How to Find Books in Your Community

Here are a few tips and tricks for finding low-cost and free books in local communities. 


Publishers send advance review or reader copies of new titles to news outlets and bookstores so they can promote and review forthcoming books. These ARC's cannot be resold, and they are often in excellent condition. Contact newspapers, news stations, and book outlets in your city about whether they have a supply of ARC's lying around.

Library Sales

Almost all public libraries in New England have a "Friends of" fundraising arm. Most of these groups earn extra money for their library by holding one or more book sales throughout the year. Near the end of the sale, you can often get good deals on bags or boxes of books. Some generous groups invite nonprofits to come at the end of the sale and take anything they want..

Social Media Groups

If your area has a neighbors helping neighbors or "buy nothing" group on social media, join it. Post that you are interested in paperback books. Set up alerts for the word "books" on online marketplaces like Craigslist. Avid readers can get emotionally attached to their books and want them to go to someone who will really appreciate them. Let the book lovers in your network know that you can give their books a good home.

Local Partners

Find a local partner to help you find books. Churches, fraternities, sororities, book clubs, and local service groups are great options. We have heard of local groups like this "adopting" a library in their local prison or jail and frequently running book drives to keep it stocked with good reading material.

Frequently Asked Questions: Our Services for People in Prison

People in prison can write us a letter (via postal mail) and ask for books. The letter should include their name, address, and inmate ID number. It is best to request genres of books rather than specific titles. We also have an online book request form that can be used by people inside or their family and friends.

We encourage readers to request genres instead of specific titles. The books in our library vary widely depending on who donates them. We cannot guarantee that we have a specific title in stock. 

Prison Book Program now has an online book request form where you can request books on behalf of your loved one. 

Currently, we serve federal facilities in all 50 states. As of February 2023, the only state facilities we do not serve are in Michigan and Texas. We are gradually seeking to become an authorized vendor in California state facilities on a request-by-request basis.

Even if we serve your jurisdiction, there are always individual facilities that simply will not accept books from our program. 

Most people say they heard about us through word of mouth. We are also actively trying to publicize our services more broadly.

All kinds of books. We find that with a few exceptions, the reading interests of folks in prison mimic those of the general public. Dictionaries are our most popular request – by far. We send out more than 3,500 per year. Other popular titles include thesauruses, small business startup, drawing, exercise, fiction of all kinds, religion and much more.

People in prison use them for various reasons – writing letters to family, writing legal appeals, or just trying to understand unfamiliar words in the other books we send. Many people enter prison with limited reading skills and use their time to change that. Frustrated by his inability to express himself, Malcolm X famously educated himself by copying every word in the dictionary and then using his expanded vocabulary to read most of the books in the library at MCI-Norfolk, where he was incarcerated from 1948-1952.

Our selection of books depends on what people donate. Topics available vary widely. We also buy dictionaries, thesauri, GED study guides, and other high-demand books as we can afford them.

In addition to books, we have a self-published legal reference, a resource list of organizations that help people in prison, and a few other booklets that cover topics that prisoners frequently request.

Most books are donated by individuals just like you. Occasionally, publishers and authors donate extra copies of their books. We also buy dictionaries, thesauri, and GED study guides in bulk. Many generous people donate new books through our online wish lists too. 

You can request a book on behalf of your loved one, but you cannot provide it. We will not fill requests from people who want to provide the book and have us send it to their designated person. If someone wants to send a specific title to a specific person, the book must come from a retailer, publisher or bookstore.