In a cost of living crisis here’s 5 ways you can get books for cheap (or free)!

Jun 17, 2023 | books, climate change, recycling

Electricity prices are going up, the grocery shopping is costing more and let’s not get started about what’s happening to interest rates. Never fear, amongst this climate of money anxiety and worry about how you’re going to keep up with the rising cost of living, we’ve found 5 ways you can still get books cheap or for free! These suggestions aren’t rocket science but our hope is you’ll find something that inspires you. After all, someone has to bring the good news and here it is:

  1. Your public library: I am shocked by how many librarians I know regularly buy new books. I feel like shouting: “Have you not heard of a public library?!” Yes, using the public library as your main source of books means you might be 39th in the queue of people waiting to borrow Together We Can but isn’t that better than spending $35.00 (!) on a brand new book you’ll likely only read once? That kind of spending is not sustainable. Plus, think of the trees!

2. Op shops: Op shops are a great way to procure second hand books. Often you can find shelves of popular titles just waiting to be snapped up. They’re also a great opportunity to source out of print books or books for decorating. In my last apartment I had no room for a bedside table, so instead of trying to find an Ikea flat pack, I scoured op shops and bought a stack of Lonely Planet guides which cost me under $30 to ‘furnish’ my room.

3. Ebay: So I get it that particularly, as librarians, we want to have our home library, a library of our very own, but this doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy shelves and shelves worth of new books. When I was starting my home library, I would get friends to recommend new books and source them for cheap on Ebay. Because of the postage and delivery it’s not as sustainable as the op shop but it means you can get the latest titles for less.

4. Little Free Libraries: If you’re lucky enough to have one of these in your neighbourhood use it! Get rid of your old books, keep an eye out for what your neighbours are discarding and pick up some treasures. Sure, a lot of what you get is out of date adult fiction, but when I lived in an apartment block in Melbourne our little free library was a great place to find cook books saving me from spending hundreds of dollars on the hunt for new recipes!

5. Become a book reviewer: As a book reviewer publishing houses will send you books for free! In exchange for a review on social media you can get access to all the latest titles without spending a cent. You can even pick which genres you review such as YA or non-fiction. Just bear in mind you need to have a strong social media presence and it takes time to build up a reputation so that publishers will trust you to review their books.

If you’re still buying new books after reading this article have you really even read this article? There are so many creative ways to come by books. We’d love you to share your strategies on Facebook and Twitter. How do you get your books?

By Anne Reddacliff, ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group Committee Member


  1. Anthony Hogg

    Following point 2, I want to give a special shoutout to Brotherhood Books, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence’s online bookshop. Purchase from them and you’re not just getting books, but helping those in need, too. Here’s their website:

  2. Suz

    That’s a great point, Anthony, an excellent initiative. I resonate with all these points – excellent article, thank you Anne!

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