Many new and start-up libraries are looking for ways to acquire books cheaply because of their small budgets. In 1992, I wrote an article for Against the Grain about finding resources to build collections. The ideas in that article are still useful and it can be downloaded from the Purdue University site here. Updating the information in my article, there are additional resources which include digital collections of Project Gutenberg , The Hathi-Trust, and many other free book sites. Using the search terms “free book resources” in a Google search, you will come up with many resources–mostly ebooks, and additional sites for “free textbooks.” One such sight has a listing of eleven of the best sites for textbooks.
Beyond free books, you can find resources for used books, these include eBay, Amazon, and Powell’s books. One thing to be aware of is bookjacking, similar to the flipping of real estate. The book is listed at a very large markup, the Bookjacker get the customer, then buy the book from the original owner and make a large profit selling at the marked-up price. So just be sure to do a thorough internet search for the book you want before making a purchase. It’s also possible to find stolen books through some of those sellers, which could be called ‘bookjacking’ too. One of the sites covering these issues is Zubal books and their site, a resource for cheap books, ‘books-by-the-foot.” Their site also lists those known bookjacking sellers here.
Finally, many libraries are reporting ways they weed books–the used, the abused, the discards, and donations which can’t be kept. It seems many have rules against accepting donations. Covering the giving away part, the American Library Association (ALA) has developed a listing of resources mostly for donating or recycling books. Information about this outgoing process is here: http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet12 and here: https://delicious.com/alalibrary/bookdonations. This includes ideas for exchanges, which can also be a tool for building your small library collection.