FREE* Books!

August 17, 2009 at 7:21 pm (Entertainment) (, , , , )

I am a total bookworm. In fact, I feel slightly unsettled when I’m between books. When I was a child, I refused to even go to the store with my mother (a five-minute car ride) unless I had a book with me. I used to attend family gatherings with a book by my side. Happily, my social skills have developed–I actually think I’m a rather good conversationalist–so you’ll no longer find me hiding in corners at parties with my nose in a book. But when I’m home, I read as often as possible.

The problem is that a steady supply of fresh reading material doesn’t come cheap. There is, however, one source of books that’s totally free. That’s right…the library.

If you don’t have a library card, you don’t know what you’re missing. My library offers a pretty good selection of new releases. Special displays turn me on to new topics and new authors, and the periodical section lets me check out certain magazines so I can decide whether they’re worth the subscription price. The library is also a great source of cookbooks and travel books. You know how some cookbooks only offer a few good recipes and then a bunch that use ingredients you hate? Not a problem with a cookbook from the library. Just exchange it for something new! And travel guides…how to decide which has the best information? Just preview several from the library. If you plan your check-out date right, you can even take the book with you on your trip. Just don’t lose it…replacement fees are steep.

The great thing about my library is that for a modest fee (just 25 cents!), I can search for any title available and choose the library where I want to pick it up. Then, I get an email notification when the book has arrived. Sure, it’s no instant gratification, but in certain instances, it’s the perfect solution. For instance, I can buzz through one of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich in a matter of hours. It’s hard for me to justify spending $20 or $25 on a hardback when I’ll be done with it so quickly. So instead, I put in my request through the library, and I wait. (And wait. And wait. But for a quarter, it’s still a good deal.) Sometimes I get lucky and find the hot new release I want on the “rental” shelf. Then, it’s mine for a week for just $1.50. Beats the sticker price! And if your library has a bookstore, like mine does, browse through it. Today, I saw some great paperbacks being offered for just $1 apiece.

If you’re lucky enough to have a used bookstore nearby, you may have another way to get free books. At Mathom House Books in San Clemente, you can take in books that you no longer want and get store credit for them. Occasionally, you can even get cash! You can use your store credit to buy any used books in the store, which are mainly in good condition and steeply discounted from what the new price would be. Plus, the employees are really friendly. Some Copperfield’s bookstores also offer this type of used-book credit program. And Book-Off, with locations in San Diego, Costa Mesa and Torrance ran an ad in the OC Weekly offering to buy used books, CDs, DVDs and games. Of course, you can get great deals on used books through sites like Amazon.com, but then you have to deal with shipping costs, so I prefer the library and used bookstore options.

*Here’s where the asterisk comes in: As a soon-to-be-published novelist (I hope!), I feel somewhat conflicted about encouraging people to buy used books or just borrow from the library. Authors rely on royalties from books sold for a good chunk of their income. Plus, selling lots of books can help them hit various best-seller lists, which could lead to bonuses from their publishing houses. So whenever possible, it’s good to buy new books from a retailer. The more books that are sold, the more money authors can make, and the more money publishing houses and editors and agents and so on can make. Your book dollars can save an industry!

In the meantime, though, my financial straits are rather dire, so I’m glad that there are options for free books out there. Do you try to save money on books? If so, how?

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