Where to Get Secondhand Books for Cheap (or Free!)

You don’t need to spend a ton of money to fuel your reading habit! Here are some places to get secondhand books for cheap (or free), including a few insider tips from someone who has bought a LOT of used books (me!).

I owned an online bookstore for years, where I sold vintage and gently used books – most of which were sourced from the places listed below. Read on for the best places to find cheap secondhand books (even books in like-new condition!).

where to find secondhand books for cheap or free

What are secondhand books?

Secondhand books – also known as used books – are books that have been purchased and owned by at least one person before being resold or otherwise changing hands to a new owner. Vintage books also qualify as secondhand books for this reason.

Buying used books is a great way to afford “new” books on a budget, and you can often find them in great condition (if you know where to look)!

How to Determine the Condition of Used Books

Used books come in a variety of different conditions, from like-new condition to heavily-used condition.

Like-new second hand books don’t show any signs of wear and tear (like scuffing, torn pages, sticker residue, or faded colors).

On the other hand, some used books can be in very poor condition. Be sure to check the spine for wear, check the pages for any water damage, and look for ex-library stickers when determining the condition of a secondhand book.

Places to Find Cheap Secondhand Books

Whether you’re building a home library or you’re just looking for your next read on a budget, here are some places and tips to help you find gently used books for cheap!

1. Thrift Stores (like Goodwill & Value Village)

Thrift stores are great places to find used books, both fiction and non-fiction! It depends on the location, though: some Goodwill locations have a giant wall or multiple aisles filled with books, and some only have one small shelf.

Check out all the secondhand stores in your area to see which ones have the best inventory.

A quick tip: many Goodwill locations have a ‘deal of the day’ based on color-coded stickers. Check for a sign in front of the shop or near the entrance to see which color sticker is discounted that day. Usually, you’ll be able to find books with that sticker color for even cheaper!

For Value Village, some locations have a deal where if you buy a certain amount of books, you’ll get one book free.

Check for signs near the book aisles, or ask a store employee.

used secondhand books on a white book cart

2. Library Sales (Vintage, Ex-Library & Secondhand Books)

This is my favorite way to find gently-used books! In the United States, many libraries hold a book sale at least once a year, with donated books from their patrons and ex-library books taken out of circulation. I’ve found some fabulous books at these sales (and some are in really good condition, too)!

The best part: the prices can be super low, usually anywhere from $0.50 to $2 per book (depending on if it’s a paperback or hardcover). Some libraries will even let you fill a bag with books for a fixed price.

Just make sure you arrive early to the sale, so all the best books won’t already be taken. Some library sales even sell vintage and rare books that have been donated.

A quick tip: most libraries look for volunteers to help with their book sales. If you volunteer, you may be able to grab some books before the sale even starts!

The money libraries make with book sales supports their community and literacy programs, so volunteering and/or donating (by buying books) is a win-win situation!

To find out when libraries in your area are holding book sales, check out your local library’s website calendar, or use the website BookSaleFinder.com. There are tons of sales listed on this site, and you can sort them by state.

gently used vintage book (Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne) on a white bookshelf

3. Little Free Libraries

In the United States, Little Free Libraries are like mini community kiosks where you can take a book in exchange for leaving one behind. Essentially, it’s a one-for-one book swap without any shipping (or payment) required.

Any individual can set up an LFL in front of their home and register it with the official Little Free Library organization. You can find out you have an LFL near you by checking this map.

4. Book Swaps on Facebook (+ Book Sellers)

There are Facebook groups you can join to swap books with other people in the United States (and elsewhere)!

Basically, someone will post a photo of books they have that they want to swap for other books. They may share a list of books they’re looking for. If you’re interested, you reply with what you have, and decide if you want to make a swap.

Then, you’ll trade addresses with the other person via private message. (You can use a P.O. Box if you’re worried about sharing your address). Use USPS Media Mail to ship your book(s) (it’s the cheapest way), and wait for your new secondhand book(s) to arrive!

vintage books with shipping tape and scissors

Occasionally, there are sketchy people who don’t follow through. But in my experience, it’s rare, and there are moderators that help keep track of scammers (and kick them out of the group).

To find these book swap groups, search ‘Groups’ on Facebook for the words ‘Book Swap’ or ‘Book Sales’. Find the groups with a lot of members, and start there! Be sure to read each group’s rules before posting.

Some people also sell their used books for reasonable prices in these groups (as opposed to swapping), if you’d rather go that route. I recommend using PayPal for payment in these cases. It has purchase protection for buyers, which is great for peace of mind!

5. Half Price Books

You’ve probably heard of Half Price Books, but have you checked out their clearance section? These books have an even bigger discount added to their already low prices. I’ve found lots of great books in this section for just $2 or $3 each.

6. Online Book Sellers & Websites

Of course, there are also online selling platforms for used books. Here’s a list of some of the more well-known ones:

  • Pango Books
  • Thriftbooks
  • AbeBooks
  • Ebay
  • Better World Books

You can also find some vintage books on Etsy.

Why buy secondhand books?

I’m all about supporting authors by buying new books when I can, but I also know that books can get expensive. And sometimes you’ve gotta stick to a budget!

You can also find cool vintage books and out-of-print editions when browsing places that sell used books.

Buying secondhand books is also good for the environment, because you’re essentially recycling a book.

I hope this post helps you find cheap secondhand books, so you can build a fabulous book collection and keep that reading habit going strong. 🙂

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