Comparison Shopping: Used Books

I’m always looking for a bargain, so these past few weeks, I went looking for the best buys in books. Here are my results:

Thrift Stores:
Value Village, the thrift department store
Dollars spent: $6
Books bought:
Blue Diary Alice Hoffman (Paperback)
Died Blonde Nancy J Cohen (Paperback)

Salvation Army Thrift Store
Dollars spent: $0.50
Books bought:
Larry’s Party Carol Shields (Hardcover)

I thought my Value Village buys were pricy. They were only paperbacks, but anything originally $5.99 or more is automatically marked $3. There were a lot of books and the store was busy. I know from experience that they do monthly donation pick-ups, so there’s a lot of variety.

At the SA thrift store, there was only a shelf or two and they were ancient and obscure. Considering the prices, nothing over a dollar, anything new probably goes fast. I managed to find a gem: good condition hardcover. I was feeling pretty smug.

Local Used Bookstore:
Dollars spent: $3 (store credit)
Books bought:
Moll Flanders Daniel Defoe (Paperback)

I love the local book store. It’s musty and stinky but it has an atmosphere of love for books. They have 1000's of books of every genre and title, including new local books. The best part of this store: Credit. I’ve taken my old books to them and gotten store credit. The lady told me, "You have beautiful books." Just what a bookaholic likes to hear. The cons: the cataloguing is questionable, not everything is where it should be; the turnover is slow, since we live in a lesser populated area; and they don’t have much of a children’s section.

Library Book Sale (Semi-annual):
Dollars Spent: $11
Books bought:
Unless Carol Shields (Hardcover)
A Complicated Kindness Miriam Toews (Hardcover)
Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood (Paperback)
Alias Grace Margaret Atwood (Paperback)
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee (Paperback)
My Dream of You Nuala O’Faolain (Paperback)

When I arrived at the sale just as it opened, I looked around and thought, "This is serious business." The place was packed but you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was clustered around the tables, heads down, reading titles. You could have been standing next to your Mom and never know it. We were all trying to find the biggest bargains, our favorite authors, or something interesting. We could not be distracted. I had an armload. I didn’t even know what I had, until I found a corner to look them over. I knew I might be crazy, when I found myself on my hands and knees, digging through a box on the floor, close to being stepped on. The selection was great, not just library cast-offs but really well cared-for donations including newer titles. The prices were $3 to $0.25 (for the harlequin-type books). Saturday is the $5 bag sale, but I can’t be there. Darn.

Miscellaneous: Throughout the summer, I’ll hit the yard/garage sales. Sometimes you can find a bargain but it’s hit and miss. I once went to a sale for the SPCA and got books for $0.25. Not bad. The flea markets often have tables and tables of books. They’re not as cheap as they used to be. Most people ask $1-2 nowadays. My library in the town I used to live in had a table of donations for sale: $0.25 for paperbacks, $0.50 for hardcovers. I got 2 hardcover Margaret Atwood (one signed) for $1.00. That was a good deal, although dh complained that libraries are for borrowing books!

So, do any of you have a great bargain story? Or a favorite place you buy your books?


  1. Oo, that library haul is really good. I loved Unless and The O'Faolin (sp?) books.

    I never have luck with these things. I get there and it's all Danielle Steel.

  2. My all time favorite bargain store is a place called: Paperback Trader. I bring in bags of old paperbacks I no longer want and get credit for half their ORIGINAL listed value. The store sells used books at 50% off the list price and buyers use their store credit up to 90% of that price (so in essence you are paying for a book at 10% of its original price). It's a good deal :) and they always have the latest trade paperbacks because it is a popular store. I've bought books which are just coming out in paperback in B&N, but spent only 10% of the cost!

  3. Amy- I usually get there late and all the good stuff is gone. I just started taking anything that looked interesting at first, then decided later what I really wanted.

    Wendy- That sounds like a great place.

  4. Aren't the library sales always the best??? I love them!! My 2 local used book stores have only paperbacks....and are 90% mass markets. I usually don't like those as much.

    I just picked up Complicated Kindness from the library....and I already read My Dream of You ( I personally didn't like it all that much...but I know a lot of the Genre Stew gals did!) I have Alias Grace too. Love Atwood!

  5. Sigh. I'm so envious. But you go, girl!

  6. I have visited a used bookstore near my home once before, and was hoping to "score" some great bargains on books. I left sorely disappointed. Most of the hardbacks were 5-6 bucks and the paperbacks were 2-3 dollars. I thought that was high. I have hit my local library system's sales a couple of times (quarterly) and scored much better books for much better prices. I went to one last month and brought home 11 books, for 14 dollars. I was very happy :)

  7. I used to get signed first editions at a Salvation Army that was by a major university. Loved it and still wish I had access to it!


  8. Wow, you did buy a lot of books! They sound cheap too. Unfortunately, books in Malaysia are quite pricey.

    If I were to buy books every month, I might have to forgo some other luxury. But, who cares? At least I get to buy a book! =)


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