The Libby app is possibly the cheapest way to read books

The Cheapest Way to Read Books in 2024 (from a Penny-Pinching Bookworm)

We’ve all been there. You look at your teetering tower of books and think, “I might have a problem.” But fear not, fellow bibliophiles! Your love for reading does not have to come at the expense of your wallet.

In this article, we’re going to explore the cheapest ways to get your hands on your favorite books, and still have some spare change for a rainy day, whether you’re an avid reader, always on the hunt for new titles to dive into or maybe you only dabble in the literary world occasionally.

So, buckle up, fellow bookworms, as I guide you toward the cheapest way to read books.

My on-holds via the Libby app on my iPad.

Kindle Unlimited for Free Ebooks

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know about Amazon and their famed leader, the Kindle. Along with having a plethora of affordable ebooks, they also have a nifty subscription known as Kindle Unlimited.

For a mere $11.99 per month, it’s an all-you-can-read buffet for your literary appetite. You get to download up to 20 titles at a time and hang on to them for as long as you want (provided your subscription is still active.) When you’re done reading it, you can “return it” and make room to download more KU books.

Contrary to popular belief, Kindle Unlimited doesn’t require that you own a Kindle e-reader; you can just as easily use the free Kindle app on your phone, tablet, or even your trusty old computer.

With over one million titles, Kindle Unlimited guarantees virtually endless reading pleasure. Remember those heavy bags filled with books? Bye-bye, back pain!

However, there are a couple things to keep in mind with a KU subscription.

The first is that only select books are available. (Authors must choose to participate in Kindle Unlimited.) So most of the popular books you want to read aren’t likely to be on KU. However, there are exceptions! For instance, The Serpent and the Wings of Night, Trial of the Sun Queen, Spark of the Everflame, and The Bridge Kingdom are all super popular fantasy books and are available on KU!

The other thing to remember is that the subscription is only cost-effective if you use it. The more you use it, the more you save! For instance, if you read more than one or two KU books a month, you are breaking even with your subscription fee. If you read 10 KU books a month, that works out to just $1.20 per book!

But like all subscriptions, its easy to forget about if you’re not using it. If there’s no KU books you want to read, you can end up paying $140+ per year for no reason. So make sure you’re using it if you plan to subscribe!

Stuff Your Kindle Days

Amazon occasionally hosts “stuff your Kindle” days, where you can literally download and keep ebooks for FREE.

Though it’s true that you might not find the top bestsellers on Stuff Your Kindle Days, fear not, for many amazing indie authors participate, waiting for you to uncover their literary masterpieces.

In fact, these events are perfect opportunities to stumble upon hidden gems that you wouldn’t have found otherwise! It’s like going on a treasure hunt where the prize is an ever-growing collection of riveting reads.

But how do you participate in Stuff Your Kindle Days?

You can check out Romance Bookworms, who has an email service that sends out announcements on upcoming stuff your Kindle days.

Local Library Apps

I have a library card but never go because I can’t be bothered to drive downtown, plus I loathe the idea of handling books that have been pawed over untold times. (I’m something of a germaphobe, I admit.) But now, you can read library books without needing to go to the library – or even touch the books!

There are two apps in particular I recommend:


With the Libby app, you can access thousands of library ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and more without ever leaving your comfy couch.

All you need is your library card and a device, like your phone or iPad. (I believe in the United States you can also download ebooks on your e-reader, but this is not an option for us Canucks.)

Here’s how you can use Libby:

  1. Download the Libby app onto your device.

  2. Enter your library card information.

  3. Explore the vast collection of free library ebooks.

  4. Laugh maniacally about all the money you’re saving.

No longer will you have to deal with worn-out, slightly sticky, possibly germ-infested books from the library shelves!

The only downside is that there are “waiting lines” for many books. Depending on how popular the book is and how many people are waiting for it, it may be a few days to a few months before the ebook is loaned to you.

Fortunately, you can put holds on several books at a time and there are always books that are immediately available that you can read in the meantime. You can also manage your holds so that if one comes up before you’re ready to read it, you can pass it to the next person waiting and stay at the front of the line.

Once on loan to you, you have 14 days to read it before it is returned.

This app has been such a game-changer for me and has helped me stay committed to my self-imposed book-buying ban!

You can download books that are immediately available or place checked out ebooks on hold.
Download center on the Libby app.


Now, you didn’t think I’d just give you one option, did you?

Meet Hoopla – another fantastic app to access free library ebooks. It works a lot like Libby, with some differences.

For instance, you can only borrow 5 titles per month, and they don’t have as many books available as on the Libby app. (At least, on the Canadian version of the app.) However, the books they do have are immediately available and the loans are longer at 21 days.

Reading White Sands on my iPad via the Hoopla App
Reading White Sands by Brandon Sanderson graphic novel on my iPad via the Hoopla app.

Book Review Platforms

Another exciting way to get books for cheap is to participate in ARC (advance review copies) programs where you can read books that haven’t been released yet! The site I like best for this is NetGalley.

This platform offers free advance review copies (ARCs) of new books in exchange for (you guessed it), an honest review.

Just sign up, request the books you want to read, and voila! You can unleash your inner bookworm and munch away at those literary treats!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up for a free account on NetGalley.

  2. Request the books that pique your interest.

  3. Receive approval by the publisher, who grants limited spots for reviewers.

  4. Read and review the ARC you received.

If you consistently provide helpful and detailed feedback, you can also join their book club community where you can engage with like-minded people (Hello, new book buddies!).

Book Outlet

Book Outlet is an online paradise filled with cheap books that sometimes have tiny imperfections. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about anything major! Just a mark on the side or a slightly off-kilter cover that still looks fantastic on your bookshelf. This includes a wide selection of hardcover books that are perfect for readers who appreciate the feel of a sturdy book in their hands.

The best part? The prices are so low, that you’ll often find books cheaper than their Kindle counterparts, including hardcover editions that are typically more expensive.

However, to get the most bang for your buck, you need to become a Book Outlet ninja.

Their inventory is constantly changing, and popular books, especially sought-after hardcovers, tend to get snatched up quickly. So, here’s your game plan:

  1. Scour: Visit the website regularly to stay on top of the ever-shifting selection.

  2. Speed: If you spot a book you want, snap it up before someone else does!

  3. Bulk: To save on shipping costs, order multiple books at once and reach the free shipping threshold.

By following these three simple steps, you can enjoy a continuous supply of affordable books, including hardcover editions, and never feel guilty about splurging on your literary obsessions.

Here is a TikTok from my last BookOutlet haul. I got all of these books for under $50 CAD!

Used Bookstores

Ah, used bookstores! A place where you can immerse yourself in a world of literature, save a few bucks, and engage in supporting local businesses at the same time. The joy of discovering ‘world books’ in these local havens highlights the global variety of literature available, offering a unique window into cultures and stories from around the globe.

Let me tell you, dear reader: these magical treasure troves are not just about finding second-hand gems; they’re also about contributing to the local economy and community by buying books from local used bookstores and participating in library book sales organized by nonprofit groups that support community libraries.

So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of used bookstores and see how they can be the cheapest way to satisfy your ever-growing reading habit, while also supporting local businesses.

First off, let’s talk about the sacred pilgrimage of visiting your very own local bookstore.

Upon entering these humble havens, you’ll be greeted by a unique aura of pre-loved physical books. The air is scented with the fragrance of dusty pages and well-worn spines.

And the best part? You’re not just shopping; you’re helping support a small business and, by extension, your local community!

Next in line are the glorious discoveries waiting to be found. You never know what you’ll stumble upon in a used bookstore.

Perhaps a rare special edition or a long-forgotten favorite will be hiding in plain sight.

The thrill of the hunt is half the fun! And don’t forget to check the shelves for any quirky bookmarks or notes left by previous readers.

It’s like a literary treasure hunt!

Used bookstores undoubtedly come as a blessing to your wallet and the local economy. With prices often significantly lower than new retail versions, it’s a fantastic way to grow your personal library without breaking the bank and supporting local businesses.

Little Free Libraries

A day without laughter is a day wasted, just like a day without reading. So, my fellow book fanatics, it’s high time for you to explore the ingenious and budget-friendly world of Little Free Libraries! They’re just like regular libraries, but tiny and with much less bureaucracy. Massive win!

These adorable book sharing boxes are sprouting up throughout neighborhoods all around the world. You can find them perched on front lawns or nestled near park benches.

They add a touch of whimsy to your daily routine and, more importantly, supply you with a plethora of free books.

What’s better than free books, you ask? Well, probably a magical creature that grants unlimited wishes, but we’re talking real life here. So, let’s stay focused.

To make use of these delightful miniature libraries, simply:

  1. Locate a Little Free Library near your abode (pro tip: there’s a locator map for that).

  2. Choose a book that tickles your literary fancy.

  3. Borrow, read, return. Success!

Of course, borrowing and returning books comes with a dash of responsibility, but hey, who doesn’t like to feel mature and reliable every once in a while?

The beauty of it all lies in the friendly take-a-book-leave-a-book policy, which fosters an ever-changing inventory of stories to explore and a lovely sense of communal camaraderie.

Speaking of community, when you participate in the Little Free Library movement, you’re not just saving your purse strings from bookstore-induced trauma. You’re also actively engaging with your local community and supporting a culture of bookish sharing.

Because deep down, that’s what life is all about – strengthening bonds and exchanging heartwarming tales of courageous kittens and trains that could.

An example of a little free library
An example of a little free library.


Whether you’re on a book-buying ban or merely trying to rein in your monthly spending on books, these are the absolute cheapest ways to read books so you can get your literature fix without breaking the bank.

Go forth and read, my fellow penny-pinching friend!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a way to read books for free?

The most obvious way is to visit your local library, where you can borrow books without spending a dime. Apps like Libby and Hoopla make book-borrowing even more hassle-free.

How do I spend less money on books?

Easy peasy! Wait for sales at bookstores, or try exploring second-hand bookshops, where you can find amazing gems at discounted prices. (Book Outlet is one of my favorite sites for discounted books!)

Is it worth buying physical copies of books?

That really depends on your preferences. Some people adore the tactile experience of holding a physical book, while others enjoy the e-book convenience. If you think you’ll re-read a book or it’s a beautiful edition worth displaying on your shelf, go for the physical copy. I like to reserve physical copies for special editions of my favorites!

How much does the average person spend on books?

According to Statista, the average US household spends roughly $34 per year on books. That may sound low, but keep in mind the average American only reads about 12 books per year.

Is reading an expensive hobby?

Reading can be as expensive or as budget-friendly as you make it out to be. Stick to free resources like libraries and online e-books, and your hobby won’t break the bank.

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