Balancing the books : reading on a budget

There’s little better than losing yourself in a good book, experiencing new worlds and characters in a story, or learning something new in a non-fiction text. It’s a hobby that’s fun, and both emotionally and intellectually fulfilling. But with the cost of a paperback book inching steadily towards £10, reading can also be a hobby that’s rather expensive, especially if you get through books fast. So if you’re reading on a budget, what should you do? Here are a few tips and tricks to find cheap (or even free) books while you’re at Warwick.

If you’re after books, there’s no better place to start than the library. Every student can access the library and your card entitles you to at least 15 books (depending on your degree level) for a couple of weeks at a time, with the option to renew almost indefinitely providing nobody else recalls the texts you have. There are floors full of books, and an even greater selection of eBooks that you could access from anywhere. I’ve taken advantage of the library to brush up on classic books,  and to learn more about history and culture. I’m currently reading a book about the history of Spain, inspired by my partner and her father, that would have cost a lot to buy. There are limitations – you’re not likely to pick up the book at the top of the fiction bestseller list, and some books will be in demand for modules – but I think those are minor points against what is an incredible depository of literature.

When you’re on a budget, every penny counts, and those 5% discounts will add up if you read frequently.

Of course, as convenient and central as the University Library is, it’s not your only option for checking out books. Coventry, Kenilworth, and Leamington are the hubs for student life as people move off-campus, and each of these areas has at least one library, full of a more general selection of books. As a typical student is in the area for three years, it’s a good idea to get a library card (either online, or by wandering into the library) if you’re a big reader. Handily, an adult library card in the area is valid for three years, so it might be a sensible move to get one just in case – the worst thing that happens is you don’t use it.

Sometimes, of course, the library is not the way to go, you may want to own the book, or be able to read it without the time pressures of returning it. If you’re not particularly fussed about what book to read, it’s possible to pick up books free or at minuscule prices locally. A number of local supermarkets have shelves where people discard old books, typically on a ‘take one, leave one’ basis – I often have a look at the shelf in Tesco Cannon Park to see what books are there, and I’ve found some interesting crime novels. Charity shops are good for really cheap books (you’re talking under a pound for some books), and there are a number of second-hand bookstores with solid selections. I always discuss the Astley Book Farm –it’s a little far for general perusal, but if you can get there, there are lots of brilliant books (and the Ten Bob Barn, where every book is 50p).

There are occasions, however, where a traditional book store is the only way to go. If you’re heading to Waterstones, check out their loyalty scheme – you earn a stamp for every £10 you spend, and get £10 credit to use after 10 stamps. The scheme comes with offers and prize draws, which are always worth a go – you may win a book or two. Coupled with this, there’s a student card, which offers all of these benefits as well as awards an additional 5% off every purchase. When you’re on a budget, every penny counts, and those 5% discounts will add up if you read frequently. (Of course, other bookstores offer  their own schemes and loyalty programmes too, but I think Waterstones is generally the best student-wise.)

If you’re a reader on a budget, there are a wealth of options available to make your experience expansive and cheaper. So go check them out, and lose yourself in a book without emptying your pockets in the process!


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