I have neglected my reading habit for far too long. And you might think, that you'll have even less time for it, when you go exploring. But especially when you live in a van, you'll find yourself wishing for some reading material quite often.

Reading on the Road – 6 Tips on How to find Free Books while Travelling

Let me explain quickly: Sometimes you prefer staying in your little mobile home when it pours down outside. And sometimes you don’t feel like partying so much after all, and stay home for the night (Over the last couple of years, I have turned into the kind of person who prefers to stay at home with a cup of tea, rather than going out with vodka).
And in those times I either work, watch movies (or series) or… I get reading.

Travels and reading combined rockBut even when you’re not enjoying the vanlife and travel any other way, most people will quickly find out, that it’s not easy to take your entire bookshelf with you in a rucksack.
I have to admit, I am guilty of this. I still have far too many books in the van. But I’m working on it.

At the end of the day, you’ll want to have one book at the time or start reading ebooks. And if you are really clever, you read on and find out, how to get those for free and preferably pass them on to the next happy reader.



1. Give & Take Bookshelves

Recently they seem to pop up in public spaces like mushrooms in a misty forest. Public give & take bookshelves are a blessing for every bookworm who spends their time rather on reading books than on earning the money to buy them.

Free Books on the RoadThe concept is simple: If you have spare books that you don’t need anymore, you bring them there and leave them for the next person who wants to disappear inside the pages. If you are looking for something worth reading, you go there, have a look on what’s available and take it for free.

Many of the bigger cities in the first world have started to set those open shelves up for the people that live there. But sometimes they are not as official. Often, they are little guerilla projects of local people who decided to turn the abandoned phone booth at the corner into something useful.
Ask the search engine of your choice about the city your journey led you to.

Also, many places that offer workaways or volunteer jobs in return for accommodation and food, tend to have a little give & take bookshelf. And if your current hosts don’t have one yet, why not suggest it to them? Maybe they have some books they wanted to swap anyway?



2. Go Book Hunting

Now we are going after the wilder books. They were sent away to travel the world just like you do. You could find them in an London Underground train, a Peruvian hospital or in a cave near Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world.

And the best part about it is: With a bit of luck, you can even find exactly the book you were looking for. How, you ask?

You can find free books anywhere in the worldIf you check out BookCrossing.com you will find the answer. This awesome community of people sets their books free in a public place to be found by some other reading addict. Every book gets it’s own label and number to be registered on the website – together with it’s whereabouts.

So, while you can find these books basically anywhere, you even have a great chance of finding specific reading material by using the search function in a bigger city.

When you picked up one of these little hidden treasures, make sure to change it’s status on the website. Also, be so fair and set it free again after you read it. Let other people know about the new hideaway on the registry as well.

If you want to send a book of your’s on a journey, you simply let the page generate a new sort number for it, print out the explanation label (print shops are an awesome thing… In the worst case you can also write everything by hand) and stick it in the back of the book.

Always keep the books save from humidity and moisture. If you decide to hide it outside, you could put it in an air sealed plastic bag.


3. Ebook Reading Rocks!

I know, I know. I love the smell of real books too. Almost as much as I love flipping paper pages. Reading real ink is amazing. BUT.

But you have to give those ebook readers so much credit, that they are incredibly useful and practical. You can save thousands of books onto them and even more into the cloud with some services. They are much lighter and in many cases also smaller than actual books.
AND you can get a lot of ebooks for free. So many, as a matter of fact, they alone pay off the cost of the device.

An ebook reader is your library at your fingertips: Perfect for travelling!Personally, I own an Amazon Kindle (aff: US, UK, DE) and I am very happy with it. The battery lasts for weeks and the display doesn’t glow, like a tablet would, which makes it look pretty much like a normal piece of paper. Also you don’t run into damaging your eyes while reading.

Many of the ebooks I have on there, I downloaded for free. Amazon gives Kindle published Authors the opportunity to promote their books with free special offers for five days within every three months. There are plenty of websites out there, that search for those books every day, to send them to you in a daily email, so you don’t miss a thing.
Pixel of Ink is a great resource for English books. If you happen to be looking for German books, you can have a look at one of my former online projects BuchRegen.

Also, Amazon made all the classic literature that’s in the public domain free of charge.

I seriously can only recommend it!

PS.: Not necessarily free of charge, but packed with high quality travel tips and coming with a version that you could be reading on every ebook reader, tablet or computer out there: Travel More – my Field Guide to Travelling on a small Budget. Just sayin’.


4. Turn your Bookshelf Digital

[emaillocker id=1302] This tip doesn’t necessarily require you reading ebooks. So don’t worry, all you bibliophiles out there!

When we travel, we try to travel light. Therefore it makes sense to only keep one or two books in your rucksack. You will quickly learn this lesson, once you’ve carried six books with you, trust me.

Try to carry only one or two books at a time with you.Many people have a hard time, giving books away, even after they have read them. And I totally understand that. I’m struggling with the same problem.

But I think I have found a solution to the problem after all. I tried to figure out why I had such a hard time, giving away a book that I might never read again. Whether it was good or not.
My conclusion was, that I liked being reminded of their existence and be able to reread them, if I felt like it.

So my solution was, to start making a list of all the books I have read, including a star rating and a review. Once that is done, I let go of the book and make sure it finds a new dedicated reader.
If I ever feel like it, I can go through my list and find books again. And if it’s really urgent, I simply buy it again or find it for free with one of the methods mentioned above.

I prefer to make my book list public and let others know what I thought about my books. Goodreads.com is a great platform for exactly this. They also provide a mobile app (on Android or iPhone) to manage your books.

(Oh, and in their forums you can find another list of free Kindle ebooks)

This little trick made my life much easier and I’m happy, I stumbled upon it. Now I don’t have to worry about forgetting about books I’ve already read anymore, without carrying a library with me.



5. Keep your Blog Reading together!

Who says reading can only happen in books? As a matter of fact, I learn a lot from other sources like blogs. I don’t even want to know how many to-books-up-adding blog posts I have read. My GoodReads book goal for this year would be met so much faster…

One major problem is, to keep up with all my favourite blogs. Especially in the times when I don’t have internet. But worry not. In the age of phones and tablets that aim to be even smarter than you, there’s a convenient solution for every problem.

RSS readers are on their deathbed, it seems. they were meant to bring you the freshest content of all the blogs you subscribed to. But there is one, that doesn’t feel like an RSS reader after all, that seems to survive. Actually it has gained a lot of traction since the rest of them has started to go down the drain.

FeedlyNo matter if book or blog article: Reading is reading. is one of the most used apps on my mobile devices. You sign up, subscribe to the About Wings blog easily and get all the freshest tips and tricks about how to travel more often and more cheaply presented in a beautiful magazine layout. Obviously you can subscribe to other blogs as well 😉
Due to it’s minimalistic design, the app also doesn’t eat up much of your mobile internet, when loading the articles.

But don’t get me wrong! I don’t read a lot in the feedly app!
As a matter of fact, I hardly ever read directly in feedly.

After all, you can only use feedly when you are on the internet. I – and many other travellers – however, want to be able to read all these articles offline as well. At this moment in time I don’t get internet in the van very often.

So, if I happen to see an article I’m interested in on feedly (or anywhere else on the internet), I tend to save it into my Pocket account. Even if you don’t lack the internet frequently Pocket is very useful for the situations when you see an article and simply don’t have the time to read it. With one click at the Pocket button (you get them as Chrome and Firefox extension and feedly even offers a setup for a save-to-Pocket button) your article gets saved to your device. You can decide the max number of data storage you want to use for it and whether you prefer the original website view or their reader- and data friendly article view.

Together, Pocket and Feedly are killer and I couldn’t recommend them more to any blog addict!



6. Keep your Real Life Bookshelf small

As mentioned above, I’m totally guilty of not implementing this advice enough myself so far. But I don’t travel with a rucksack at the moment. I have an entire van to fill up with books! 😉

Robin thinks reading is an important part of living in a van or on the roadJust kidding. Obviously, I’m trying to read the 12 books, I carry with me as quickly as possible. But you’ll will find out really soon, that it’s not easy to take only one book from a give & take bookshelf. Many times you simply find several books you would love to read and would be scared to miss out on.

But at the end of the day, books take up space in the rucksack and feed on fuel if you travel in your own vehicle.

So probably the biggest tip of them all is to have as little books as possible on you.

  • It’s good advice to only go to book hunting, when you just finished reading your latest book.
  • Don’t get carried away when you are on BookCrossing or in front of a give & take bookshelf. If there are several books you’d like to read, decide which one is the most desired, take only this one and jot the rest down on your GoodReads ‘Want to Read’ list. And if it’s really urgent, you can always buy them for your Kindle (aff: US, UK, DE) for a few bucks.
  • If it’s meant to be, you will find your desired books for free when their time has come.




Reading is important and can benefit your travel experience a lot. And the most beautiful thing about it: It doesn’t have to cost a dime.


If this article helped you in any way make sure to share it with your friends and followers!

How do you get your books for free or a slim budget? How many books do you carry with you? So many questions. I’d love to read your answers down in the comment area! It’s also the right place if you have more questions yourself.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies, the detection of the country you visit this page from and the language of your browser. All to give you a better experience. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.