Jessica Ryan
Jessica Ryan

I just returned from an awesome trip to San Diego, a beautiful city I'd never visited before. Naturally, even as a confused gaper tourist wandering aimlessly around the pedestrian-only Seaport Village, I managed to find a bookstore. I told my mom I just wanted to pop in "real quick" to see what it was like.

Twenty minutes later, Mom was convinced I'd been kidnapped, and I was filled with so much book lust I thought I was going to burst. But with an already over-packed suitcase and under-funded book budget, I couldn't bring myself to buy anything. It broke my poor nerdy heart.

With my Kindle taking its last gasps of battery breath a few thousand feet somewhere over the desert, I was left with time to think about some of the best ways to read on the cheap.

Obvi, the public library is a solid place to start. The Boulder Public Library has five branches, including one dedicated to local history. The search system on their website is solid, and you can even borrow eBooks and audiobooks from them. Library cards are free (sweet!) and they'll sometimes let you choose from a handful of awesome Boulder-themed designs.

CU students also have easy access to all the libraries on campus, from Norlin to music and math. But you aren't limited just to Norlin; CU's libraries are part of the Prospector program, where libraries across the state lend books to one another. There are dozens of Prospector members; simply run a Prospector search, put in your library number, and they'll send it to your branch for pickup. The general public can purchase borrowing privileges from CU libraries for $75 per year, but they don't have access to Prospector loans. But lucky for them, the Boulder Public Library is also a Prospector member.


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Used bookstores are always a great source for inexpensive books — plus, you can trade a few of your tomes to pick up some extra cash. The Boulder Book Store on Pearl has a used book program, and Red Letter Books a few blocks east is packed from floor to ceiling with any book you could imagine. If you feel like straying from downtown a bit, The Bookworm, on 28th Street, has rows and rows of used books for your reading pleasure. And most thrift stores have book sections with flat rates for paperbacks and hardcovers — you may be surprised what you could find at Goodwill for 50 cents.

If you're itching for a less traditional route to getting books without breaking the bank, how about this? Host a "BYOB" party — bring your own books. Invite friends to bring two or three favorites and arrange either a swap or a lending system. You can serve literary-themed foods and drinks, build a playlist of songs inspired by your favorite stories, and just have a good-ole' nerdy time. Plus, you'll leave with some sweet party favors.

Jess Ryan writes about nerdy things once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.