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Where To Get Books (Almost) For Free

My mailbox was full of mailers for Labor Day deals this weekend. Clothes, cars, electronics… but the best deal I got this weekend was $48.00 in hardcover books for 98% off. If my math is right, that should come out to 0.50 a book.  Yep, you read that right.

I love a good deal so when I saw a GREAT deal, I snagged it. Weekend purchases include a brand-new copy of Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae and a gently used copy of Maid Marian by Elsa Watson. Flaws: there is a slight black smudge on the fore edge of the Godin book. The Watson book had 1 dog-eared page in the bottom righthand corner (who dog-ears the BOTTOM of the books?  Weirdos.).

My personal mecca for books is the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, held each spring at the Macy’s at West County Center. When it’s off-season though, the best deals in town on used books are… local area libraries.

Here in St. Louis, most of the public libraries have a bargain carousel or shelf where you can still find great deals on reads: 25 cents for a pbk, 50 cents for a hc. Most of the time these books are former library-owned copies so the condition can vary. Sometimes, you’ll find copies that were donations in like-new condition.

As of this printing, the St. Louis County Library and the municipal branches (example: University City, Rock Hill, Maplewood, Ferguson, etc.) usually have used books available for purchase at their locations. The St. Louis Public Library (city locations) does not offer used books for purchase.

Bring cash.

Scouting for used books an inexpensive habit to start.  I usually bring a couple of dollars in loose change in my pockets for overdue fines or to browse the used book racks.  For me, it’s become something of an adventure as a married person. Hardcovers and paperbacks are pretty easy to flip through to check for damages. I tend to shy away from magazines though — most of the Newsweek-type that are discarded are slightly beyond redemption.

If you can live with books that are marked the former property of your local branch, it may be worth to stop by the bargain shelf next time to take a look around and see what you can find. You may be surprised to find some titles on your TBR list waiting for you.

Where are your top picks for finding the next read?  Share your suggestions in the comments below.

This entry was posted in: Books


Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has seventeen years of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). Lauren is the Managing Web Editor and writer for The Scribe, a web publication of the St. Louis Writers Guild, where she also serves as their Director of Communications. She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at


  1. I missed the YMCA book sale last month. 😦 One of these years I’ve really got to go check that out too. My closest library has a couple of shelves worth of books but the amount for sale really varies from branch to branch. One location I visited recently for the first time (Prairie Commons) had a couple of tables overflowing with books.


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