05 July 2012

How to Acquire More Books for Little Money Without Amazon

This morning Elise Nussbaum published a piece on the personal finance blog The Billfold called "Books I Acquired for Last Year for Little or No Money" -- a topic near and dear to our hearts as frugal-ish book people. Borrowing and Bookmooch are covered, but she's taking a little heat for admitting that she bought all her new books on Amazon and

As a frequent Amazon user I have no leg to stand on to criticize Nussbaum, and she does call out a church in her locale (Jersey City) with what sounds like a kickass weekly sale. But if we're going to establish some kind of collection of best practices for book buying, I picture them like this:

Buy new hardcovers and paperbacks as gifts or when splurging on yourself. Gifts are my densest locus of new-book buying, so I budget accordingly.

Check the bestseller sales at your local indie bookstores. At least two I know of in New York (the Strand and Book Court) put the top 10 fiction and nonfiction hardcovers on automatic 30 percent markdown.
Privilege online reservation systems at local stores over online orders. Because of the vagaries of my mail situation I can often get books faster by reserving them at a local indie bookstore on its website and then walking or taking the subway over to fetch my treasure. It's also greener if that's your priority (fossil fuels exerted in bringing book to store, not book to warehouse and warehouse to you).
When possible, shop online through indies.
Support secondhand stores, but also bookstores that sell a mix of secondhand and new books. I love a Half Price Books, I seriously do, but they are a giant corporate monster that eats indies for breakfast. Because they are a monster they can afford to not give you a fair price for your own books to sell, so both ways you lose.
Buy books from your neighbors at garage sales, yard sales, stoop sales, or whatever your local variant of "Hey, we are casually selling some of our possessions" is.

After that -- for those hard to find, have-to-own books -- then check Amazon.

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