Welcome to Shelf Talk, a bi-weekly discussion post that covers a variety of topics including, but not limited to, gardening, video games, cooking, crafting and of course books. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to see on future Shelf Talk posts, leave it in the comments or send me an email, and I’ll do my best to cover that topic in the future.
There was a time when I never would have dreamed of buying used books. It felt wrong to me. Not only did I not know where those books had been before, but also I felt like it wasn’t the right way to buy a book. Buying used meant the author wasn’t getting any money from me – this was back when I knew nothing about how the publishing industry worked and figured the author got paid for every copy they sold. So I would only buy new books and never even set foot into a used book store until about 10 years ago. It’s silly, I know, but that’s just how I looked at things.
Now I love used books, and used book stores. They are like treasure chests just waiting to be explored. I think my favorite thing about used book stores is you never know what you will find in them. Where as when you go into a new book store, you know that the books on the shelf will all be relatively recent released with a few older books mixed in. This is great for when you want to find something new, but what about those older books? Well of course there is the option of buying them online, but that removes the whole book store experience from your shopping.
The first used book store I went into about 10 years ago blew me away. We were in the city shopping and I finally decided to go check out the store that I kept seeing that had a giant “BOOKS” painted on it’s side. As soon as I stepped into it I knew I had found something special. There were so many books and I just stood in the entrance smiling for a few moments before really having a look around. While I browsed the many shelves, my husband and son checked out the children’s section and then moved onto the stores gaming half. With a list of potential books in hand I went about searching the shelves. I did a quick scan, looking for the authors I had my eye on and found a number of them. Then it was time for the true search. I began at one end of the store and started looking over even book on every shelf. I was searching for anything that caught my eye, anything that might become my new favorite book or author.
I only made it half way through the Fantasy and SciFi section before I was being subtly told it was time to go (the boy was bored and really wanted to go). I eked out another 5 minutes or so to check a few other sections and then took my pile of books to the counter. Not only had I found a few books I had been looking for for some time, but I also managed to pick up some interesting looking ones from authors I had not read yet.
That first experience set me on a path to seek out a used book store whenever we go anywhere. Of course my greatest success with used book stores came in Sudbury, when we were on a small vacation there. I had searched online for a used book store knowing we’d be there a couple days and found one that looked very promising. Let’s just say that the store was so big that I could have spent all day in there and still not properly seen it all. My first visit there I bought almost 100 books, many of which had been on my list to get. Since then I make it a habit to visit that store every time we are in Sudbury. I will actually go into more details about this store at a future date, but let’s just say, it’s my favorite used book store yet – I just wish it wasn’t an 8 hour drive away.
I think the best thing about used book stores for me, is being able to find older books. Most of what I read was published 5 or more years ago, so they are not the kind of books I can easily find in a Chapters store. Sure, it’s completely hit or miss on whether the used book store you visit will even have that particular book (and that is half of the joy of these shopping experiences, is looking and hoping that they have what you want), but often times I will get lucky and find what I am looking for. Other times I won’t find that exact book, but stumble upon another books or series written by that author that I was previously unaware of. So in the end, I almost always walk out with something. And let’s all admit that walking out of a book store, new or used, without buying anything is a crying shame.
The biggest thing I learned visiting all these used book stores over the last year, is that there is nothing wrong with used books. They are generally speaking in good shape (and if you find one that isn’t then you just don’t buy it) and they are very cost effective to buy. Most stores I’ve been to sell their hard covers for about $5 a piece and paper backs range from $1-$4 depending on their popularity and condition. This means my book budget goes a long ways when I spent it mostly on used books. I can buy upwards of 20 books for the same cost as buying a new released hardcover. Don’t get me wrong, I still go for new releases quite often, but I certainly have a greater appreciation of used books now.
Unfortunately I do not have a used book store in my town where I live. Heck, I don’t even have a new book store. There is a small book section in the grocery store, but it’s pretty limited on choices – about 80% of it is romance and the rest are some of the popular new releases. So this means that when I do visit a book store, be is new or used, I enjoy it thoroughly and take my time browsing the shelves, because it may be months again before I get another chance to go book shopping.
How do you feel about used books? Love them, hate them or something in between? Any favorite used book store you think I should visit if I’m traveling? LEt me know in the comments below.