Also known as “biblioholism,” you might be one of the many who cannot stop buying books, despite the size of your home library or the percentage of your library you haven’t read. You want to sample new authors, keep up with your favorites, get to know the classics, and of your favorite books, you probably want every edition or cover printing you can find. As you also know, this can be expensive. Here is how to save.
Used book stores/thrift stores
Most towns have one. If you prefer to browse books in person your local used book store might become your haven. It is necessary to enjoy a good hunt sometimes, as organization can be lacking and categorization varies from store to store. Most used book stores have some sort of computerized cataloguing system so they can keep track of stock levels, but don’t take it for granted. Thrift stores will definitely not, but a classic for a quarter is hard to beat if you can find it. If you don’t have a specific book in mind, used book stores are still most book lovers’ favorite way to save, as supporting local businesses is always the way to go when possible and browsing in person is simply more fun than browsing online.
Used book websites
If you don’t have the time to hunt locally for something specific and are computer savvy, online used book stores are really just unparalleled for speed and price if you require an actual physical book. Regular books, textbooks, and out of print books are available at your whim with very little hassle. Most people are aware of Amazon or eBay, but be sure to cross reference prices with other online sources such as bn.com, half.com, and ecampus.com. Some smaller websites might not have as much selection, but they might have stricter rules for becoming a dealer, which can help guarantee a pleasant transaction. It takes virtually no effort to check other website prices as well, so it’s more than worth a few clicks. Don’t forget about book trading websites such as bookmooch. You usually have to give in order to receive, but who doesn’t have books just waiting to be given away; put them to work for you!
Many chain book retailers have devoted a section of their store to books that the company has discounted. There are any of a million economic reasons for this, including too much overstock, not enough sales at the retail price, hardcover titles that have recently come out in paperback, etc. This is a section where you can find some outstanding deals on coffee table books as well as regular titles. The main thing to know is that most fiction titles, once they’ve come out in paperback, might be found for $10 or less in hardcover in one of these bargain sections. This will take some diligence on your part to keep an eye out as well as patience.
How long it takes a title to get to the bargain section depends on how well the book is still selling in hardcover, how many copies the company bought at the beginning of its printing, and whether or not the company thinks that the book will even sell for as cheap as $10 (which can also be dependent on the area you live- if the book didn’t sell well in your area to begin with, they might not send your closest store any copies at the reduced price). A good way to tell if your closest store is now selling the book of your choice at a reduced price is to go on the retailer’s website and look up the book in hardcover. If the price is $10 or less, then it has entered the bargain price stage and you have roughly two to four weeks to pick it up or order it before the remaining hardcover copies sell out. Once you see it has entered this stage, simply call your closest store and ask if they have it at their location and ask them to hold it for you. It might be possible for them to order it if they don’t have it, but don’t be surprised if the company has already distributed all the remaining copies elsewhere.
As with the rest of retail, there are seasons where there are extra-special deals available at your local book retailer. The main two times of the year to find special deals are right after Christmas through the month of January and during the summer, usually June/July. One thing to note is that bookstores usually have phases with these kinds of sales. They sell what they can at fifty percent off, then they reduce the price more and more until books are possibly as low as $1. The $1 phase is usually a very short period of time, such as a single weekend. Really any time during the sale phase you will get an excellent price, but if you wait as long as you dare you can really maximize your savings. This is both a dream and a nightmare for the biblioholic, as you will feel less guilty for the money you are spending, but you will vastly increase the percentage of your library that is the “to-read” section.
A common drawback with clearances is that your book might be gone the next time you visit. Your need for a better price must be weighed with the opportunity cost of not getting the book. If you are feeling outgoing, you can ask if they can be held. Some stores have limits on how long they can hold books, and some have rules against holding clearance books. You simply have to take your chances, but if your book is going to reduce in price by the weekend it’s worth a try. This effort might be considered a moral grey area, but chain retail is The Man, so be nice to the employees (who are victims of The Man more so than you are) and say thank you. Then go buy something from your local used bookstore to celebrate!
The newest trend is to simply download books (many times for free!). Currently several handheld devices dominate the market for e-books, namely Kindle or Sony E-reader. This could possibly change with the proliferation of applications for phones like the iPhone, Blackberry, or Android phones. Lesser known applications have existed for awhile now, but chain retailers have picked up on the trend and are beginning to offer e-reader applications of their own that can be downloaded to any device, eliminating the need to shell out money for yet another gadget. Through these applications you have a direct link to the company’s website and can add books to an online library which can then be accessed by your PC, Laptop, and various phones.
Since many classics are public domain, you can often download them for free through these applications. Why pay for Sense and Sensibility that you have to read for school when you can and should be able to read it for free? But be wary; watch out for the e-books that are free but not renowned classics. These books are quite possibly terrible fiction or unresearched non-fiction that no publisher would agree to print in the normal fashion. A simple review search will help you identify these, but if you do manage to download a dud the beauty is that you can simply delete it! What a wonderful world.
With all of these outlets for savings, you can create your very own library for next to nothing and never lack for reading again. Enjoy!