Saturday, November 7, 2009

Where I Buy Books

I do buy books. A lot of books. But I am a sucker for a good deal or a good cause and that affects where I buy books. Probably 80% of my books are purchased online. This is because the prices are usually better than what you'd pay in a bookstore, unless you're at a used bookstore. More on that later.


I hate to pay shipping. HATE. IT. So If I buy from one of the biggies, like Barnes and or, I try to have a big enough order so that I qualify for their super-saver shipping. BUT, it's helpful to know that B&N's free shipping is through UPS while Amazon uses the US postal service. Every time I have ordered, B&N gets my books to me faster. Every time. BUT (again with the but?) Amazon is always cheaper for the actual books. Sooo, if I have the luxury of time, I go with Amazon. I use these two a lot around Christmas when I have really big orders.


If I have a small order and I am buying the books for myself or my kids, I use a company called Better World Books. Their prices are a little higher, but there's no charge for shipping if you choose the eco-shipping option. They are a for-profit company which provides funding for literacy initiatives around the world. I don't mind paying a little more if it helps people somewhere else learn to read. The books they offer are both new and used. They are a good source for out of print books.


Ah. My favorite. In town, we like to hit Half Price Books (you can go to their site if you want to see if there's a store in your area). But locally-owned used bookstores are sometimes a better option if you're looking for something out of print since Half Price Books only carries books that are in print. Half Price Books sometimes has prices which are a little steep for my taste, but they are great for things like the Ricky Ricotta/Captain Underpants books or the Puppy Place books; stuff like that can often be had quite cheaply. I have very fond memories of a huge used bookstore called Bookmans in Arizona where I grew up. If you are so lucky to live be a store like that, know that I am eternally jealous.


All the big online booksellers have used and out-of-print search functions. These are useful if you are looking for something you know is out of print. They provide a way for smaller used-book sellers to link in with their inventories and offer you, the user, the ability to search all over the country for that one particular book. Be warned, however, that the shipping charges really rack up -- typically $4 PER BOOK. Sometimes the book itself is only a dollar, but with shipping it can be more than a new copy. I always make sure I can't get it locally before I bite the bullet and pay shipping. I use this service only when I am looking for something highly specific that I know I can't get anywhere else. Recently I used both this search and Better World to track down a book for my daughter's art teacher. Better World didn't have it, but the Big Two did. Useful info. I sometimes check, and get good results there as well.

(This isn't the book, but it's from the same series. It's been out of print for at least 8 years)


Oooh, Scholastic. Every month they send home a colorful flyer of about 1000 pages that my children pore over until they have circled literally everything. Then they hand it to me and say "here's what we want." Usually we limit them to one item. This causes great frustration, but I figure it builds character and decision-making abilities. Occasionally Scholastic's prices are so outstanding, we order from them to get the good deal. In the last flyer they were offering the first four 39 Clues books for $8.00 each. That's $5 off the cover price. Often they have paperback versions of books that are substantially cheaper. Sometimes, though, these can be cheaply bound and they fall apart pretty quickly. Just know if you buy their paperbacks that this can happen.

What I really love are the Scholastic Warehouse Sales. If you live close to one of their warehouses (go here to see if you do) you can get invited to their warehouse sales which happen about 2-3 times per year. Our warehouse does one the first week in December and another the first week in May, and occasionally throws in a third one in the fall. The deals at these sales are fantastic. I have many many times gotten newly-released books for half the cover price. Paperback picture books can be just a dollar or two. There's tons of other stuff too; posters for the classroom or your kids' rooms, stocking stuffery things like pen sets and jewelry-making kits, Klutz books for 40% off the cover price, great religous books and Bibles, even books for adults. It is not hard to drop a lot of cash at this sale. You do have to sign up by email and present the invitation pass at the door.

So there you have it. I should probably mention that I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies except that I like to haunt their stores and drink coffee there.

Now go buy some books!

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