Books on a Budget

Photo by feedough/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by feedough/iStock / Getty Images

Amazon and other book outlets encourage you daily to spend money on books. For the book addicted, it's an easy sell.

So, how do you resist when you're a book lover with limited funds?* What budget-friendly moves are a bad idea? Read on!

Hard-copy readers:

Join a bookstore book club. Many independent bookstores offer these clubs and give members a 10% discount. Other stores offer frequent buyer's discounts.

Get a library card. Put books you'd like to read on reserve, even before they're released. Many libraries take recommendations from patrons for new purchases and allow those recommending books to check them out first. Check with your library to learn about their programs. (Libraries buy books and authors like them because they introduce us to new readers.)

Create a book swap group with friends. You each buy the books you think you'll love the most, but then you share them. Authors and publishing companies benefit from the initial purchase and word-of-mouth promotion, and you get to read lots of books at a lower overall expense.

Recommend and review your favorite authors and their books on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, etc. This makes it easier for new readers to find them.

See also "Book Bub" recommendations below. Book Bub alerts readers to new releases and sales of ebooks, but doesn't require you to make a purchase, nor do they care what format you buy in.

Consider becoming an official reviewer Authors need reviewers. If you like writing reviews, consider joining NetGalley (see or other review services that provide early reviews for authors. Many authors cultivate their own early reviewers–keep an eye on their Facebook feeds to see if your favorites are among them. Be warned. Providing perfect reviews is not required. Writers need honest reviews and know that every book is not every reader's cup of tea. But trolls and/or rude reviewers are seldom invited to review another book. 

Used Books—Meh Because I'm an author, I'm not a big fan of used books. Writers don't make a penny on a used-book sale. On the other hand, I'm also a book addict. So if the used books you're buying help out a library, bookstore, or other charity, or if they give you a chance to try out a new author at a low cost, you have my blessing. To appease the fates, muses, and your favorite authors, try to remember to review the book online.



e-format readers:

Don't feel guilty buying ebooks. Though the price is generally below that of the hardcover or paperback, the percentage royalties paid on ebooks is often higher. You're still supporting both author and publisher.

Book Bub. Book Bub is the king of bargain book services. They send you a daily email in accordance with your reading preferences, promoting ebooks that are on sale. They'll also alert you when your favorite author releases a new book. If your taste in books is more fine-tuned than BookBub selection criteria allows for, search the internet for another bargain book service. There are many specialized ones that focus on mysteries, romances, young adult, Christian novels, or other distinct swaths of publishing. If you know just where to look on a library shelf or bookstore for your favorites, there is certain to be a book service designed to bring you selections of books on sale that you'll love.

Check your library. Many libraries subscribe to services that allow you to borrow ebooks for a limited time. If you're new to ebooks, consult a librarian to help you learn to use the service and work out the kinks. (If the librarian is too busy to help, ask if there's a class you could take or if there's a quieter time you could come back. )

Amazon group plans. If other family members love the same books you do, set up a family group on Amazon so you can share all your ebook purchases. (The instructions for doing this are on the Amazon site. If you find them too complicated, call their customer service line. I've found them very helpful!)


There are fiends who launch illegal schemes to target book addicts, just as there are criminals who prey on those with other weaknesses. Most websites that offer opportunities to download books "Free!" are pirates.  Legitimate book promoters provide links to legitimate well-known book sellers like Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Kobo, Itunes, GoogleBooks, or Indiebound. Crooks ask you to download directly from their website after filling out a form. Don't be sucked in. These are typically phishing schemes--attempts to gain access to your personal information. You may be downloading a file containing a nasty virus, giving the crooks all your information plus access to your computer. And if you make the mistake of buying a 99c book from one of these goons, they'll also have your credit card number. Yikes. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! The worst thing? Your computer's operating system is in a complete shambles and your favorite author gets no royalties. It's disguised as a bargain, but is a terrible deal all round.

Bottom line?

Writers love readers. If you're sharing books and talking about books, teaching kids to read or encouraging those that already know how, you're helping us. And we thank you.

*If you're a book lover, I'm going to assume you also want to support authors and publishers and book distributers, and will lean toward those outlets that also benefit those that bring you books.

Mad for TV Murder Mysteries


We don't get the Hallmark Mystery channel, but my husband and I are convinced that when we're sick, injured or recuperating, PBS and Acorn mysteries are as important as chicken soup. They're like a warm hug. Most episodes turn out okay in the end, so they're not worrisome. 

Here are some of our favorites: 

Death in Paradise

George Gently

Midsomer Murders

Death comes to Pemberly

Inspector Morse

Inspector Lewis (please let there be a "Hathaway" series next!) 




800 words (not a mystery, but with the same comfort value)

Doctor Blake

DCI Banks

The Last Detective

The Singing Detective

Sherlock (except the last season and maybe the next to last, which were too weird)



The Heart Guy (not a mystery, but still good) 

Father Brown


Foyle's War

Call the Midwife (not a mystery, but still good)

Bletchley Circle

Hetty Wainthropp



Lord Peter Whimsey



Dalziel & Pascoe

Jonathan Creek

Rosemary & Thyme

River (This one has an unusual but endearing plot device. It's on the line between charming and chilling.) 

Here are some that we love, but that are rougher, so don't fit into the "chicken soup" category. 

Witnesses (It's in French with subtitles. Adds fun if you took French in high school)

Wire in the Blood


Waking the Dead


Deep Water

Chasing Shadows

Broadchurch (both the US and UK versions) 


Crossing Lines

The Tunnel (both the UK and Netherlands versions. Didn't like the American version, The Bridge)

The Level


The Escape Artist (very good, but very disturbing) 

Prime Suspect (We love this originally, but had to stop watching when we had little kids and they handled a child abuse case. Now that our children are grown, we've revisited them, and eagerly await The Young Jane Tennison)

Here are some that fell short of the mark for me, but that you might like:

The Fall (too disturbing for comfort)

Miss Fisher (The books are better. These can get too silly) 

Vera (We watched these, but Vera might be too flawed)

Agatha Raisin (Too silly for us)

Murdoch Mysteries (Seemed to be trying too hard)

Jack Irish (Too dark)

Newest Agatha Christie remakes (of COURSE we watched them, but they take a much darker turn than earlier versions, though they are true to the books.) 

New Tricks (I liked them, but my husband didn't. I can't remember why.) 

Lovejoy (We didn't like it, but it's very popular)

Still Life (I love Louise Penny's books, and might have enjoyed this if my expectations weren't so high.) 

Mr & Mrs Murder (My husband nixed this one. Too silly.) 

Thorne (too gritty)

Vexed (too silly)

Partners in Crime (too silly. Or maybe just not as I pictured my beloved T&T)

Cracker (Too dated -- my husband cares about production value, and this one doesn't have writing strong enough to overcome old-fashioned resolution.)

True Detective - this one is well worth watching, particularly the first season. But it had some down sides I can't reveal (without revealing plot) that prevent me from claiming it as a complete success. It has some great "guys talking in cars" scenes.