Books, like nothing else, enable unadulterated escapism and unravel the infinity of the imagination. They teach, amuse, inspire and challenge perspectives. Books are so important that it is only right that every human has the ability to access books for free.
It was The Public Libraries Act of 1850 that enabled UK boroughs to open free, public libraries for the first time. We have this Act to thank for our free library cards and for the strong presence of libraries all over the country. Besides book-borrowing, you can access the internet, join events, peruse magazines and journals and find large-print or audio books, all for the wonderful price of free.
To find your local library, use this handy search engine with map.
There are a couple of cons to borrowing rather than buying books. One is deadlines. Forget to return or renew your library book and you’re liable for fines. Another con is having to treat the books preciously. Owning a book means not worrying about it getting wet, wrinkly pages when you’re reading in the bath or getting mud on it when you’ve brought it camping to read by torchlight.
This is where Read It Swap It comes in. It’s a free, online club which allows you to swap books with other members. With a vast number of categories, you’re likely to find the title you’re after. A search for Ben Elton’s High Society showed 114 available copies. Don’t know what you’re looking for? Simply browse titles by genre. Once you’ve chosen a book and a member, that member needs to choose a book from your list and agree to the swap. You post the books to each other and confirm online when received. The only cost involved is that of postage. You’re looking at about £1.11 for the average paperback sent by second class post.
Want to go even cheaper? Charity shops sell used paperbacks for as little as 50p. Do your bit for charity by purchasing a few, then donate them back again when you’re done.
If you’re lucky enough to have an e-reader such as a Kindle or tablet, keep an eye out for free e-books. Kobo has a great system whereby certain first-in-series books are free to download. You can also sign up at no cost to Free e-Books, where you’ll find a large catalogue of free book downloads. The standard membership entitles you to 5 free downloads a month in TXT of PDF format. iTunes offers a Free Books app boasting 23,469 downloadable classics at no cost. Android’s similar Google Play Books claims to have millions.
Happen to be hostelling? The world over, any hostel worth its salt will have a bookcase filled with books left behind or donated by travellers. Take a book away with you, leaving a finished book of your own in its place. Now that’s good karma.
Now for what to read.
The Book List Challenge is an excellent place to find suggestions for reading material. All the classics from Dahl to Dostoyevsky are accounted for.
Likewise, 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die is packed full of reviews of books spanning just about every genre.
Not sure what sort of genre you’re in the mood for?
We’re fans of this ‘Summer Ready’ flowchart at Teach.com for helping to make the decision.
Book clubs are an excellent and usually free way of integrating your social life and love of reading .
Meetups gave us 70+ results while My Book Club gleaned 20+ plucked from a 5 mile radius of our home town.
Get yourself a good read, a plump sofa and the perfect reading lamp, for, as Hemingway said, “there is no friend as loyal as a book”.