This week is Banned Books Week in the U.S. It’s a time when libraries and booksellers encourage people to read banned books. Participation can be expensive, however, as books are not cheap. Good news: There are a few ways to read banned books for either free or cheap.  

The first place to go for books, banned or unbanned, is always your local library. Books are free to check out! (And you can enjoy a lot of other free and fun stuff there, too). But not every library has every book. So where else can you look if your library doesn’t have the book you want? Try these places.

Interlibrary Loan

Just because your library doesn’t have the book you want doesn’t mean they can’t get it. Most libraries have relationships with other branches, districts, and universities and can get books through interlibrary loan. Most libraries offer this service for free, but some do charge a nominal fee to cover expenses. 

Buy a Library Card

Some public libraries offer non-residents the opportunity to purchase a library card. The fee is generally reasonable. If you live close enough to the district, you can take advantage of the physical facilities, but if you live far away, the cards still entitle you to the ebook collections. Some universities also offer a similar program, offering those who aren’t students or staff the chance to buy a card. 

Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries are small (often decorative) boxes filled with books. You’re encouraged to take a book and either return it, or trade it with another book from your collection. Most are constructed and managed by members of the community or local organizations. Some of them specialize in banned books. There’s a database of Little Free Libraries at the official site, but not all offer all kinds of books, so it comes down to trial and error, or word of mouth to find one specializing in banned books. 

Used Book Outlets

Anywhere that sells used books is often a great place to find cheap banned books. Why? Because a lot of people buy the books to see what the fuss is about and then dump them. Try your local thrift store, used bookstore, yard sale, or library book sale. There are also plenty of used booksellers online. 

Hoopla

Many public libraries have a relationship with Hoopla which allows you to check out ebooks and audiobooks. The catalog is maintained by Hoopla, not the library from which you gain access, so title availability may be different from/better than your library’s. A lot of people never check the expanded offerings of their library and remain unaware of Hoopla. 

Group Purchases/Swaps

If you have a group of people interested in the same book(s), try creating a swap group. Several people can go in on the cost and then pass the book(s) around. There are also swap groups online, but there is a risk when swapping with people you don’t know that not everyone will hold up their end of the deal. 

Free Classics

If the book you want is a classic (out of copyright), you can find most of those on Project Gutenberg or Google Books as ebooks. There are also sometimes free editions of the ebook on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Many publishers also publish an inexpensive paperback version of many classics. 

Promo Sales/Bargain Bins

Many booksellers have great promotional sales during Banned Books Week. You may find a discount that makes the book super cheap. You may also find what you want in the bargain bin, particularly if it’s an older book or a classic. 

Online Groups

Finally, there are many community activist groups, Facebook groups, and NextDoor groups dedicated to making banned books available. Search around in your area and you may find a local group offering the book you want for free or cheap. 

Jennifer Derrick

Jennifer Derrick is a freelance writer, novelist and children’s book author.  When she’s not writing Jennifer enjoys running marathons, playing tennis, boardgames and reading pretty much everything she can get her hands on.  You can learn more about Jennifer at: https://jenniferderrick.com/.

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