Money Wellness
Image of a pile of books with a lamp shining on them saying World Book Day. All the places you can get free or cheap books
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calendar icon05 Mar 2024

Get reading for free this World Book Day

It’s World Book Day this Thursday – a day created to celebrate books and reading.

Reading is hugely beneficial in so many ways. It can help you escape without travelling anywhere, transport you back in time or to the future and open a world of opportunities.

It doesn’t just provide entertainment, it can help develop focus and concentration, improve memory and benefit communication and language skills. It can also have a positive impact on mental health, with 28% of non-readers more likely to report feelings of depression.

And it’s great for families too. A survey by Ladybird revealed that 80% of parents believe reading helps them to enjoy quality, bonding time with their children.  

But modern-day pressures and financial constrains has led to people reading less and less, with 75% of parents saying they wish they had more time to read with their child.

While as few as one in four adults say they only find the time to open a book when they’re away on holiday.

And for some, having to buy pricey new books can stop them from reading, with 20% of families spending less on books over the past year because they have become unaffordable to them.

To help make sure everyone has access to books – especially those from low-income households who statistically benefit the most from reading – we’ve pulled together a list of all the places you can pick up a new page-turner for free – or very little.

World Book Day £1 books and tokens

Kids can claim a free book token to mark World Book Day which they can exchange for a free book or use to get a £1 discount on any book or audiobook worth £2.99 or more.

The tokens are being given out by schools and early years providers. They can also be picked up in a range of children’s magazines or in a McDonald’s Happy Meal. And the website LatestFreeStuff is running a downloadable option.

The tokens, which need to be redeemed by 31 March, can be used in participating retailers including:

  • Your local independent bookseller
  • Asda
  • Blackwell’s (selected stores online – check online first)
  • Sainsburys
  • Tesco
  • The Works
  • Waterstones
  • WHSmith

You can find your nearest participating store here.

BookTrust’s Bookstart

It is important to start their passion for reading young. And Bookstart do just that as the world’s first national book gifting programme helping children on their reading journey between the ages of 0-5 years.

The scheme gives free book packs to every baby born in England and Wales. It also offers further packs at key stages before school, as well as packs for children with additional needs, tips, and guidance on reading together, resources, activities and much more.

Find out how to claim you free book pack here.

The website also has a list of books recommendation suitable for children of different ages, which you can print off and borrow from your local library.

Your local library

There’s something magical about a library - the hushed voices and the smell of hardbacks. And they don’t just loan books, they’re a community hub offering a safe place to keep warm, with free Wi-Fi and computer access.

Visitor numbers have dwindled in recent years and successive cuts have meant that many are struggling so it’s more important than ever before to support them.

Anyone with a UK address can become a member of a library. You will need just one item of identification to join that shows your name and address (or a parent or carer’s name and address if you’re under 18). This could include a driver’s licence, medical card, utility bill, bank statement or building society passbook. If you’re under 18 your parent or carer will have to come with you when you register.

As a library member you can borrow books and order books from other libraries. You can also borrow audio books, ebooks and access online magazines. Get free access to online subscriptions such as Which? magazine, Theory and Test Pro. And rent DVDs and language courses.

Being a library member allows you use the library computer, which is free for the first half an hour of any session, get help with computers, or use the WI-FI with your own devise.

Anyone living in the UK is legally entitled to borrow books for free from public libraries. Other services might attract a small fee and you could find yourself charged if you’re late returning your books.

If you’re not a member of the library, you can still visit and use their spaces and some of their services for free. But you can’t borrow books or other items.

Phone box libraries

Thousands of obsolete phone boxes have been snapped up by local communities and turned into micro-libraries. Operating on a trust and respect basis, anyone can leave unwanted and used books in these phone boxes, which can be picked up for free by other members of the community.

The concept for these phone box libraries comes from ‘little free libraries’ set up by American Todd Boll in Wisconsin. As a tribute to his mother, Boll made a small wooden house – just large enough for 20 books – and put it on a post at the end of his drive. Above it he wrote ‘free books’. Before long the concept grew into a book-sharing movement across the US and now all over the world.

Charity shops and car boot sales

Take a trip to your local charity shop to find a hidden gem. Many have books for sale from as little as 20p. Not only will you have a new read, you’ll also be making a donation to a worthy cause.

Similarly, it’s worth getting up early one Sunday morning to visit your nearest car boot. People are happy to part with preloved books for a fraction of the retail price and quite often they’re happy to offer bundles of books for just a couple of pounds.

Book swop cafes

There are thousands of initiatives up and down the country to make book swopping and saving money more accessible. For instance, in Manchester, the Corn Exchange has installed vending machines, offering books instead of sweet treats.

People are invited to bring along an old book, get a token for the machine, and swop it for another pre-loved book. The books are almost free – all you have to do is exchange your used read for a new pre-loved one.

Waitrose also runs a book swop scheme in some of its cafes and Co-op provides something similar in participating stores.

But be wary of book exchanges on social media

The book exchange is a trend that’s been spreading around social media for some time. The premise is simple; buy one book and potentially receive 36 books in return.

However, many experts have warned that this scheme is akin to pyramid selling and the likelihood of you receiving 36 books back is slim. One commented: “The book exchange should be seen as a game of luck and nothing more. You take your chances, and you could end up with one book, 14 books, 36 books or none at all.”

Cut price retailers

There’s lots of booksellers – both online and on the high street – offering cheap book bundles. Check out offers at The Works, Book Bundle, Boos2Door and Books4people, which have bundles of 10 books starting for as little as £10.

Free websites

There are a number of websites specialising in hunting down brilliant freebies. It’s worth checking out Magic Freebies, Freestuff and Lastest Free Stuff all of which offer free reads, from cook books to novels, and every genre in between.

Cheap ebooks

If reading online is your thing, you can easily pick up a bargain from one of the following websites that offer books for free or just £1.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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