Keeping My Book Costs Down

stack of books

I read a lot of books. To keep costs down, this is what I do:

If I don’t need or want to own the book, I’ll check if it’s available in a local library. A search at can tell me which local libraries have it, in a list sorted by distance from where I live. (If you use the search engine DuckDuckGo, the shortcut is “!worldcat book-title”.) I can usually get the book using Interlibrary Loan (ILL). That has a few drawbacks: I have to wait for it to arrive, I have to go to the library to pick it up and to return it, and I can only keep it for two weeks. My local library charges 50 cents for ILL, which is fine.

Software books are often available through Safari Books Online, and my local library has a subscription, which is awesome. It lets me read the books on my home computer, for free (legally). I just enter my library code and pin number.

If I want a book-to-keep, then I try to get it as an ebook or used book.

I used to just use Amazon (.com and .ca) to find used books, but I recently discovered that sometimes the cheapest deal isn’t on Amazon. Here’s how I search for used books now:

  1. Go to and find the book I want,
  2. copy the ISBN into my clipboard,
  3. Go to AddAll and search for that ISBN.

AddAll searches a bunch of online bookstores and returns the results sorted by total cost (including shipping costs, which they can estimate if you give your location).

Shipping costs are often more expensive than the book, often a lot more. It would be great if there were a way to search all local used-book bookstores for a particular book, but I doubt that such a service will ever exist.

What do you do to keep book costs down?

Photo Credit: Stack of Books by on Flickr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

A friendly human.