Let’s Get Lit-erary: A reader’s guide to getting more bang for your buck


My bookshelf is somewhat like Atlas, sagging under the weight of the world. This probably means I should limit my intake of books, but considering that won’t happen anytime soon, the best I can do is curb the cost.  

Reading can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tricks up your sleeve, you don’t have to break the bank to get in a good read in.  

First and foremost, there is the most obvious solution: the library. Not enough people utilize this resource. As students, we have access to UConn’s library on top of our respective public libraries. Libraries are always on top of purchasing new releases, so as long as you call dibs (place a hold), you shouldn’t have to wait too long. Many public libraries also use platforms like Libby or Hoopla to provide easy and instant access to a plethora of eBooks. All you need is a library card! 

The University of Connecticut’s Library Database offers students the opportunities to pick and choose from a multitude of book selections, even titles available at UConn’s regional campuses. Photo courtesy of the UConn Library website.

If you prefer owning your books or have dreams of accumulating enough to fill a home library like myself, there are solutions for that too.  

I’m sure you’ve heard of thrifting clothes, but have you ever thought about thrifting books? Buying books secondhand is a great alternative to shopping at places like Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Thrift stores almost always have a section dedicated to books, and though it isn’t always easy to find a book you’d be interested in, browsing never hurts. You just might find a hidden gem.  

Friends of Connecticut Libraries, a nonprofit organization, often holds book sales on Saturdays as well. This program has been put on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they sell donated books for insanely good deals. I kid you not, I once walked out with 14 books for $2.  

Garage sales also tend to have gently used books for sale. Back in middle school, I scored the entire “Twilight series” for a dollar, and I didn’t even have to negotiate. These will likely pick up as summer approaches, although COVID-19 may have other plans.  

“Garage sales also tend to have gently used books for sale. Back in middle school, I scored the entire “Twilight series” for a dollar, and I didn’t even have to negotiate.”

Most Little Free Libraries are still open, and with a little Googling, you should be able to find one near you! Usually put together for Girl Scout or capstone projects, Little Free Libraries house books anyone is free to take in exchange for one of their own. This is perfect for anyone looking to retire a few books from their collection.  

If you’re looking for more of an experience when hunting for books, The Book Barn is a gorgeous used bookstore in Niantic, Connecticut. They have three locations within walking distance of each other in the coastal town and thousands of books to choose from. If you pay them a visit, expect to enjoy a stroll through their gardens and run into a few friendly creatures: some cats and maybe a goat or two. Plus, they buy books in exchange for a check or store credit! Even better, you’re supporting a small business.

The Book Barn, a used bookstore in Niantic, Connecticut, grants book lovers an extraordinary experience while they book hunt. Take stroll through the garden in a coastal town. It is true experience for a dark academic aesthetic lover. Photo courtesy of Book Barn website.

Being the reader that I am, you best believe I’m on BookTok. While scrolling, I came across a video talking about new releases being extremely cheap at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I had never heard of the store, but after finding out there was one near me, I had to visit! It took me a while to find my way around the book section, but eventually, I found quite a few books marked well below what they’d usually retail at. I walked out with a hardcover copy of BookTuber Christine Riccio’s “Again but Better” for a whopping $3. Ollie’s often sources their books from retailers like Target or Walmart who’ve sent back overstock to publishers, so they may have remainder marks (a small dot or stamp on the page edges). However, it’s not super noticeable, and I personally don’t mind considering how little I paid.  

Most of the options above require a little bit of luck, but if you have a specific book in mind, there are plenty of sites that sell books at discounted prices.  

Book Outlet and Book Depository sell brand new books for lower than most bookstores. Though the latter is based in the U.K., they offer free delivery worldwide, not to mention the opportunity to snag a U.K. cover you’ve had your eye on.  

Second-hand books can be found for a steal at ThriftBooks. They offer books in conditions ranging from “Like New” to “Acceptable.” I ordered two “Like New” books from ThriftBooks this past Christmas and one of the books came in a different condition. I reached out to the company and was not only given a refund, but also sent another copy! Needless to say, I was very impressed with their customer service.  

“Second-hand books can be found for a steal at ThriftBooks. They offer books in conditions ranging from “Like New” to “Acceptable.”

Amazon also offers books of different conditions, usually through third-party sellers. I saved over $20 buying a “Like New” LSAT prep book. I was skeptical, considering it was a workbook, but it was surprisingly in mint condition. However, I will say that reading a third-party seller’s reviews before you purchase is a must.  

After scouring through Facebook Marketplace for some cheap furniture to flip, I gleefully stumbled upon people in town selling gently used books, making it yet another alternative to big-box retailers. You can arrange a pickup with the seller, or have it shipped to you for an extra fee. There are also Facebook book swap pages out there, where lovely members of the community gift their latest reads to share the joy that comes along with a breathtaking book.  

I am now realizing the more you know about these alternatives, the more likely you are to convince yourself to splurge because, in the long run, you’re saving a lot of money. I feel obligated to advise you to read all the books on your shelf before buying more, but I simply cannot be the bearer of such bad news. So go ahead and buy away! 

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