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How to Get Your Hands on Books For Less: A Guide for Germany Newcomers

While I am reading what seems like an endless amount of books at once, jumping from Anthony Doerr, to James Barr to Noam Chomsky to Erich Maria Remarque and what else I have on my bedside table, I thought I should dedicate a post to the topic of books, now that it has been quite a literary week for me.

In Berlin books are quite a luxury, especially for bookworms who at the same time are enrolled in university. I am amazed at how most of my professors on the other hand, show up to class with newly bought reading material of their own nearly every week or so.

If you also belong to this species of book longing college students, here are some ideas of mine on how to get your hands on books for free or a low price.

Go to the library

First of all, there are of course our good old libraries. Each district in Berlin has at least one and almost all of Berlin’s libraries are public, except for a few others and those that belong to our three universities. What most of my collegemates keep asking me though is how to get a library card and because I get that question so often from all the newcomers, I thought I answer that  for a larger audience. So here is what you have to do:

  • In order to get a library card you have to go to a public library first.
  • Make sure to bring your passport (or whatever other ID you have) and your proof of residence in Berlin. Without these two you won’t get very far. You have to have registered your residence in order to apply!!
  • Also, don’t forget your Student ID (student IDs in Berlin are usually only valid in connection with a passport so mind you that one won’t replace the other).
  • Go to the information desk at the library and say that you want a new card. Membership costs € 10 a year right now. Five euros if you are a student in Germany, hence the student ID.

Once you have a library card, you may use it in all public libraries in Berlin, so you are not limited to the one in your neighborhood only. Most libraries have a big selection on movies and CDs. Nowadays you can also borrow paintings that you have to return after a month or so. Popular with students who share flats and are sick of their bare walls. Through the online library catalogue you can also borrow ebooks which you can then read on your computer and which will basically “make themselves unusable” after two weeks so don’t worry about returning deadlines.

Books for small donations 

Some libraries also have stands with books that people decided to give away. If there is something you like, you may take it and keep it for a small donation. The good thing is that it is all up to you how much you want to donate. There are new items in the shelves nearly every day.

Second-hand bookshops

I have not been to any of those personally, but I have been told that such places exist. Many times you will be able to find cheap books in shops that sell antiques (the books themselves don’t always have to be antique though). One shop that I have been recommended is the Saint George’s English Bookshop that also has used books for cheap.

Flea markets

The most famous flea market in Berlin is probably the one at Mauerpark which takes place every Sunday. Also, if you happen to find yourself near the Humboldt University close to the Bebelplatz, you may see people selling their old books and comic books in front of the gates to the main building.

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  • Reply
    March 2, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    This is a great list! I used to like East of Eden but they closed. So sad. Now I pretty much depend entirely on the library in Zehlendorf. I couldn’t live without books!

  • Reply
    Hannah Jeffrey
    March 24, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Hi there! A group of us from the University of South Carolina will be in Munich in May, working on a project about German body image. We’d love to have someone show us around once we’re there or give us a few pointers about the city. Any chance you can help us out? Hope to hear from you soon.

  • Reply
    A Book Nerd’s Heaven | The Berlinish Journal
    March 16, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    […] a year ago I wrote about where to find cheap books in Berlin. I remember mentioning antiquarian bookshops but deep down I have never been sure […]

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