Feed your book habit for free

Bookworms can get their literary fix for free while helping the environment, thanks to a number of innovative schemes around the UK

Fancy curling up with a good book? How about a free book? If you’re a serious bookworm with a habit to feed and can’t afford to stock up, make a date with one of the many book ‘freetailers’ run by Books for Free across the UK.

An initiative of Healthy Planet, a charity focused on sustainability, Books for Free exists to put books that would otherwise end up in landfill or be pulped into the hands of eager readers.

“We have over 30 centres throughout the UK, run by over 180 volunteers,” says founder Shaylesh Patel, adding that the charity has rescued over 2 million books in the two years it’s been up and running. “We’re able to do this through the support of high street locations and landlords giving us their space rent-free as well as giving us a donation.”

Offerings range from adult and children’s literature through to blockbusters, picture books, cookery books, biographies and non-fiction, and all are hungrily devoured by visitors.

“Turnover is rapid,” says Patel. “People who use the shops often return to recycle them or make donations, and we also get books from secondhand dealers. We’ve also found that many centres are evolving to become community hubs. A Books for Free shop in Upminster has even become the site of a knitting club for seniors.”

Meanwhile, villages across the UK whose library services are diminished or suspended have, with the aid of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme, taken to turning old, unused red telephone boxes into much-loved community book exchanges. In the Derbyshire village of Little Eaton, for example, a public payphone purchased by the parish council for the princely sum of £1 was transformed into a mini-library and is kept stocked through local donations.

Book fiends without a book exchange or library in their local area aren’t missing out either. ReadItSwapIt.co.uk has over 350,000 books available for readers to swap with other members for free – only modest postage charges apply.