I read between 150-200 books per year. If I were to pay list price for even a fraction of these, I would be living on the streets right now. Fortunately, there are many ways to acquire books that do not require paying full price.
Of course, this is unfortunate news for writers attempting to live on the royalties of their works. As a writer attempting to live on the royalties of my own work, I understand that this post is somewhat problematic.
It is therefore with a deep sense of irony that I share this information with you.
That being said, here's how I can afford to read so much and still operate within the parameters of my baby budget.
First, I don't buy books very often.
My process for acquiring new reading material includes the following steps.
- Check with family and friends. Most readers have a circle of people with whom they share books. I'm super fortunate right now to have a strong reading community within my own church. Rare is the Sunday that passes by without some sort of covert book drop between services.
- Check the library. Since I was a child, I've visited the public library once a week. I carry home a promising stack of books, hoping for the best. Because I refuse to spend time on books that don't hook me right away, some of these are abandoned after only a few pages and returned unread. If your library doesn't have a particular book that you've been wanting to read, you can request it through inter-library loans. Even better, there's generally an online form you can fill out (usually through the library OverDrive App) to request that your library purchase a title outright. Speaking of which...
- Check OverDrive. If you have a public library card, you can use your card number to access e-books and audio books through the OverDrive library app. You can sync your account across devices to ensure that you're never without reading (or listening) material.
- Check Amazon Kindle. You don't need to own a Kindle to download the Kindle App onto your phone or tablet. With just a few clicks, you have access to daily free downloads and deeply-discounted digital copies of hundreds of titles. I must warn you that these discount pages are full of tawdry material (much of it self-published), but there's just enough good stuff available each week to make it worth your while to check out the sales. It helps if you have other bookish friends who keep an eye on these lists and post good deals to their social media sites, leaving you to ride their coat tails to the best stuff.
- Check out Netgalley. If you can get approved as a reader, NetGalley will send you free digital copies of the specific pre-release books that you request in exchange for honest online reviews. Each publisher sets its own qualifications for whom they will extend invitations, but if you're a teacher or a librarian, you're especially going to benefit from this system.
- Make holidays work for you. Near Christmas and/or your birthday, simply forward your "To Read" list around. Enough said.
Second, what I do buy, I buy on the cheap.
I haunt flea markets, library book sales, yard sales, and discount racks. Given a little bit of time, most of the books I want to read turn up for a few dollars or less. If I see a quality copy of a book that I already own going for less than $1, I'll often pick it up just so that I'll have an extra copy on hand to give away. What's $.75 invested here and there when compared to the joy of sending my next young visitor on her way with a little gift bag full of good books?
Third, I have a book budget.
It's not huge, but it's built into my monthly expenditures. That means if I really want a book, I buy it without worrying that I might fall behind on paying my bills.
Some books are good enough to warrant pre-ording. Some are worth standing in line for at midnight on release day. Some are so heavily anticipated that I'll shell out $40 for the hardback and feel no pain. Given how little I generally have to spend to get my hands on a huge amount of quality reading material through family, friends, local libraries, and other sources, I consider that occasional $40 well-spent.
Fourth, I know that these aren't the only methods.
I can't wait for other readers to sound off and tell me what methods they use to fuel their reading habits without breaking their banks.
Feel free to chime in below or through the comment section on Facebook. I can't wait to hear from you.
For more like this, see also:
How I Can Afford to Read So Much, Part 1: Time
By Request: Great Read-Aloud Recommendations
Love Song for a Very Specific Type of Nerd