How Much Money I Save By Using the Library

A little while ago, Terri from Starlight Book Reviews shared this awesome post in which she detailed exactly how much money she saved by borrowing books from the library. So I thought that I’d do a similar post and show you guys how freaking awesome the library is and how much money you can save by borrowing books instead of buying them!

Using the Library

I live in Rhode Island, and my RI library system is pretty cool. Basically, I do all of my library-ing online. They have a website that you just sign into, and you can order all of the books you want from there. Then, they will ship all of those books from the different libraries across the state to your “home” library, and then email you when they’re ready to be picked up!

Sometimes there’s a wait, but after using the system for a while now, I’ve gotten pretty used to it and can usually time my ordering of the books to match up with when I want to read them. Once they get to the library, you have a week to pick them up, and then three weeks before they’re due! As long as they don’t have holds on them, you can also renew them a couple more times, too. My library even has a drive-through book return. It can’t get any easier than that!

When you’re searching for books online, you can also choose which type of book you’d like to get. In most cases, there are four options — regular paperback/hardcover, large print, ebook, and audiobook. Sometimes there’s also “playaway,” which is when they let you borrow an MP3 player that already has an audiobook loaded onto to, or there’s a similar option for loaning out Kindle e-readers.

With the ebooks, you can just go right ahead and download most of them off of their website whenever you want them, but occasionally there’s a wait. They have some downloadable audiobooks as well.

My library even has a little used book sale section right when you walk in the door, so I always peruse that when I go to pick up my books and usually end up buying at least one book.

Why I Choose Library Books Over Buying/Downloading My Own

Let’s be clear…not all of the books that I read are from the library. As you can easily see in this bookshelf tour post, I own quite a few books — plenty of both physical copies and ebooks, most of which I got from a used bookstore, a closeout site, or from an ebook sale. In order to start working down my TBR pile, I made a 2014 reading resolution to read 5 books that I already own each month. But I read a lot more than 5 books a month, so the rest of them are either more from the TBR pile or I get them from the library.

Usually I choose to borrow a book from the library if I don’t already own it, but it’s on my reading schedule for that month. Unless it’s a book that’s exclusively only in ebook format and/or my library doesn’t have it (i.e. a lot of NA titles), I won’t buy a book that I’m planning to read immediately. Occasionally I’ll pre-order books that I really really want likerightnow and read them as soon as I get them, as I did with Ignite Me, but that’s maybe one book a month, and I order those way in advance.

Even if it’s a book that I know I one day want to own, I’ll still get it from the library. I’m not going to just randomly purchase a book that I want to read this month just because I’m going to be reading it. No…I get it from the library and then wait to buy it until it goes on sale on a site like BookOutlet.com or I see it in my local used bookstore. Who cares if I didn’t actually read that specific copy?

The Nitty-Gritty

And, finally, here’s what you all want to see! Let’s talk money. In 2013, I borrowed 27 books from the library. So that’s 27 books all for FREE!

If I had purchased all of those 27 books as ebooks, I would’ve paid $242.73!

If I had purchased all of them as physical copies, I would’ve had to shell out a cool $330.14!

That’s crazy, right? I’m so glad that I use the library! And I bet that I’m going to save even more money in 2014.

So, what about you… Do you use the library? Why or why not? Does your library have any cool features like mine? How much money do you think you save by using the library?

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27 responses to “How Much Money I Save By Using the Library

  1. I don’t really know if there’s a local library here that holds all the books I want to read so I mostly just end up buying the books. I actually just buy all the books I read, but I do wonder what must it be like to have a good library near me.

  2. I use the library a lot, and it saves me tons of money. Last year I read over 100 books! Just assuming they would be an average of $10 to purchase (all paperbacks, I guess!), I could have spent $1000 on books. Yikes!

    That said, my library use isn’t entirely free. They charge for holds, interlibrary loans, and suggesting a book for purchase (if they actually buy the book). And, of course, there are late fees. I haven’t had one for years until this last month!

    I’m trying to keep track of my library “expenses” this year to see what the total is. Library book sales will be a huge factor, but all the holds and ILLs do add up. I also just paid about $10 for them to get me photocopies of two journal articles I would like to read.

    • Wait…they CHARGE for holds, interlibrary loans, and suggesting a book?! That’s insane haha. I’ve never even heard of a library doing that before!! I’m so glad that mine doesn’t, jeez.

      • It’s only 50 cents to do each, but if you do it consistently it adds up. From talking to various other people, I gather it’s sort of an oddity of my particular library. And they get away charging for the suggestions by automatically placing it on hold for you once they order it–which doesn’t makes sense to me because sometimes I suggest books because I have already read it and think it should be available to others. If if just wanted to read it myself, I would ILL it!

  3. I love this post so much!! I just started using my library again. Although, I still buy books they mostly come from used bookstores or book closeout.com. It is so true that you can spend a lot of money purchasing books that you may not even want to reread. I have 3 bookshelves of my own filled to the rim with books and the sad part is that a lot of them have not been read or I just didn’t care for them that much. The library is great and I think people should start using them more. Plus, a lot of libraries have book clubs and activities that you can join to talk with people that have the same interest in books as you.Love this post!

    • Thanks 🙂 I like your point about the clubs, too. I’ve never personally signed up for anything, but I always see a bunch of postings at my library about book clubs, seminars, and meetings that sound really cool! I have a ton of books sitting around my house, too! The majority of them are unread, but I am trying to read them all eventually. I keep some of the ones that I read, but if I don’t think that I’ll ever re-read it or anything, I always take mine to my local used bookstore and I get credit for them that I can use to buy more books! I don’t know if you have anything like that near you.

      • I never heard that you can get credit for books. Ill have to look in to it. I only have one used bookstore that I go too, and I don’t go there very often because it is quite far away. And, I have never signed up for anything either, one of my local libraries has a teen center for teens 13-18 and I’m 21 so, I have never tried to go any of their activities out of fear to get kicked out.

  4. My library does a similar thing with shipping books to branches, but it only encompasses New Orleans and the closely surrounding cities rather than the whole state. Even so, I have tons of books to choose from! I do tend to use my library more for ebooks and audiobooks than physical copies, but it’s nice knowing I can have whatever I liked shipped to my nearest branch. Audiobooks are especially a favorite of mine now, since I’ve learned which narrators I’ll like and not like by listening to samples. And omg have you SEEN how expensive audiobooks are?! D: I should tally up how much money I save just in one month by borrowing those. I bet it’s ridiculous.

    • Haha oh my gosh, right?! I can’t even justify getting an Audible membership, because even that is insane. Thank God for the library! Well it’s only the whole state for us because it’s Rhode Island lol…I mean, it’s only 1 hour (driving distance) long 😛

      I always wondered how other less-fortunate states worked out the whole library thing, haha. I guess maybe one library system per county? We don’t really “do” counties in Rhode Island, but I know that they’re used a lot in other states. Fun fact: I once went to the hospital in a different state and the nurse badly needed to know what county I was from to fill out my insurance information and I had NO IDEA, haha. She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world. I think that, for her, it was like somebody not knowing what city they live in or something.

      • So I tallied up my numbers after I left a comment yesterday… the money I saved is ridiculous! If I’m super excited about a book I don’t always wait for it to go on sale somewhere, so I end up spending more money than I should. I looked up what my library books would have cost me to buy, had I spent list price and got them in the same format I borrowed them in. For just the last quarter of 2013 it would have been $426.02, and for 2014 so far it’s already $516.72! :O Audiobooks, man, haha. I’ve rented those almost exclusively this year because I’m commuting so much between home, work, school, and errands. Goodness.

        And you’re right about the Audible membership, too. I can only do so many monthly membership things and I NEED my Netflix and Adobe Creative Cloud subs. I might even tag on a Skillshare sub soon (because omg all those great classes!) so audibook subs have no room there.

        Haha I had to look up Rhode Island counties – you only have five! It’d be easy to not need to know which one you live in there. Honestly I wouldn’t bother to know which parish I’m in here except I need it for school paperwork, and because that’s how the library system is divided up.

      • Wow you saved a TON of money!! Good for you 🙂 I’m definitely glad that I discovered the awesomeness of library audiobooks.

        Haha yeah I might get the Audible membership one day, but I’m doing Netflix and Hulu now as it is…I can’t really afford any more monthly subs! But hopefully one day I’ll make enough money where it won’t seem like such a big deal, haha.

  5. I work at my local library part-time and, besides arcs, almost exclusively borrow the books that I read. Like you, I’ll buy a book that I loved eventually–when it comes out in trade pb or I see it on sale at the used book store, but there is NO way I could ever afford my reading habit without my library. Our system is completely awesome like yours. I just order what I want online and have it sent to my branch. I currently have, like, 50 books checked out. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t use their local library. It’s my one of my favorite places on this planet. Great post!

  6. I’ve recently given up on my library for the most part. The library I grew up with was fantastic — much like yours — but I moved to a different county last year, and its library system is terrible. You have to pay a fee to put a hold on a book, and if you don’t have time to pick it up, they charge you another fee. You’re only allowed to take a new release out for one week, even if you’ve been on the hold list for months (and you can’t renew if other people are on the hold list). So when three or four books come in at the same time (as they inevitably do), you only have time to read one (mayyyybe two, if they’re short) without racking up late fees.

    I get enough galleys for free that I don’t feel bad about buying a few books a month. It evens out pretty well. And I only buy new books when I am going to read them immediately — that way I haven’t spent a ton of money on books that are going to sit on my TBR shelf for months/years.

    • Oh my gosh, your library system sounds HORRIBLE! Why are they so mean? Jeez. All of these comments have made me realize just how lucky I am to have an awesome library system. And I definitely try to appreciate it and take advantage of it as much as possible!

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  10. Great post. I also have a goal not to spend money on books this year. I’m reading/listening to books I already own and using my library more. I’m thinking of hosting a library challenge in 2015.

  11. I love my library. Almost all the books I read come from there. I haven’t done the math, but it has to be over $500/year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually closer to $1000.

  12. Hi Miranda,
    First of all, your library does sound like a cool place! As a reader, I, too, like the library and understand that reading can be an expensive hobby if you are reading several books a month.
    But… I can’t completely agree with your money-saving plan. I’ll explain. I’m not a big money making author, but a new author in the difficult world of fiction. The authors making a fortune on their books are in the minority. Most authors are either just getting by, or if they are lucky, making a middle class salary.
    As a reader, it’s completely normal that the author’s finances aren’t the first thing that enters your mind when you consider reading a book. But please know that when you purchase a book, you are helping the people writing those great stories to continue writing them. If everyone turned to libraries, giveaways and deep-discount sales for most of their book acquisitions, many writers would have to find other ways to pay the bills!
    I think there has to be a compromise between writer and reader. The writer has to make a living. The reader wants to buy books, but can’t spend a fortune each month. With many books priced from about $3 to $5.99, I think both goals usually can be accomplished.
    Happy reading and thank you for writing about this subject, which indeed has many facets!

    • Thanks for commenting!

      You make a lot of good points. But I definitely do try to support authors as much as possible! That just wasn’t what this post was focused on. For example, in the post, I mention that I borrowed 27 books from the library in 2013. Well, in 2013, I read 156 books. So the rest of those are ones that I either bought or was given as an ARC (I think I read maybe 25 ARCs in 2013?) – that’s a pretty good ratio.

      I think that I’m doing more than my fair share of author-supporting…especially since I’m a 22-year-old recent college grad who just bought her own house. I’m kind of (really) broke right now. The ONLY thing that I choose to spend my money on besides the necessities is books. So I feel like I’m doing a great job, especially in my circumstances, of supporting authors. There’s also more than one way of supporting authors…I tweet with them, write blog posts about their books, and write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so even when I do borrow library books, I’m not leaving the authors out in the cold, trust me.

      Honestly I just think that your comment was a little bit presumptuous: “As a reader, it’s completely normal that the author’s finances aren’t the first thing that enters your mind when you consider reading a book.” I do make a point of thinking about supporting authors when I’m purchasing books, so I think it’s a little unfair of you to assume that I don’t.

      I completely and 100% agree with you that authors deserve support. Maybe people shouldn’t get ALL of their books from the library (and I never said that they should in my post). But I still think that it’s a very good way to save money, and hey…libraries still have to buy their books, so authors do get SOME money from them. And I’m also more likely to read a book by an author I’m unsure about if I can get it from the library for free. What if I end up loving that book and then purchasing it and future books by that author for myself? Libraries also often have programs that support authors in other ways, like featuring certain books as new releases when you walk in the door (which gives them more publicity), and sponsoring book clubs for which the members read books and talk about authors (again, publicity, and maybe some of those people are buying their own copies). And they help non-readers get into reading more — by offering free books, they entice kids (and even adults) to read more often. Once those people become more interested in reading, they’ll probably start buying books for themselves, and they might never have contributed to book-buying if it wasn’t for the library in the first place.

      There are tons of ways that a library-using, money-saving book lover can fully support authors, which I don’t think that you fully took into consideration in your comment. But I appreciate your opinion and thank you again for commenting 🙂

  13. Hi Miranda,
    Thank you for posting my comment and your reply! First of all, I certainly didn’t intend to be presumptuous by saying: “As a reader, it’s completely normal that the author’s finances aren’t the first thing that enters your mind when you consider reading a book.” I say that because I hope that readers are thinking about the joy of reading first and foremost, and I certainly wouldn’t criticize someone who thinks only of that. For those like you who also think of how difficult it is for writers to make a living these day, THANK YOU! (I put it in caps because it’s a really big thank you.) 🙂
    My comments were made in a general sense regarding the idea of relying on the library or deep-discount books. Each person’s situation is different. In some instances, it’s fine to use the library 100 percent of the time! Reading should be accessible to everyone and all budgets.
    But then there are readers who can afford to support authors, but instead will rely on discounts or giveaways most of the time. I’ve known such people. They aren’t terrible, inconsiderate or cheap. They simply have a lot of other things going on in their lives and haven’t stopped to think about the impact on authors. That is why I wanted to present the other side of the subject in my comment on your blog.
    Again, the reason that I felt it was important to share my perspective is that the outlook for fiction sales (other than a handful of well-known writers) is pretty grim. (It’s gotten so bad that even certain established writers who I know are ghost writing to make a living!).
    It’s not my position to judge, but from what you told me, I think you are doing a great job of supporting writers. I think that information is a wonderful complement to your original post. Happy reading!

    • Thanks for replying 🙂 Okay, I see what you’re saying now. I think you were using the general “you,” but to me it sounded like you meant specifically me.

      Wow…there’s people like that? Haha. I guess it makes sense that they exist, but if I had less limited funds, I would support authors even MORE! I know that writers these days have a hard time making money, and that’s why so many of them are switching to self-publishing as it’s easier and, for lesser-known authors can end up making them more money in the long run vs. going the royalties route with a big-name publisher. I try to buy a decent amount of those self-published books, because I know how much it means to those authors.

      Thanks for sharing your opinions 🙂

  14. Yes, I think we’re on the same wavelength now! I meant the general “you.” 🙂 I’m glad we had this discussion! In fact, I think I’m going to address the subject of library/discount books etc. on my own blog in the coming weeks. Please drop by if you can! And I truly feel that reviewing an author’s book or following her/his blog or on Twitter are other great ways of offering support. It seems like you’re doing a great job! 😉

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