Reading on the cheap – how do you do it?

I love reading but it would be an expensive hobby if I indulged myself and bought all the new hardback releases I hanker after. However, I am saved from my greed because I often feel overwhelmed in a bookshop, so overcome with the vast selection that I am rendered incapable of choosing just one that appeals. Nevertheless can enjoy such a rush of excitement at the multitude of words, colours and images delineated by the sharp fresh ink and the purring of pages being thumbed, that I usually leave utterly satisfied – even without making a purchase.

Instead I do reading on the cheap.

For free books I signed up to Netgalley, a site that allows you access to some new titles available on-line in exchange for honest reviews. You don’t always get the book you apply for but sometimes you get real gems and it cost nothing. Of course many old classics are out of copyright and are freely available through other sites for Kindle and e-readers. I don’t know how you feel but although I make good use of Kindle the sensory pleasures of a physical book will always lure me in a way that an ebook cannot.

I generally don’t mind waiting for someone else to finish a book first, after all deferred gratification has its own pleasures. So I enjoy libraries, not these modern learning resource centres with computers, but real old fashioned libraries that smell of ink and dust and old calfskin binding. My local library boasts underfloor heating which makes it very cosy in the winter. Naturally I also swap recommendations and books with friends, often forgetting who I’ve lent to (lucky you) or borrowed from ……(sorry).

Then there is the certain thrill of encountering a free book exchange – rather like receiving an unexpected early present. The delight of finding a well -stocked red phone box sat peacefully by a creek

Trevilley Book Exchange - near Lands End
Trevilley Book Exchange – near Lands End

combines with the sense of belonging that comes from knowing that I am but one part of the often unseen community of fellow bookworms.

Exchanges are often found in old red phone boxes but there are many others lurking in unexpected places – such as this well-organised shed. Thank you Patrick Gale.


However my favourite source of books is actually not a free one. It is bizarrely … the secondhand stall!

  • There is something so liberating in the reduction of choice
  • In rooting through things other have discarded and finding something of value
  • The appeal of the rock bottom prices on a stall
  • The satisfaction of supporting a charity (usually) – getting and giving combined
  • I frequently find best-sellers of yesteryear that I hadn’t yet discovered

Unfortunately for the authors and their royalties the vast majority of my books are obtained second-hand, but what inevitably happens is that when I get hooked by a writer I have to get hold of their other works – as with Louise Penny and Joanne Harris. This is when I head for the nearest bookshop and armed with the determination to purchase specific items I will resist the siren calls of those other beautiful tomes and will ultimately leave with my purchase complete and my senses replete.

Please post a comment to let us know where you source most of your reading. If you have any great photos of libraries, book exchanges or other local sources please feel free to also post those


Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.