Where to Buy (Cheap!) Language Textbooks and Books in Different Languages

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Between books, lessons, and app and website subscriptions, the cost of learning a new language quickly adds up. 

So how was I able to build a 100+ language book library as a college student? 

Secondhand books! 

Other than the books I bought while travelling in Europe and several books I purchased for my French degree, almost all of my language learning textbooks and books in different target languages have been bought secondhand for extremely low prices. 

Whether you’re trying to collect novels to create an expansive foreign language home library or you’re just looking for a textbook to get started with a new language, knowing where to look for secondhand language books can save you hundreds of dollars. 



Quality of Secondhand Books 

You might be worried that secondhand books are so cheap because they’re a lower quality than new books. 

In reality, that’s not the case! 

Used books have the same content as their brand new counterparts, just at a lower cost. 

Plus, buying books secondhand doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be getting books in bad condition. It doesn’t even mean you’ll be getting used books at all! 

Often, people buy books with the intention of learning a new language or reading a certain book only to sell them untouched when interest fades. 

As the saying goes, another person’s trash might end up being your treasure! 



Library Book Sales 

While I’m not sure how common library book sales are outside of the United States, I do know everyone should check if they have one in their area.


What is a Library Sale? 

Libraries use sales to raise funds for events, books, and other expenses. 

At the sale, they sell books they no longer want in their collection as well as books and media donated by the public throughout the year. 

Because books come from both the library itself and donations, library sales tend to have a wide variety of items for sale for very low prices. 


Language Textbooks for Under a Dollar 

Since sales often only last a weekend, libraries are eager to get books sold as quickly as possible. 

The result? 

Cheap books that only get cheaper as the weekend draws to a close. 

My hometown’s library sale priced books at $5 or less initially. On the last day, shoppers could buy a paper grocery bag for $5-10 dollars and leave with as many books, DVDs, and records as they could fit inside (and spilling over top of) it. 

Every year, I’d wait for the last day of the sale, buy a bag, and fill it with tons of language related books, even ones I was only mildly interested in. 

As time has gone on, I’ve become a lot pickier with the books in my home library and have gotten rid of a lot of the books from those sales, but they’ll always still be my secret to getting cheap books.

You might be thinking your library won’t have any language related stuff at its book sale, but I can almost assure you that it does. 

A lot of people decide they want to learn a new language as their New Year’s resolution or learn language before they go on vacation to another country, but ultimately don’t continue with it. 

Even if you’re from a small, undiverse town like I am originally, library sales can give you the chance to support your local library by turning someone else’s abandoned resolution into your treasure.



Used Bookstores 

Though massive library sales will only come once or twice a year, used bookstores sell low-cost language books year-round. 

Whether you’re in your home town or travelling, even used bookstores that don’t advertise having any kind of language books often have new and used language textbooks and foreign novels to choose from.

The languages represented and types of books will vary store to store, so looking in multiple stores or checking back at the same stores to see what’s available can be a lot of fun! 


Thrift Stores 

While a used bookstore seems like an obvious place to look for used language books, a thrift store might seem a little less relevant. 

Don’t write it off! 

Every time I’m at a thrift store, I look around the book section. Sometimes I find nothing, sometimes I only find books I’m uninterested in, but sometimes I find textbooks and novels I’ve been considering paying full price for!

Much like used book sales, thrift stores aren’t a great place to go into with a specific book in mind. But if you go in with an open mind, you’ll be surprised at how much you can find!



Don’t want to leave your house? Don’t worry! 

As the world’s largest online independent used book seller, Thriftbooks offers a ton of used language books. 

It’s also one of my absolute favourite places to buy books. 

I’ve gotten countless books through Thriftbooks, including an order of 7 books for $32. 

As is the case for all secondhand stores, book condition can vary. Luckily, Thriftbooks states the condition of each available copy of any given book, so you can ensure you get what you want. 

If you’re looking for a lot of new (to you) books, you’ll also love Thriftbooks’ reward system. You can earn points towards free books every time you place an order, by using the app, and for celebrating your birthday. 

Whenever I decide to buy a book online, the first place I check is Thriftbooks. So if this section felt like an ad despite this post not being sponsored, it’s probably because I myself am a walking ad for Thriftbooks. 

I love it so much and want everyone else to get to love it too. 




With secondhand bookstores and sales, the huge language learning library you’ve been dreaming of doesn’t have to be just a dream. 

Whether you’re learning a language on a budget or just want to make a more sustainable choice by getting your books used, library book sales, online and in-person used bookstores, and thrift stores are the secret to buying language books for low prices. 

Where’s your favourite place to buy books? 

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