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.)