Building a Home Library: Buying Used Books

Friday, March 4, 2016

Children's picture books, especially good ones, are expensive. We love buying new books, but we also try to use our discretionary dollars wisely, which means we like to search out good deals on books. When we say a good deal, we mean 75%- 90% off retail prices.  Read on for all the economical details.

If you haven't used Thriftbooks yet, we recommend you try it immediately. If our recommendation doesn't lure you in then maybe their motto will: Read More. Spend Less. Your books will arrive in this distinctive packaging:

The contents:

Why we shop here: You can easily search for a specific book, author, or illustrator plus their prices are pretty fantastic. Also, at Thriftbooks once your purchase price reaches $10, shipping is free, and you can earn coupons for referring friends/buying books.

But…Their stock is more limited than Amazon and shipping speed can be slow, with a range of 4-14 days, so align your expectations accordingly if you have been spoiled by 2-day shipping like us.

Pricing? They have a tiered pricing structure, depending on the condition of the book (Very Good, Good, Acceptable) and scarcity. We've seen prices in the $3.99 range for Very Good, $3.79 for Good, $3.59 for Acceptable. For books that are harder to find, the price increases.

Many, if not most, libraries have a small store semi-hidden  somewhere in the library where they sell donated and used library books.   An extra benefit is that the money you spend there goes towards helping a library you already use.

Why we shop here: You're already at the library, so you don't have to make a special trip.  And it's a great place to find out of print and vintage books, I've found many childhood favorites here.

But... The size will vary at each library and the children's section is often only a handful of shelves

Pricing?  Hardcover: .50- $2.00, paperback: .25-.50.  And they have special sales a few times a year, where, for example, you can get an entire bag of books for $1.00.

Some recent purchases include:

If you don't mind the hunt you can find everything from difficult to find vintage editions, to like new books with pristine dust jackets, and on occasion you may snag some valuable collectible editions, all for a fraction of the cost of other places. Yes, that sounded very infomercial like but thrift stores are often an overlooked source of books. In this photo, all the books and the framed otomi-esque crewel art  are Goodwill finds.

Why we shop here: The Goodwill and other thrift stores are truly treasure troves waiting to be gone through. While Goodwill and thrift store pricing varies by city and state, I have generally found that their children's book prices are VERY reasonable and they are a go to source when I have the time to stop by.

But…If you are the type of shopper who likes to enter a store where you can easily find the exact item you are looking for in a matter of seconds we recommend you stick with Thriftbooks, Amazon and Ebay.

Pricing? In North Texas, the books are priced at $1 for small hardcover, $2 for large hardcover (although I have never had anyone charge me the large hardcover price) .49 for paperbacks (think Little Critter, Berenstain Bears, popular scholastic reads) and .50 for Golden Books.

During certain times of the year the Goodwill runs specials where all books are 50% off! So you are paying .50 or less for books. I make it a point to go to all the nearby Goodwills when they are running one of these specials and I usually will come home with a few bagfuls of books.

Savvy Shopper Tip: Check out the toy section while you are there- this is another place you can find amazing deals on all manner of toys from puzzles and games to vintage toys.

This is a great place to go if you're looking for a specific hard-to-find book, or even better, series of books. For example, this collection of vintage Hardy Boys books was an eBay purchase and they ended up being $2/book.

Why we shop here: You can search for exactly what you're looking for, and you know the condition of the book you're getting because the seller usually posts pictures.

But... There's more initial work, like setting up an account and payment.  And you have to go through the bidding process, which can take several minutes or days depending on how the seller has structured things.

Price? There's no way to pinpoint a price, every search and seller will be different.

Why we shop here:  You can find almost anything you're looking for, order it with a single mouse click, and get it in a few days.   Amazon lets you search from a myriad of sellers offering used books at different prices and in different conditions.

But... It can also be the most expensive way to purchase used books.  Even if you find the book for .01, and you often can, you have to pay $3.99 in shipping (which can take weeks), so books are a minimum of $4.00, usually more for in demand and harder to find books.  Also, there are never deals or discounts like you find at Thriftbooks.

Pricing?  A minimum of $4.00 per book.

We recently ordered a book written in 1965 and no longer in print that I loved as a child on Amazon. I'm thrilled to see my kids enjoying it as much as I did.

Looking for more options? The Book Depository is a great option for some harder to find British titles.  If you're looking to expand your library, British authors have produced so many wonderful picture books (like Beware of the Frog by William Bee), including holiday favorites.


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