The one thing I love more than reading books is buying them. I just can’t help myself – there is almost nothing that gets my blood pumping like browsing a bookstore or filling up my online shopping cart.
As much as I like to buy books, I almost never buy them full price. Hear me out. I will spend the coins to buy a new hardback from an author I love and want to see succeed, because I know that author’s need our purchases to pay their own bills and also to keep contracts which see that we get more stories and more content.
However, when it comes to books that have been in print for upwards of 10 years, which is mostly what I buy because I like classics and always arrive to book parties late, I’d rather purchase used editions or get a really good deal. I’m a sucker for a good deal and free money (once I bought three books on a whim because Barnes and Nobel told me I had $5 from an ebook settlement – I wasn’t going to spend a dime that day until they told me it would be $5 off!). Since I like to own my own books (I’ll talk about my dislike of sharing books, library books, and ebook later), and I’m growing a library, I have to purchased used or cheaply for my big dreams of a house of books to become a reality.
Here’s a list of all my favorite places to buy books — both conventional and quirky!
My tippy top book buying site is Thriftbooks. I’ve been buying from Thriftbooks for over four years, and they supplied nearly every book I needed in my undergraduate English Literature career at a huge discount. It’s the first place I go when I find a book I want. The site is easy to browse and search, and it allows you to make an account so you can keep track of your wish lists (which you can have as many of as you need!).
In the past few years they went from free shipping no minimum to free shipping on orders over $10, which is cool because it’s easy to get to $10 and $10 is really, really low for free shipping minimums. If you join, you can earn reading rewards points for every dollar you spend and when you reach $50, you get $5 off. Most books range between $3-4, with some higher demand or newer books ranging upwards. They have great thrift deals where you can get two or more books for a really amazing price. They’re perfect for building series, like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, and stocking up on classics. If you’re looking for a specific edition, you can select it out of the list if they have it so you know exactly which copy you’re getting, or just select the condition you want and be surprised when it comes!
I really can’t sing their praises enough! Once, I accidentally ordered an abridged Jane Eyre (which is essentially a children’s version) and they took it back and refunded my purchase with no problem. Another time I purchased The Prisoner of Azkaban labeled as as “good” condition (they allow you to select the condition which varies the price – the best version is “new” or “like new” then going down to “very good” and “good” and then into “acceptable” – they outline the rating system here), and when it arrived is was nearly falling apart. It had clearly been owned by a child in it’s previous life, and was a little worn and had some pencil markings on it – all of which fall under the “good” condition – but when I opened it to start reading, the binding completely fell apart and the pages slipped right out. It appeared that the glue had been dry rotted! I emailed their support team with my compliant and within thirty minutes I received a reply that said they were expediting me a new copy completely free of charge. Talk about quality service!
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I’ve found some pretty interesting reads at Goodwill stores. With books less than $2 a piece, it’s a great place to browse and you’ll often find books that were hugely popular in their day and then fell off the map, like the Dan Brown DaVinci Code series or the Twilight series. There isn’t usually any kind of order so when you go, you’ll have to hunt. I often donate my old book there, because there isn’t a super convenient place for me to sell them, and I always have a laugh when I see one of my old copies on the shelf. Goodwill is great for getting books to use for crafts too. You can always find dictionaries there that are perfect to cut up and use in various paper crafts.
Little Shop of Stories
Little Shop of Stories is my favorite independent bookstore. When I was in college, it was a hop, skip, and a jump away from my dorm, and conveniently located next to a Starbucks. My best friend and I would treat ourselves to a trip into town for books and coffee after a particularly long month. The booksellers in there are so nice, and though it mostly caters to younger readers, their adult selection is none too shabby! They also carry bookish item, which I can’t get enough of, like a Jane Austen votive candle and a paper Edgar Allan Poe doll. I’ve found some of my favorite novels of all time there completely by chance, and I’ve met my favorite author Maggie Stiefvater there twice. They also partner with the Decatur Book Festival so I enjoy stopping in at the height of the party. I miss living so close to it now that I’ve moved back home, but since my sister is attending my Alma Mater I get to stop in whenever I go to see her.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet
The list will only get more random from here. There is this bargain outlet that popped up out of nowhere in my county and my grandparents introduced me to it because they thought the deals on k-cups for the Keurig system were shocking. I didn’t really want to go, but I went, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the book selection. Most of them were kind of weird, but with a little pluck I was able to find books that were interesting. Nearly my entire Edward Rutherford city novel collection came from there, each book running out $3, and I found an A. S. Byatt novel there. I also found quite a few Frank Delaney novels too. I don’t go often, but I usually stay in the book section while my family stocks up on coffee and snacks.
The Dollar Tree
My Dollar Tree store location only just began carrying books, but other locations often do. I’ve found some new reads that I’ve never heard of there, but I’ve also found a few popular books like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Each book is $1 so it encourages me to try new things!
I’ve preordered Maggie Stiefvater’s last two books from Fountain and I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed with their product. I like to support authors and the communities that they live and work in, so I like to buy from select retailers when authors ask me to, especially if it’s for a book I’m excited about. Maggie always does something special for Fountain preorders, like including a bookplate and signing them, which I can’t resist. Sometimes it takes longer for them to reach me (Crooked Saints arrived over a week after the release date), but when you open it up and see Maggie’s amazing art and signature, it’s worth it. Consider buying from author’s own favorite independent bookstores for their releases!
I’ve only ever attended the Decatur Book Festival once, but, wow, what an experience. I highly recommend attending a festival if you can, because you often get up close to your favorite authors and discover new books and authors that you might not have otherwise picked up. I hadn’t read any of V. E. Schwab until I attended the Festival in 2016, but I loved her personality and responses to panel questions so much that I purchased Vicious from the local independent bookseller on site and not only got to meet her and sign my boo, but I also found a new book that I loved. I also met Delilah S. Dawson at that same panel, and purchased the first in her series, A Wake of Vultures. We chatted about her Star Wars work and less than a year later, I found out she wrote the Star Wars novel Phasma, who is my favorite Star Wars character of all time (a post to come!). Not only did I LOVE the novel, I also felt special thinking that I had met the author and had her signature and a souvenir – she was handing out werewolf teeth and claws at her event, which, clearly, is awesome. You never know what you’ll find there! Festival also often have retailers out and about, and at one booth I found a copy of Percy Shelley’s work edited by the star of my life, Mary Shelley, from the mid-1800s (published while Mary Shelley was still alive!) and it cost less than $20. Serendipitous books are the best books.
Books have a way of showing up where we least expect. Keep your eyes open for them and you never know what you’ll find!
Where are your favorite places to buy books? What is the strangest place you’ve ever purchased a book?