For the past year or so, both Autodesk Maya and Maxon CINEMA 4D have been offering "student" versions for free. I don't have a link, but I see this mentioned all the time in my son's minecraft forums, where there are a number kids making YouTube videos with Maya or C4D.
As someone who is proficient in both of those programs, I will state flatly that there are no good books for learning CINEMA 4D. For years, I have been buying books in English and German in an effort to learn the program, and none of them are particularly good. (If anyone wants to recommend one, I will buy it and read it.)
On the other hand, I was able to learn Maya within a month or two using a combination of YouTube videos and the two most popular books on Autodesk Maya on Amazon. (I forget the names...) It's not that Maya is so much easier than C4D, it's just that the teaching is done by professional educators, not 3D artists who fancy themselves teachers. It seems that Autodesk is involved directly in their training...
I would also add that you can buy a lot of 3D models for cheap on the web nowadays. That way, you only have to know how to make modifications to existing models, which is much easier than doing the modeling yourself.