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You might remember a few months back when a certain minimalism peddler debuted her show on Netflix and then went ahead and called books clutter, telling people they should get rid of all but a laughably small number in their homes.
Yeah, I wasn’t impressed, either. And neither was writer Anakana Schofield, who tweeted that “every human needs a v extensive library.” You’d think people would rally around that kind of noble sentiment, but before Ms Schofield had finished hitting send on the tweet, people were calling her out as “elitist” for suggesting people needed their own home library.
Allow me to gently point out that “needs” an extensive library does not mean “must have” or even “should get.” But whatever your stance on the issue, if you agree that books clutter up your empty space, please feel free to forward them to me (seriously, though, please give them to someone–don’t feed landfills for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic).
For those of us who do know the value of books and a home library, we also know that building a collection can get pricey. But it really doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can get “a v extensive library” for next to nothing.
Before I get to that, though, just a quick note to say that if you can afford to buy books at full price, please do so. Authors (other than a lucky few) make hardly anything from the months and years of hard, gut-wrenching work they put into a book. Authors also make nothing from most of the suggestions I’m about to share. Give the author a reason to keep writing by buying their book(s). If you like an author’s work but really can’t afford it, you can still support them by posting reviews, sharing on social media, and telling your friends about the latest great book you just read. There’s many ways to support authors and we appreciate every bit of it ❤
Now, how can you get books cheap (or free)?
I’ve never stopped by one of these sales and haven’t found books. The selection varies and you won’t always find something good, but if you stop by toward the end of the day, you’ll get great deals (or stop by early for the best selection). You can (usually) haggle too.
Best Bets: Kids books, older bestsellers, books on obscure topics that were clearly unwanted gifts
These aren’t as common as other sales, but they’re well worth seeking out. Although they sound like something exclusively for the wealthy, that’s not the case, and sales can take place in any neighbourhood with items available at all price points. Not all estate sales will include books, but the ones that do can be like hitting the jackpot. As with yard/garage/rummage sales, go early for selection and late for deals (you can luck into entire boxes full of books for only a few dollars). Tip: Consider moving sales too.
Best Bets: Entire collections, vintage books
My personal favourite, these happen when libraries need to cull older/less popular books to make room for new additions. My local one also accepts donations from the public and donates the proceeds to an adult literacy program. Tip: bring small bills/change and your own bag(s). Also, look into specialist organizations that have their own libraries. Our local botanical garden has a book sale a couple of times a year featuring gardening books and magazines. If a group specializes in a topic you’re interested in, you can score some fantastic finds, cheap.
Best Bets: Fiction in all genres, large-print books, kids books, a bit of everything the library carries
Thrift stores always seem to have more books than they can handle, and prices tend to reflect that. If you’re willing to look through disorganized shelves/piles, you can find some sweet deals.
Best Bets: Obscure older cookbooks, vintage craft books, loads of interesting books donated by people getting rid of “clutter”
Flea Markets/Swap Meets
Flea markets aren’t my favourite places to shop, but you can find some bargains (haggling is also expected). It’s easy to get distracted, so focus on finding books before looking at anything else. Going at the end of the day will also result in the best deals. Swap meets are apparently very similar to flea markets, although some of them actually involve trading items instead of buying and selling–a great idea if you can find one that includes books.
Best Bets: Vintage and collectible books
I don’t know how other recycling depots work, but there’s one about an hour and a half from where I live that collects not only recyclables like glass and plastic, but also donations of all kinds of items, similar to what you’d find in a thrift store. They’re set up in a warehouse and have an ample collection of really cheap books. I haven’t been in a while but when I lived closer it was a favourite, and I’d almost always find something that was on my wishlist. Tip: bring your own bags or boxes.
Best Bets: Required reading for English classes, general fiction, quality nonfiction, kids books
Although the prices will be higher at a secondhand bookstore than at any of the other places I’ve mentioned, the selection and quality of the books will also be better. Bonus: you’ll be among fellow book lovers who can direct you to awesome books you didn’t even know existed. These stores sometimes have bargain bins (or even free books) to help keep things within budget.
Best Bets: Obscure and quirky books, vintage books, recent bestsellers
At some point you’ll likely end up with books you no longer want. A good way to make room and get new books for nothing is to trade. See if any friends or family members might be interested. Swap meets that still involve swapping are an option. You can even try something like kijiji or craigslist (exercise caution when meeting strangers).
Best Bets: Hit and miss, but anything is possible
Sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know you’ll take their unwanted books. Because people know I love books, they’ll often offer me the ones they no longer want. When a history teacher I was friendly with was retiring, he couldn’t take his personal collection home (his wife was decluttering before decluttering was cool). I scored boxes of history, geography and Canadian lit books. If you know someone who’s moving, spring cleaning, or who inherited a collection they don’t want, feel free to speak up. In most cases, the other person will feel like you’re doing them a favour.
Best Bets: Bestsellers, older books
You need to keep an eye out for these ones. I know of at least one bank and a hospital that have permanent book sales set up. The money goes to fundraising/charity and the prices are cheap. Other places you visit might have a table or rack of books available too. Tip: have exact change–these sales tend to be based on the honour system and usually don’t have anyone around to make change.
Best Bets: Mostly older fiction, occasional gems
These books won’t look pretty on a shelf, but you can find a lifetime supply of free and cheap ebooks online (and not the illegally downloaded kind, either, which will curse you with terrible karma anyway). I recommend Smashwords, which has an awesome collection of indie books at reasonable prices (or free), and available in all e-reader formats (even pdf and online reader). If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to read Kindle books, Amazon has a free app you can download for any device (they’re not all evil). You can start with my short story Blood Magic (available free everywhere except Amazon–they’re still a little evil) and my novel Love Lies Bleeding(only $2.99).
Where do you like to get cheap or free books? And how do you feel about books as “clutter”? Share in the comments…
Given that libraries have kept cats as far back as Ancient Egypt, it’s probably safe to assume that bookstores have had resident cats for as long as there have been bookstores. Besides stopping rodents from destroying the books, cats are a soothing presence to (non-allergic) staff and visitors, act as a store’s (or library’s) public face, and add life to what can be a sterile environment. On top of all that, cats and book people are simply a natural combination. Here’s a small sampling of the bookstore cats who keep books safe and hearts warmed…
“Magnificent” Spike lives at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri. Spike has his own page here, where you can find out fun facts about him, like his one-word description mentioned above.
Parrot, from Pegasus Books in Oakland, California, may be grumpy but she still gets fan mail.
A series. Standalone books can be unsatisfying, but I can happily read a good series for as long as the author is willing to keep putting out books. With a series you can also go back to the beginning and rediscover things you’d forgotten, or notice something new (technically you can also do that with a standalone, but a series gives you so much more to work with).
2. Rather read a book whose main character is male or female?
Female. I’m tired of the male perspective, which has really had a disproportionate amount of emphasis put on it for far too long. I’d also rather read female authors–they usually can write all characters with depth, not just the half they personally relate to.
3. Rather shop only at Barnes & Noble (or other actual bookstore) or Amazon?
I’d rather shop online. I’m an introvert and crowds make me uncomfortable. Also, shopping online doesn’t require pants. (Most “actual” bookstores have websites too–you can see a whole list of the ones that carry my books here–just scroll to the bottom.)
4. Rather all books become movies or TV shows?
I’ll have to go with TV because that format offers the chance to fully explore a story. The Harry Potter series would have been so much better if they’d made it into a TV show instead of movies, with one or two seasons per book.
5. Rather read 5 pages per day or read 5 books per week?
This is a tough one. I like to savour books, but 5 pages a day doesn’t give you much. Still, 5 books a week sounds like it would become a chore rather than a pleasure, so I guess I’d rather get 5 pages a day and fully enjoy them.
6. Rather be a professional book reviewer or an author?
Author. Done and done. 🙂
7. Rather read only the same 20 books over and over or get to read a new book every 6 months?
If I can still re-read books I’ve already read, then I’ll take a new book every 6 months. If I can read only one new book every 6 months, I think I’d prefer the same 20 on repeat (if I get to pick them).
8. Rather be a librarian or own a book store?
I’ve thought about doing both, but I still sometimes dream about owning a bookstore, so I’ll go with that.
9. Rather read only your favorite genre or your favorite author?
Genre. Authors can stop writing, but there will always be something new to read within a genre.
10. Rather read only physical books or eBooks?
Physical books. They aren’t always as convenient to cart around, but I find them more enjoyable to read (and screens are bad for your eyes).
What do you think–do you prefer series or standalone books? Physical or ebooks? Share your answers in the comments below (and let me know if you do the whole thing and post it).
PS: Have you stopped by my book tour yet? Find out about my books, read excerpts and guest posts, ask a question, and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a sweet custom Love Lies Bleeding travel mug filled with goodies (including a little something handmade by me)!
Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? Here are five of the towns where you can live your book dreams. Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…
Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival in May and June, a literary event that travels to other cities throughout the year. A working book museum will also be opening later in 2018.
A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival in August that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.”
Located next to the North Korean border, this literal city of books was built to symbolize the importance of the common good. There are almost no businesses in Paju that aren’t book related; the town is packed with bookstores, book cafes, publishers, printers, and a massive library that includes an on-site hotel. Most books are in Korean, but you can also find some in Japanese and English. There’s an annual book festival in September, as well as a children’s book festival in May.
One of the newer book towns, Featherston already has a yearly book fair (featuring a fish ‘n’ chip supper), held in May. The event attracts local secondhand and antiquarian booksellers, and the entire town gets involved with shops setting up special displays and art installations.
Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with five stores featuring books on topics ranging from African American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers every September.
These are just a few of the 40-ish book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on elsewhere *cough*Canada*cough*). You can find out about more book towns here and here.
If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my FREE short story “Blood Magic.”
My novel Love Lies Bleeding is also available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book retailers. Love Lies Bleeding: a novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Find out more here.