How To Find Used Books at a Good Price

10 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Often, the books I would like to read are out-of-print, so I have to look beyond the usual suspects (Borders, Barnes & Noble) to find them. Amazon, of course, sells out-of-print books through its marketplace (used booksellers), but is the lowest price the best deal?

Having sold books online for a time, I know that sources for readers (as opposed to collectors) are many and highly competitive. This means that if you’re willing to spend some time searching, you can probably find a good deal.

Tip: If the source (Amazon, eBay) rates sellers based on buyer feedback, pay attention to the numbers. Is that 1 cent book (with $3.99 shipping) the best deal if the seller has a 90 percent rating or lower? Review the feedback before you buy.

Under Find Books in the Fuzzy History menu, you will find many of the resources I use. My strategy for finding a used book typically goes like this:

  1. Search my county library system. Check with your local public library about online access to its catalog. Many libraries also provide access to the catalogs of other libraries. You may also try WorldCat, if libraries in your area participate.
  2. Search my online trading source, PaperBackSwap.
  3. Search BookFinder. I prefer this search engine because it returns the price with shipping included. If I find the book at a price I’m willing to pay, the search is over.
  4. If BookFinder fails to find the book, I search Amazon (and Google, if necessary) to verify that I have the correct spelling for the author and title.
  5. If BookFinder finds the book, but the price is too high, I search eBay and separately. If there are no copies, or if I want to try to find a better deal, I save the search in eBay. New results will be sent to my inbox. I’m patient because I have lots of other books to read while I wait for a good price.
  6. I set up a “want” at AbeBooks. AbeBooks is a consortium of used booksellers. Once you register (free) with the site, you may set up a want list. For each title, you may set the highest price you’re willing to pay. When a book matches your specifications, AbeBooks sends you an e-mail message. You’ll have to be fast, though, as someone else may have the same “want.” (One of my recent “wants” came in at $10, when my original search turned up $85 as the lowest available price.)
  7. Search for it at local book sales. Use Book Sale Finder to find the dates and locations for book sales in your area sponsored by non-profit entities, such as libraries and churches.

Finally, if the book you want to buy is a new book, use the resources in Find Books. (You may limit a BookFinder search to new books.) But before you buy, go to DealLocker and check out the book coupons. You will often find unannounced deals here.