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Smart Spending: Beach reading stock-up tips

Thursday - 6/13/2013, 3:48pm  ET

MAE ANDERSON
AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Summer is around the corner, and it's time to stock up on all your summer beach reads. But with the expense that it takes to pay for the vacation itself, no one wants to spend a lot on beachy entertainment. Here's how to save some pennies that can go to other summer splurges:

-- GRAB A DEAL ON AN E-READER NOW:

Prices have been dropping pretty regularly for years, says Simba Information analyst Michael Norris, while quality has been going up and up.

Now Nook tablets offer the entire Google Play app store, which includes thousands of apps. If you act ahead of Father's Day this Sunday, you can find Barnes & Noble's 7-inch Nook HD $70 off for $129 and its 12-inch Nook HD+ $120 off for $149.

Meanwhile, Amazon.com's Kindle Fire HD is $20 off, starting at $179, with the promo code DADSFIRE. It offers its own selection of apps like Netflix and HBO Go.

-- FIND CHEAP ELECTRONIC BOOKS:

A full-price e-book can cost almost as much as a regular paper book, but there are ways to get bargains.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have self-publishing platforms that offer free or low-price self-published books. Amazon's Kindle singles offer pieces that are longer than a magazine article but shorter than a book -- by unknowns and famous authors alike -- for 99 cents to $4.99.

Both Nook and Kindle also let users temporarily lend certain books they own to friends.

"You have to be willing to sift through a lot of junk in order to find something that's really good," he says. If you're willing to be flexible, Barnes & Noble and Amazon also offer daily discounts on books, so be on the alert to find one that suits you.

-- FORGET CHEAP. HOW ABOUT FREE?

If you don't want to pay anything for your beach reading, that's a possibility, too.

First, the Kindle and Nook both have lending services. The Kindle Owners Lending Library includes more than 270,000 books that are free to borrow, including more than 100 New York Times best sellers. Nook, on the other hand, offers a LendMe service which lets users who own a book with a "LendMe" icon lend it to their friends for a set period of time.

Also, public libraries have gotten a lot better in lending e-books in the past year or two. If you tried it before and had a bad experience, now may be the time to give it another try, Norris says. Publishers that once did not let libraries lend out e-books have largely negotiated agreements with libraries.

"There are a lot more e-books available out of the library than there were a few years ago, and a lot more coming," Norris says.

It is still a little-used feature, though. About 14 percent of e-book users borrowed at least one e-book from a library in 2012, according to Simba's Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2013 report.

There are caps on how many e-book copies of a book libraries can lend, though, so while there may be a long wait for this year's hot beach reads, do some research and find summer picks from a year or two ago -- those are likely to have less of a wait and be just as entertaining.

To get started, check out your library's Web site or talk to a librarian. Many offer the books in a Kindle format or ePub format, which works with Nooks.

-- CHECK OUT A 'LITTLE' LIBRARY

If you're looking for free beach reading that isn't electronic, there's one option to look for that has been sprouting up all over the U.S.: Tiny birdhouse-like structures found everywhere from residential neighborhoods to outside coffee shops called the Little Free Library.

The little structures serve as book swaps: anyone can take a book or leave a book. The idea began in Wisconsin and has spread through communities across the country, sponsored by different community groups and individuals. For more information or to find out if one is near you, check out littlefreelibrary.org.


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