happy Home Life by James Russell Miller. I can read it online or make a print copy if I like (probably cheaper to buy it used!). Beware, however, some books are incomplete. Therefore, I may have to look also on this next site.
  • Internet Archive at I was blown away when I found this site! It is easy for me to get caught up for hours looking through all they have to offer. They describe themselves as . . . a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. . . (which) includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages . . . This site also offers a way to save your favorites. One of the best finds on this site was the Goops and How to Be Them book. A digital copy of this book was offered by a fellow blogger this week, and I missed it. On a hunch, I searched it on this site and found it! Yee-ha! This site is also an excellent resource for finding out-of-print books on religious and homekeeping subjects as well.
  • Okay, there are just too many sources of free books online for me to list them all. So, I'll just give you a whole list of resources found here: Internet Public Library. Wait! Before you go there, please finish this post, because I know you'll get too caught up there if you don't.

Interlibrary Loan

Next, if I can't find it online or I just don't want to read it on a digital device, I go to my local library network. It allows me to search all the libraries in our network, even those in other towns. If I find what I want, I simply log in and save it. The interlibrary loan then arranges for it to be shipped to the library of my choice where I can check it out and pick it up. I then get to keep it for three weeks and can usually renew it again for another three weeks if no one else has a hold on it. In our area, I've even been able to find new releases of Christian books. This has saved me lots of money on books that I want to read before deciding whether or not I want a copy for my own library. Ask your librarian if this service is available in your area.

Used Books Cheap! 

If I can't find what I'm looking for online or from the library, I figure I'll just have to purchase it. If I can wait, I just keep looking for it through local thrift shops and yard sales. These generally run from $1 - $2 for hard covers and $.25 - $.50 for soft covers. These are also excellent ways to purchase books for resale online. However, if I can't wait to find it, I look on these sites to get the best deals:
Always remember to include shipping charges before figuring the total cost. Some of these sites include the shipping in their comparisons for you.

I'm sure there are others. Please leave your own suggestions in the Comments section below.

New Books at Great Prices

When it comes to purchasing books new, should be the first place you look. Not only will you find the books you are looking for, but some of the best deals on curriculum you will find anywhere. Once you are on their mailing list and become a member ($5.00 a year or $20 for a 5-year membership), you will be sent seriously-slashed-price deals on a regular basis. I have purchased CDs for as little as 99 cents each!  

You may also join Ebates in order to save even more while shopping the online sources mentioned above. You not only get automatic rebates from your favorite online stores (currently AbeBooks: 2.5%, Alibris: 2.5%, Barnes & Noble: 2%, and many more!), but you also get a $10 cash credit just for signing up! Be sure to bookmark it once you've joined and go there first before making any online purchase.


I hope these ideas will help in your addiction for books, books, and more books. :)

If you have any tried and true frugal ideas for us fellow bibliophiles, I hope you'll leave them for us in the Comment section below.

Happy reading!