Buying Secondhand Books

A few decades ago, I read a publishing-industry report about how many times a paperback book was sold and resold and resold again. All those readers, yet the author only earned royalties for one sale. After that, I was careful about books that I bought secondhand—only authors who had sufficient sales and income, or books that had been published years earlier and were out of print. As the price of books has risen, there has been the added benefit of savings. I simply can’t afford new hardcovers any longer. Which leads to another benefit—no great buyer’s remorse if I buy a secondhand book I don’t like.

Secondhand books are not always easy to find. Bookstores do sell them, but unless it’s a store that sells only secondhand books, the selection is limited. There are online sellers, such as Alibris, but shopping online is not at all like walking into a bookstore or library and scanning shelves to see what looks good. I never shop on Alibris unless I know what I’m looking for—books by a favorite author, the next book in a series, a book someone recommended. A book that I know I will want to keep, not give back to the library (which, of course, is an excellent source for “secondhand” books).

Best secondhand bookstore I’ve been in recently: Barter Books in Alnwick Station in the UK. I was on vacation with my daughter and a friend of hers, and we all found something to buy in this enchanting store with its fireplaces and café and model railway and lots and lots and lots of books. So, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Alnwick Castle—a great spot to visit in itself—take the brief walk down to Barter Books. I’m sure you’ll have as good luck as we did.

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In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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