*This is a slightly edited and updated re-blog from 2013*
I’ve amassed a big collection of books without spending much money. My primary interest is books about the Christian faith and theology, and non-fiction books about history, animals and travel. Here are some of the ways I’ve done it. I realize some people could care less, but for anyone interested, here are my methods:
- Ask for books as gifts. I have a practical family and we don’t think gifts have to be a surprise. We often tell each other exactly what we want. I’ve given family members a list of books, and it is great to receive them. And it is still a semi-surprise, as I don’t know which books off my list they will buy for me. I’ve also received gift cards to the local used book store.
- Have parents who love books, and then they will pass on their books to you when they get old! Okay, you can’t control whether your parents are book-lovers! But I grew my library by about 300 books when my dad passed on some of his books to me – as they were downsizing to a smaller place in a retirement community. My dad was a Bible teacher, so he had some great biblical books and unique antique ones.
- Enter online book giveaways. I’m actually surprised how often I win! I’ve won multiple books in the last several years – books on church history, eschatology, Puritans, the life of Jesus, and more.
- Something I’ve only done a handful of times is to get a book free from a publisher in exchange for writing a review. But I know those who do this often. Why don’t I do this more? Well, I guess I like the freedom of choosing to read and review what I want, when I want – and not feeling obligated to do so.
- Shop for books at thrift stores. Around here: soft covers usually go for 50 cents and hard covers for $1. Living in the Bible belt, I often find worthwhile Christian books.
- Be on the look out for public library book sales. I’ve shopped these in my own area, and stumbled upon them when out-of-town too. There is usually a large selection of all types of books – many in good condition. My local one is half-off the last day, and I’ve paid as little as $1 for a book. Similarly, our local literacy association has a huge used book sale every August. It is well-known and attended by book lovers.
- Better yet, shop for books at Goodwill “by the pound” clearance centers. Books are 25 cents a pound, and half-off on Sundays at my location. (Yes, things are weighed and you pay based on total weight.) Typically I end up paying between 10 cents to 25 cents per book depending on the mix of softcover vs hardcover. It surprises me how often I find a book I was actually wanting – For example, I found The Cross of Christ by John Stott. A hardcover in great condition too!
- Shop at used book stores. These aren’t as common anymore but I have a wonderful used book store near me. Again, being in the Bible belt, it has large section of Christian books – and even an academic Christian book section.
By the way, used books does not equate to books in poor condition. I often find used books in like-new condition.
- Perhaps this is my best method: I buy books I don’t want from the Goodwill “by the pound” store and take them to the used book store where I trade them in for “store credit.” For example, I recently spent $2.50 on books at Goodwill, and received $23 of store credit. [Amount of store credit varies depending on the re-sale value of the particular books. The used book store does not accept all books, but I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what types of books they will accept for trade.]
Books I purchase at the used book store typically cost $4 or $5. So…the $2.50 I spent at Goodwill which yielded me $23 store credit – will allow me to purchase about 5 books. That’s a pretty good deal in the end! Right? And actually, in the $2.50 batch of books from Goodwill, there were several books I kept for myself and did not trade in – so I actually acquired even more books for the $2.50 spent.
It gets even better. I sometimes find a book at the Goodwill to sell online. I usually don’t do this unless I will make a profit of at least $5, as I personally don’t find less than that to be worth my time. An occasional profit repays me for the money I initially spent at Goodwill…which means I end up acquiring some books for nothing in the end!
I’m also patient (most of the time!), and wait for books that I want so show up used somewhere… whether at the used book store or in the Goodwill bins.
- If I am buying new, I usually buy books from cbd.com and wait until I have a free shipping code. I find CBD prices hard to beat for buying NEW Christian books. They also have specials and a “slightly imperfect” category – books that are significantly reduced in price because they have minor damage. Good deals can be found if you keep your eyes open. When I was still in seminary and buying books for seminary classes, CBD often had the lowest prices – even lower than buying used – which surprised me. Why buy used when I could get new for less?
Another place for finding new Christian books is: http://www.scripturetruth.com. They are a little place and only carry certain books, but have monthly specials which are sometimes exceptional! Get on their e-mail list to receive the monthly specials.
Anyways, I’m sure some people come to my house, see my books, and think I must spend a small fortune on books. Not the case! Here is me as an infant surrounded by books: P.S. The books to the right of me are a Bible Atlas and a Bible commentary set.