Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this page. This helps keep this site running
Here I show you where to buy discount books online so that you won't break the bank getting the book your child wants. Fortunately, you've got tons of choice beyond Amazon and major book stores. I'll separate out the stores according to whether they're for new books or used books.
If your child is required to read specific books for language arts at school, rest assured you should be able to find the title at any of the stores below.
All of these stores have books for kids and for grown-ups, so you can find something for everyone in the family.
Whether you should get new vs used books
The final decision between new and used books is up to you.
Used books can be better for the environment and usually cheaper too. But new books help support the author who wrote the books, and as an added bonus you can be absolutely certain of no damage to the books. It's up to you what to get.
Be aware that occasionally you'll have no choice between new and used books. This is because if your child wants a book that's been published within the last couple of years, odds are that there are not many used copies around just yet, so you'll have to buy new. Even if you find a used copy of a recently published book, there's not going to be much price difference between that and a new one.
Conversely, if your child wants a book that turns out to be no longer in print, you'll have to buy it used.
Don't worry too much about that for now - start by shopping around and see what works for you. Here are all of my favorite places for cheap books online.
Cheap new books online
Books A Million
Books A Million is the best go-to for new books at a cheap price point. As their name suggests, they have an awesome range of books. You can take a look at their children's books here and their teen books here.
Walmart has a surprisingly large selection of brand-new discount books available for online purchase - much more than you'll see in-store. I was able to find most of the books on my child's reading list there. If you shop anyway for household supplies at Walmart and want to add books to your order then this is the perfect option for you.
If you're looking for a well-known title then Walmart will have it, but otherwise a bookstore will be a better bet.
Of course, you can conveniently buy kids books new at Amazon.com. This one of the best-known online book sellers for new books. Their listings will show you the new version of the book by default.
They also offer you the advantage of doing an excellent job at showing you other books you'll like based on one book, so if you're browsing for inspiration then that is the place to go. As example, if your child likes and already owns the popular Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan (the link will take you to the listing, if you're curious) then you just scroll down the page and it'll show you similar books that you'll like.
So Amazon is the best option for online browsing because it'll predict pretty accurately some other titles you'll like based on viewing one title that you know you like.
As a parent, I also love the "look inside" feature at Amazon, since it'll show you a few pages and it allows you to get a feel for the vocabulary and style to see if it's at your child's level.
Cheap used books online
AbeBooks.com is awesome for cheap used books. In addition to used books, they also sell new books, so it's a great one-stop place for comparison shopping.
AbeBooks is a marketplace like Amazon, meaning that individual booksellers and bookstores sell their stock on AbeBooks. This means shipping prices can vary a little bit depending on which seller you're buying from, but I've noticed most sellers try to keep shipping as low as possible.
eBay is another great place to buy cheap used books online. It's a marketplace where individual people (mom and pop stores) can sell their books. Reliability can vary from seller to seller. If you buy from eBay, check the seller's feedback rating first. I personally would not buy from anyone with a rating of less than 99.0%, but your cutoff is up to you.
I've had no delays for items that I've purchased from eBay sellers shipping domestically within the US, but be aware if you're buying from a seller who is located overseas, it could take some time for the book to make its way over to you. So in the item listing, check where it's coming from before buying. To make your life easier, you can apply search limits: both on mobile and on desktop you have the option to limit your search results to your country.
Used books on Amazon
Many people don't realize that you can buy used books on Amazon! See my tutorial just below - this is a great life hack when you want to buy books online cheap. The used books on Amazon are sold by individual sellers; these typically ship direct from the seller and not from an Amazon warehouse. So you'll get an experience that's closer to AbeBooks or eBay when you buy a used book on Amazon.
If you've never bought used on Amazon, it's quite easy. I'll illustrate it on a computer but it's the same general process on mobile. First you find the book title that you want, and it will show you the prices for the new item. As an example, I'll pretend I want to buy Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume - the link will take you directly to the listing on Amazon, and at this point your screen should like like the one below. Then click on "...used from $...." under the paperback edition as shown below.
They have the link in teeny-tiny writing so it's easy to miss if you don't know. Anyway, once you click on the bit that I've circled, you'll get a list of each of the pre-owned copies that are available for purchase, then you can pick the one you want and proceed as you normally would with Amazon checkout.
I'll be frank that this is not my favorite place for used books. This is because the price plus shipping is often quite high.
Be careful to look not only at the price but also at the shipping cost, which will be clearly listed in the used book list. In some situations, by the time you add the seller's shipping cost, it can cost a similar amount or even more than ordering it new! This is because Amazon charges relatively high fees for people to sell on their platform (compared to AbeBooks or eBay for example), which means that Amazon sellers then wind up passing along those charges to you with higher shipping costs.
Pre-owned books on Amazon are generally not Prime-eligible, so even if you have a Prime membership it won't help you there.
You have plenty of options when it comes to buying cheap books online. For new books, I recommend Books A Million, Walmart and Amazon.com. For used books, I recommend AbeBooks.com, eBay, or Amazon.
If your child attends school or preschool, you might like to take a look at my list of school lunch ideas for picky eaters. It will make life so much easier in the mornings when packing lunch for your kids! And don't miss out on knowing the 6 best budget-friendly kids clothing stores.