How can I reduce the amount of NEW books I buy or pass on my old ones?

We’re having a book themed week here on Recycle This – and on my simple living site, The Really Good Life too. Read about how to reuse, recycle or upcycle old books, damaged books and notebooks/jotters – and see inspiring how-tos & ready-to-buy items using books. Or on TRGL, read about my favourite simple living/growing/making/cooking books – and give me your suggestions for simple living/growing/making fiction (please!)

As good greenies, we all know that it’s better to REDUCE in the first place before having to think about reusing or recycling so I thought I’d ask a quick “reduce” question — how do you reduce the amount of new (as in brand new, just printed) books you buy? Any tricks to avoid the temptation or favourite ways to buy them second(third/fourth)-hand?

If you don’t buy books in general, but still read regularly, how do you do that?

And if you do buy books, how do you pass on your old ones so that others can enjoy them too?

I suspect some of these answers are obvious – for example, I use our local library regularly and also browse the shelves in charity shops* – but I wondered if anyone had any less common ideas that might be new to other people. I only recently discovered Abebooks – I wonder if there are any other gems I’m missing out upon!

Let us know your book-buying/acquiring secrets in the comments below!

* in that order: if I go to the library before any shopping expeditions, the “I need new input” urge has already worn off a bit and my bag is generally pretty full/heavy so I want to browse and definitely buy less stuff. Libraries are fab!

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17 Responses to “How can I reduce the amount of NEW books I buy or pass on my old ones?”

  1. Stephanie says: is a great way to pass your old books on, and to get used ones!

    In the UK you can also swap books on

  2. Su says:

    Oh, somebody’s going to say it so it may as well be me “what about a kindle?” I do not approve of them however, they have no soul, you can’t lend a treasured kindle file to somebody & it’s just not right.

  3. Jen says:

    Check out these sites for swapping unwanted books for new ones.


  4. anna says:

    I love analog books. I’ve got kindle app on my iPad and on my Mac, but I can’t concentrate on pleasure reads on that. Analog books work better for me. And I read a lot.
    I get my supply of books from a local library book store. When everything (excluding collectables) are $2 or less, I can entertain myself for a few $ a week. After I read the book, some stay in my bookshelf, but most I pass to friends, or exchange to other titles I haven’t read yet via and friends (or of course any local friends I know would have the same taste).
    So what I do is not limit the amount of books I buy or get, but try to keep not too wild amounts of books around. And buying 99 % second hand, it’s still cheaper than if I bought a fraction of my books new.
    Bookcrossing works great. You register the book, add a note with the tracking number, then give the book to a friend or let it travel wild (particularly fun when traveling). Not all books get an entry, and sometimes it may take a long time, even years, before there might be an entry for the book’s travel log. But it’s always fascinating to see who’s day it made to find an unexpected book, and where it might travel next.
    I used to use the local libraries a lot, but I don’t like to have deadlines for pleasure reads. And nearly everything I buy now profits them anyway.
    Some bookstores also give credit for second hand books, but it’s not as fun.

  5. I rarely buy new books, more due to the cost than any environmental considerations, truth be told. Instead I buy most of my books from charity shops or eBay. Then they can be swapped on

  6. Christina P says:

    I think Kindle’s are a kinda good idea. I personally do not want one. But they are convenient if you are the type of person who reads best sellers or reads a lot of movies-based-on-books types. I’m not into those. I try really hard not to start a series unless its already done being written. I don’t like waiting for the next book to come out.

  7. emma says:

    I look in my friends bookshelfs, or ask people i work with if they have any good books for Me to borrow.

  8. Melinda says:

    I make frequent use of the lIbrary, not only for books, but for books on tape, cd or for audio download (In our area, it’s called Overdrive). I find that having a book ro listen to “shortens” a journey, or a task around the house. For the Audio downloads, there is nothing to store, and they don’t get overdue- they just expire. The performance aspect of the readers can be a geat part of the experience, too.

    Our library has an annual book sale, which is a great source of Good Books Cheap, but also a good source of children’s and young adults’ books, which can be outgrown and passed on. It usually feels like a trade-in for me.

    As for places that will take books, one can check out hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, schools, and the like. I’ve seen trade-in baskets and shelves at laundromats, and hotels and there is a shelf for teacher’s reading (definately not kid stuff!) at my school.

  9. Tamara says:

    You could try a book swap service like That way if you buy books that you end up not loving and wanting to keep forever, you can trade with others.

  10. Clare says:

    What about re-reading books you already have? Also, when my birthday comes round, I let people know that secondhand is always welcome, and I’ve put a note on my Amazon wishlist to say that too.

  11. Karmae says:

    Idon’t have a Kindle – I have Kobo! It comes with hundreds of the classics pre-loaded and all kinds of books – both fictions and non-
    are available as epubs. I don’t read movie tie in novels or that sort of thing. Things that I really like about it – with older eyes I can increase the type face to suit me and it is reallly light for older hands and wrists. I can read the “heavy”books like Mists of Avalon without dropping them in bed. And we share our e-pubs on a regular basis and borrow them from the library.

    We still buy books – art books and reference type books that are image laden. Now we have room in our apartment for other things as well!

  12. lovelygrey says:

    I hardly ever buy new books, maybe one or two a year now.

    1. Things I really want to read – I order from the library. I use my Amazon wishlist to remind me what I might want to borrow in the future. If there’s just a few bits and pieces I need in a reference book I scan the pages.
    2. Any reference books I want are nearly always purchased from Ebay or Amazon Marketplace second hand. I see if the information that I’m hoping to gain isn’t online first.
    3. I swap loads of stuff with friends and family. Everything we read does a big warm fuzzy circle and once we’ve all finished with it goes to the charity shop or the hospital league of friends shelf at work.
    4. I pick up whatever takes my fancy from car boot sales, charity shops and the like.

  13. Jim says:

    I donate many of my books to libraries, so that others can get some use out of them, occasionally I will take them to a used books store just to get a few bucks for them.

  14. Anne Meyers says:

    I suggest yard sales (you can get most books for as little as $.25. Usually my mom gets them at yard sales and gives them to me since I read so much so quickly. I then pass them on to her and she reads them, them passes them on the her work “library.” Also, I have a Wattpad app for my android phone…Wattpad is also just a website. Regular people post stories they have written on it. A lot of them are very, very good. And its free. WIN!

  15. Ken says:

    Type “Free books on line ” into the search panel.
    It could solve the poblem for a couple of life-times.

  16. Aimee says: is another website where you can post books that you no longer want. Others can request them, you mail the books out and in return you get a point. You can then use your point to request a desired book from another member. :)

  17. Linda Matthews says:

    You might try project gutenburg for plenty of free old book downloads; pick the type of download you want. Some people have started donating their own current writing to it too. They have a huge and highly varied selection from children’s books, to really old fashioned how to, classics, esoteric aspects, religion, books left out of the Bible,etcetera. Frankly I love this resource! Just type in the author or subject name.

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