I love to read! And if you’re viewing this blog, I’m assuming that you do too! But nowadays, reading has become a more expensive hobby, with the typical hardback book ranging from $20 – $35. I follow many influencers in this space and many BookTubers, BookToks, BookTwt, and bloggers have vast book collections that might not be economically sustainable for the average reader. I believe that literacy, and access to reading in general, should be a fundamental right. I have also been a student for the past 22 years of my life, with a meager income, so I don’t have the resources to purchase and create my rainbow bookshelf that I always admire. In this post, I will provide my methods and tips for reading on a budget.
The Library (OverDrive/Libby)
Whenever I move (and I recently just moved to Philadelphia), one of the first things I do is apply for a library card. This allows you access to tons of free books and access to my personal favorite account – OverDrive/Libby which allows you to check out free books, audiobooks, and magazines! Checking out audiobooks has been absolutely game-changing, mainly because I have never re-listened to an audiobook, so it’s not worth purchasing for me. I didn’t start checking out eBooks until the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Coincidently, this was also when my partner got me a Kindle. Checking out eBooks on OverDrive allows you to directly send books to your Kindle device and it has been a super convenient way for me to get all the latest popular reads. Even if some books are not available directly, you can still place them on hold to have them electronically delivered.
Sign up for free eBook clubs
This was also something I recently discovered and I have fallen in love with these programs. Many eBook clubs offer free eBook downloads when you sign up with a verified email. These include Freebooksy, Bookbub, Tor.com, and I’m sure there are many other options you can find with specific Google searches. Because I am a big fantasy reader, I have really enjoyed Tor’s monthly free eBooks. Last year, they offered The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, which is the first book of one of my favorite series of all time. Since signing up, I have also discovered a variety of new SFF authors, such as Nghi Vo and Steven Erickson. I would highly recommend this service and would like to personally thank Tor.com for funding my SFF reading addiction.
Free public domains
Many free project domains allow you to (legally) get free eBooks and audiobooks. The copyright license for many of these books has expired and is accessible to the public. In other cases, the company has to obtain written consent from authors to distribute the books for free. I will say that I personally do not use free public domains as much as I should, but many of my other reader friends swear by these services. Some of the most popular ones are listed below for you to check out:
I put this as one last on the list of free options because while there are some great new titles to choose from, you also need to review the books after reading. If you love to read and reflect on your reading experience, Netgallery is a great option! However, if you like reading simply to relax and enjoy yourself, check out your local library first!
Let me know which of these free options you like to use and recommend me some of your favorite websites!
Now let’s say you have some $$, but still not enough to be making book hauls every month. You can also consider using your disposable income for some of these cheaper reading subscriptions and purchases.
As a millennial when I first saw Scribd, I immediately thought of downloading shared files and sheet music back in high school. But Scribd has come a long way since those days and really rebranded itself as a leader in book and audiobook space. I personally like Scribd better than many other services (Audible, Unlimited Reading) just because there is a wide selection of books and audiobooks, and you have unlimited access to all of their available books. The major caveat to this subscription is that certain title will not be accessible when you want to read them. You will either have to find your desired title somewhere else or wait a couple of weeks before you can read/listen to it.
Take advantage of other subscription services
Some of you might already know this, but I recently found out about Amazon’s First Reads program that allows all Prime members to choose one free Kindle book each month! I put this option under “cheap options” just because I know that not everyone has Amazon Prime membership. But for those that do and love to read, definitely check this out! The book selections are not necessarily the best, but I have found a couple of gems here and there!
My personal reading system
With all of these choices, the next question becomes: what do I use to read?
Since high school, I have been using the local public library to check out physical copies of books and borrow electronic items from OverDrive. I have found many great titles, but the only downside is that you have to sometimes wait to read more popular items. In the past couple of years, when I have a little more disposable income from work, I subscribed to Scribd. Now, I get most of my eBooks and audiobooks from Scribd and use the library for items that are not available on my subscription.
I hope this has been helpful to expand your reading! Please let me know what subscriptions/services you use!