Tailored Book Recommendations Tailored Book Recommendations Tailored Book Recommendations
Riot Headline School Librarian Population Declines by 20% In Last Decade

17 Free (Yes, Free!) Bookstores and Where to Find Them

What is a Free Store?

This apparent contradiction in terms is not uncommon in my hippie corner of the world. Essentially, it’s a thrift shop: people donate items they don’t need, volunteers stock them, and customers find a new-to-them piece. The only difference is that free stores don’t put a price on them: everything can be taken for free. The same concept works for books: these free bookstores essentially arrange an ongoing book swap.

How Do Free Bookstores Work?

Each store has their own strategy for surviving without selling their books. For some, it’s just a bonus part of their business or existing nonprofit: a bookcase in the corner of a food kitchen, or just one area of a traditional bookstore. Most rely on volunteers for labor and donations for books, but that still leaves the question of rent, which is why many share space with other organizations. Another strategy is to raise funds for rent, or to forego the physical space altogether by arranging regular book swaps or book giveaways without having a storefront.

The divide between free bookstores and Little Free Libraries can be murky: they both rely on book donations and allow people to take books for free, and ideally both are curated and taken care of by an owner. For the purposes of this post, I categorized any of these structures that at least a full bookcase (not just a few shelves) as a free bookstore, but most of these are much larger.

What’s the Catch?

When researching this post, I noticed that many of these websites had this exact phrase in their FAQ: What’s the catch? These free bookstores range from converted bus stops to browsable storefronts to shelves outside a diner, so they all have their own strategies, but none of them have a catch. Some have limits, which range from one book per customer per day to “as much as you can carry” to 150,000 books per customer per day. Many have limited hours, and they are often more strict about when you can donate books than when you can take them! (Used books always multiply.)

Without further ado, here are ten free bookstores across the U.S., as well as a few international ones, and what you need to know about them.

Free Bookstores in the United States

Denver, Colorado: Little Read Books

  • Address: 2260 California Street
  • Hours: Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website

Denver, Colorado: Counterpath Free Bookstore

  • Address: 7935 East 14th Avenue 
  • Hours: During the Friday food bank (5–6 p.m.), Saturdays 4–6 p.m., by appointment, and any time the building is open to the public
  • How many books can I take? “Take as many as you like”
  • Other info: This is a small free bookstore, only about five shelves

Bloomfield, Connecticut: T&C Free Book Exchange

  • Address: 820 Park Ave Bloomfield, outside of Town and Country Family Restaurant
  • Hours: None listed
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: This is a small free bookstore, only one bookcase

Chicago, Illinois: Books4Free

  • Address: 2931 N. Milwaukee 60618
  • Hours: Monday–Saturday 12–5 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: They focus on children’s books, and they have some school supplies and DVDs as well. They are hoping to open another location in Bronzeville soon!

Baltimore, Maryland: The Book Thing

  • Address: Location is currently closed, but they are holding regular giveaways
  • Hours: Location is currently closed, but they are holding regular giveaways
  • How many books can I take? Limit of 150,000 per day per location (!!)
  • Other info: They are not currently taking donations. Check out their website for the date of the next giveaway.

Muskegon, Michigan: Embrace Books

  • Address: 1050 W Southern Ave
  • Hours: 2nd and 4th Saturdays 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? “As many as you’d like to carry, love, and enjoy.”

Jersey City, New Jersey: Jersey City Free Books

  • Address: 297 Griffith Street (outside)
  • Hours: Check out their Facebook for when books are available
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: Book donations are by appointment

Queens, New York: The Rolling Library

  • Address: 25-82 Steinway Street (Astoria Food Pantry)
  • Hours: Mondays 6–8 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: Claim online to pick up

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Tree House Books

  • Address: 1430 W Susquehanna Ave (outside during COVID)
  • Hours: For now, Monday–Friday 10 a.m.–1 p.m., weather-permitting
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: They focus on children’s books. “Due to COVID-19, our hours are limited and we are not opening the inside to the public. A wide range of books are outside — weather permitting — on Monday-Friday from 10am to 1pm.”

Norfolk, Virginia: The Big Free Bookstore

  • Address: 880 North Military Highway (in Military Circle Mall)
  • Hours: Monday–Saturday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sunday 12–6 p.m. (mall hours)
  • How many books can I take? two books per household, up to two visits a week
  • Other info: They just opened in 2021!

Seattle, Washington: Estelita’s Library

  • Address: 2533 16th Ave S
  • Hours: Temporarily closed due to COVID
  • How many books can I take? Restrictions aren’t specific on website: “Estelita’s Library’s model is to build upon the traditional bookstore model and include community book lending. The space and books are open to everyone, at no charge.”
  • Other info: Focus on social justice. They have been giving away boxes of groceries for free during COVID!

To those asking why the iconic Bay Area Free Book Exchange is not on this list, it has unfortunately closed! RIP Bay Area Free Book Exchange.

International Free Bookstores

Ottawa, Canada: Twice Upon a Time

  • Address: 33 Quill Street (Overbrook Community Centre)
  • Hours: Saturdays 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Wednesdays 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? one per visit
  • Other info: This is a children’s bookstore.

Rennes, France: les Bibliothèque de Rue

Jerusalem: The First Station Reading Station

  • Address: David Remez St 4 (The First Station)
  • Hours: Sunday–Thursday 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
  • How many books can I take? No restrictions listed on website
  • Other info: It looks like there are a lot of other street libraries in Jerusalem, but the language barrier means I’m having trouble getting information on most of them.

Karachi, Pakistan: Street Library

  • Address: 242 Fatima Jinnah Road
  • Hours: This is outdoors, so most likely 24/7!
  • How many books can I take? Honor system
  • Other info: This is essentially a giant Little Free Library!

Manila, Philippines: The Book Stop Project

  • Address: Plaza Roma 1002 Intramuros and Paseo De Roxas St Cor Makati Ave (Ayala Triangle Gardens)
  • Hours: This is outdoors, so most likely 24/7!
  • How many books can I take? “Books can only be exchanged with books.”

Lisboa, Portugal: Reading Booth

  • Address: Praça de Londres 10
  • Hours: This is outdoors, so most likely 24/7!
  • How many books can I take? Should exchange each book for another.

Have we missed any free bookstores that you know of? Let us know on social media! It’s 2021: Little Free Libraries are out, free bookstores are in.

Start an Audiobooks.com Free Trial and listen to all your faves!