The best way to get cheap or free books

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  • Books at full price can be really expensive, especially if you have to buy children’s books for different ages at any one time. From free books to eBooks, here are our money-saving tips so you and your kids can read more, for less…

    Start children young with Bookstart

    If you’re not already familiar with Bookstart, it’s a great resource that offers free books to every child at key stages between 0 and 4 years before they start school. The baby pack comes from your health visitor in the baby’s first year and the Bookstart treasure bag at 3-4 years old.

    It’s run by Booktrust, an independent reading and writing charity. As well as encouraging children to read, it also gives information about community events at local libraries.

    Cheap books websites

    Buying online can save you lots of money, sometimes as much as 75% off the full price. Working out which websites to use can be tricky, but The Book People are usually quite good.

    It can also be worth signing up to their Facebook pages – just look up The Book People using the Facebook search bar as then you’ll get offers and discounts appearing in your news feed.

    If you want to buy books as a gift for someone outside of the UK, The Book Depository is a real find, with free postage to many countries.

    Browse charity shops – online too

    Charity shops can be hit or miss if you’re looking for a particular book, but if you’re after general fiction or reference books like dictionaries, they often throw up some gems for a fraction of the full price. Some charities like the Red Cross have dedicated book stores on the high street too.

    Another option is to look at charities’ websites as their online stores such as Oxfam’s shop have a whole host of sections.

    World Book Day

    World Book Day is a fab excuse to have a bit of dressing up fun with the kids while encouraging them to love literature that little bit more. While it’s on they run £1 book tokens to buy a select few titles of books from shops nationwide.

    Sign up to Scholastic

    Children’s school books can often be quite expensive but websites like make this a little kinder on the wallet. They also have information on their book fairs and you can pick up books at their warehouse sales for as little as £1. Schofield & Sims is another website which sells great educational books, and, like Scholastic, is aimed at both parents and teachers.

    High street bargains

    While you’re likely to pick up the best bargains online overall, don’t assume that book shops on the high street are always the most expensive option. Often, in-store offers at places like WHSmith, Waterstones or your local bookshop can throw up some good discounts such as 50% off.

    Many high streets will also have a discounted book shop like The Works which sells everything from kids’ story books and GCSE revision guides to cookery books and travel guides.

    Cheap or free eBooks

    If you’ve got a Kindle, iPad or any other type of eBook reader, you can download books for as little as 99p or even for free, depending on the title. Amazon is a popular first port of call for books as it is, but they also sell e-books at good rates too.

    Websites like The Book Depository also offer around 11,000 free eBooks, with many children’s classics and other fiction books available.

    Use your local library

    Don’t forget your local library – you don’t always need to buy books. It’s free and with so many libraries threatened with closure, it’s a good way of supporting a local resource. Libraries pride themselves on their selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and most now house a number of audio books and eBooks.

    Apart from free borrowing, many libraries offer reading and storytelling events to encourage children to read more and some may distribute vouchers during special events such as World Book Day or sell off older books for next to nothing.

    If you’re not sure where your nearest library is, you can check on your local council’s website.

    During your weekly shop…

    While you’re piling the trolley high with bread, milk and the rest of the weekly shop, take a stroll down your supermarket’s book section (if it has one, of course).

    Even popular titles are often sold for half the price or as part of multi-buy offers. Branded Disney and other themed books are often heavily discounted too. Either way, it’s worth a peek. The selection changes often so you can’t guarantee you’ll find what you need, but it’s ideal if you’re looking for gifts or general fiction.

    Local networks

    If you’re friends with other book lovers, suggest book-sharing or book swaps.

    For your children’s school books it’s worth asking the school which books are essential to certain courses and if older editions are still valid – often they’re cheaper and if there have been minimal changes, they may be fine to use.

    Alternatively, look at setting up a book swap network via Facebook for your local area where textbooks and revision guides from different levels are passed around.

    And don’t forget the online forums like Freecycle – you can see who’s getting rid of books you need or put out a request for specific titles.

    Top tip when buying books as gifts

    Giving books as presents to other children is very common but save yourself the stress of ‘have they read it?’ by simply asking before you buy.

    One goodtoknow reader, an auntie to several nieces and nephews, says, ‘I lose track of what the kids do and don’t have. I’ve learned to run my present idea past the parents to get a thumbs-up, since they tend to have a mental list of what the kids would like and what they need.

    ‘When it comes to books, there are multiple formats the kids can access – on the Nintendo DS, PS3s, iPad etc. – so I like to make sure they get what they really want rather than what I really want to give!’

    Good advice all round we think. Do you have any top tips for getting kids to read more and enjoy it, too? Leave us a comment in the box below!