When I first met my husband, we decided that we wanted to create a home library. It’s taken decades to reach this point, but a few years ago, we finally achieved our aim of having a room that is entirely dedicated to books.
I estimate that we have over 2000 titles now and we’re still collecting. We like to mix our purchases up, sometimes paying full price (someone has to fund the publishing industry and bookshops!) but very often finding bargains. We reckon that we’ve acquired the majority of our collection using the methods below so if you’re prepared to put a bit of work and time in, then you should be able to find great books without shelling out. Here are our top tips for how to build a book collection on a budget:
Forage for books in charity shops (thrift stores)
I’m always surprised at the amount of premium titles available in charity shops. It’s possible to pick up newly-published works for a fraction of the cost if you can spare the time to search the bookshelves. Occasionally you might even discover a first edition, although these tend to be snapped up by the retailers themselves. You may not find the perfect cover, but you’ll have your pick if you’re not fussy about aesthetics.
Attend library sales
Public libraries in the UK occasionally hold library sales to clear space for new stock. The titles tend to ones that aren’t loaned that often or are out-of-date, but you can still find great low-cost books if you’re prepared to search through the stacks. These aren’t generally announced so have a chat with your local librarian to see if they’re planning to hold any library sales in the future. That way you’ll get a head start on the pick of the bunch.
Join online community groups that promote reuse
You can often find community groups on social media where residents offer items free of charge. This can be for many reasons – to declutter their houses, support others and pass on goods ethically. It’s worth checking out websites such as Freecycle to see if anyone is offering free books. Always be careful before purchasing. Take someone with you when collecting books and make sure that you don’t give out your personal details.
Buy vintage books from secondhand booksellers
Not always the cheapest, but good for sourcing classics at a lower price and essential for building a vintage book collection. We try to support independent booksellers whenever we can. If you’re starting out, buying used copies can be a really affordable way to add to your book collection. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for expensive editions such as Folio Society which are generally a third of the price if bought secondhand. To bag even more bargains, check out the slightly damaged copies. It’s likely that these will be even cheaper.
Add to your book collection by entering competitions and giveaways
If you’re looking for new books, the bigger publishers and booksellers run competitions constantly. You’re likely to have more success with smaller giveaways on social media though. The bookstagramming community is really generous so if you haven’t joined and you love books, then I would highly recommend it (be careful not to only enter giveaways though as this makes your account look spammy!). Also keep an eye on Twitter as this is probably the best and easiest place to join in with these types of promotions.
This involves a bit more work, but it’s very rewarding. Again, the best way to get involved with this is to start a book blog or social media account so that you can apply to publishers for review copies. I’ve written about this in a bit more detail on my bookstagram influencer post.
If you don’t want your own blog or online account you could apply to join a review network. I reviewed books for a website few years ago (unpaid) and built up a good chunk of my YA section via this method. Look out for openings on social media, follow a couple of book bloggers or if you’re super confident about your writing skills, apply to magazines such as Kirkus. You’ll need some samples at the ready though.
Build a book collection wishlist
For those mega-expensive treats, why not compile a gift list for family and friends? We occasionally hanker for signed copies but tend to save these buys for birthdays and Christmas – it’s the same with hardbacks. To avoid disappointment, we usually borrow the paperback from the library first and only commit if we love it. Saying that I’ve been stung a few times recently which is why I’m mentioning it here!
I hope this gives you an idea of how to start collecting books. Aiming to build a book collection on a budget does sometimes seem like a huge decadence even if you do it cheaply, but I can honestly say that we don’t regret it after half a lifetime of spending our hard-earned cash on paper and ink. We’ve learnt so much from everything we’ve read and revisit our books frequently. We also share them with family and friends. It’s an investment that goes far beyond the final page.