How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively

I’ve always been a little amazed that people will plunk down good money to see a movie or concert or ball game that will last two to three hours, but then balk at paying $15 for a book that will give them 10-15 hours of enjoyment. Or they’ll shell out several dollars a week for expensive coffees which will give them a few moments of pleasure, rather than pay for a book that will feed the mind, imagination, even the soul for years to come.

I believe books are a worthy investment.

However, if we read a lot, $10-15 per book adds up quickly. I read 84 books last year and 76 the year before. That would be quite an outlay if I paid full price for each book.

I want to pay full price as much as possible to support authors. They work months or even years to produce one book. I’ve learned from the multiple writing blogs I follow that most authors do not make a living on their writing. “The labourer is worthy of his hire,” Jesus said. They can’t keep producing books if they don’t make enough to live on. And it’s not sin to pay full price for something.

But it’s true many of us could not read nearly as much if we paid full price for every book.

So how can we read inexpensively?

Public libraries. What a treasure trove! Print, audio, and ebooks are all available just for the trouble of registering for a library card.

Library sales. Many libraries will purge their shelves or sell donated books they can’t use, usually in a big sale once or twice a year.

Little free libraries. Some neighborhoods have mini boxes where people can leave books they are done with and choose others to take home.

Church libraries. Some churches will have a library of donated books, or may have a budget to stock new books.

Discount stores. Costco, WalMart, and other stores have books for lesser prices. Some online sites do as well. Feel free to share in the comments your favorite place for discount books.

Book exchange stores. There’s a big store here in Knoxville where you can trade in your used books for credits for more used books.

Project Gutenberg has many ebooks online for free. I thought they mostly did classics, but they have newer titles as well.

Kindle sales. Books for the Kindle app go on sale every day, anywhere from free to a few dollars. You don’t have to have a Kindle device: you can get the Kindle app and read on a tablet or even your phone. (It would be hard to read an entire book on a phone, but it can be done. It’s handy if you find yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly.) Some sites online curate Kindle sales almost every day. Tim Challies lists a few most days, usually Christian nonfiction and some classics. Inspired Reads lists half a dozen or so and Gospel eBooks lists several, but you need discernment with these two: I wouldn’t recommend everything they list.

Audiobooks. Audible.com has a few different plans for audiobooks. The one I’m on charges $14.95 a month, which gives me one credit, resulting in one audiobook per month. But they often have two-books-for-one-credit sales, and many of their classics are free or only a dollar or two. And some books are included free with membership. Librivox has audiobooks for free, but they have ads. Plus, they are read by volunteers who may or may not use any kind of inflection. And different readers might read different chapters in the same book. But . . . they’re free.

Free books for a review. Some sites or publishers will give readers free books in exchange for an honest review. The only one of these I tried was for a Christian publisher, but I quit early on. They sent a box of six books for one month. Not only was I not interested in all of them, but I didn’t want my “read for review” reading to take over all of my reading time. I understand there are some now where you can choose which books you’re willing to read and review. I know some of you do this: would you share what sites or publishers you work with in the comments?

Author’s launch teams. Publishers expect authors to do most of their own marketing and publicity these days. One way authors do this is to have a small group of people they’ll send a free copy (usually ebook these days) of an upcoming book before it is published. That way they can get reviews in right away. People are more willing to take a chance on a book that has some reviews. If there are no reviews, people are wary. I would recommend only doing this for authors you know and enjoy and want to support. It’s probably not fair to a new-to-you author to volunteer for his or her launch team if you have no idea about their style and whether they’ll appeal to you.

Gifts. Our family does “wish lists” for gift-giving occasions, and a few books are always on mine.

If your book budget is limited, there are still ways you can support your favorite authors. Word of mouth goes a long way. A review on Amazon or GoodReads or your blog helps more than you know. Even listing a book on GoodReads as one you want to read helps bring attention to it. So does posting a book cover on Instagram with the hashtag #bookstagram and hashtags for the genre, author’s name, and anything else you can think of.

These measures still help even if you get most of your books from a library. Also, a library is more willing to keep an author’s books if they’re being checked out. And asking your library to stock a particular book helps, too. Many have a form on their web sites where you can submit book requests.

Agents and publishers look at the number of a new or hopeful author’s followers on social media or in a newsletter list (one reason you see so many offering newsletters). So following an author’s social media accounts or signing up for their newsletters can aid them. If you’re like me, you can only do this for a few of your most favorite authors (or bloggers hoping to be authors), lest social media following takes up more time than you have. But if you’re active on social media, or want to give a boost to someone whose writing you like, these measures are helpful.

Do you have any other ideas for reading inexpensively? Do you have other ways of supporting authors?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

24 thoughts on “How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively

  1. I’ve been getting ebooks from my local library and reading them on Kindle. I also had audible for awhile which I enjoyed. My first love is a book – turning pages, the feel of the book in my hand and Kindle, though convenient, just doesn’t feel the same. I like all your suggestions here. I have the whole Mitford series on Audible and a few others as well.

    • That’s my favorite way to read a book as well–a book with ink on pages. But I do love that I can search the Kindle version, and I can see a list of all the quotes I highlighted. And if I don’t know a word, , I can touch it and se the definition pop up. I don’t usually stop to look up words with a paper book, and I have missed that feature when reading them.

  2. I read a lot too, and honestly the vast majority of my reading comes from the library (a use of my tax dollars that I do approve of!). I do review books sometimes. Revell is a Christian publisher with a review program where you can choose the books you’d like to review. Celebrate Lit is a group that looks for bloggers to review books, and again, you choose what you’d like to review. This is a great resource of ways to read inexpensively. Thanks, Barbara!

  3. You have offered so many wonderful suggestions here. Lately in looking at my bookshelves, I’ve been wondering if the year of 2022 should be spent re-reading old books 🙂

  4. Paperbackswap.com. Every book you mail to someone results in one credit for you to get a free book. No money exchanges hands – you pay for the books you mail and the other person pays for the books you request. It’s a great way to get books inexpensively.

    I get a lot of books from eBay for about $5.00 apiece including postage.

  5. I use all of the sources you mentioned for my books. Almost all of my books are used, and I have been using the library a lot more than I used to, especially for fiction books. I admire how many books you read. I have been reading 4-6 books a month this year. I am home to hit 50 books, which would be a new personal best for me. This is a great post for those of us who love to read. 🙂

  6. I use Hoopla app a lot. I also borrow some ebooks from the library which show up in my kindle app.
    Of course borrow hard copies of books from the library too.
    Swap with friends too.

  7. Wonderful! Thank you for this Barbara. I have begun posting reviews, even if it is simply ‘good read’ as that increases visibility. New authors don’t have a chance for visibility unless they have at least 50 reviews… so we don’t expect you to do the marketing and advertising for us, we hope and pray!

    I’ve got kindle unlimited and for every page read, the author earns a little. That helps!

  8. The library is my favorite friend. They have real books and audio books. And with interlibrary loan I can order practically anything. I tend to check a book out of the library and then buy a copy if I really like it.

  9. I hadn’t heard of Project Gutenberg so I appreciate the recommendation. Here are a few inexpensive resources: Chirp (chirpbooks.com) Does regular sales on their audiobooks. I have purchased C.S. Lewis, Andrew Murray, Philip Yancey, etc. for $1.99 when they were on sale. BookBub (BookBub.com) does free and discounted kindle books. I stopped using their service because of the excessive emails, but my husband still uses them and gets some great finds. Supporting authors: I post reviews on GoodReads.

  10. The library has been one of my best friends for a long, long time. 🙂 In addition to our Digital Zone through my library, I’m now discovering Hoopla, which has even more ebooks and audiobooks that I haven’t been able to find otherwise in my library channels.

    NetGalley is my favorite place for review books because they offer books from many, many different publishers, Christian and others. I only choose the books I want to read anyway. I’m not always approved for every book I request, but most of the time I am.

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