Booklovers and students alike know the pain of buying expensive books. Whether for personal pleasure or a requirement for class, books certainly add up. Why would anyone want to buy a brand-new book they’re only going to read it once and put on the shelf? And let’s face it, sometimes the professors don’t even assign work out of that $200 textbook, forcing students to lug it back and forth for class participation credit. Why continue buying obscenely expensive books when a much cheaper option exists? Thanks to the internet, websites such as Thriftbooks exist to help avid readers and students alike find cheap alternatives, sometimes with a prize inside! Second-hand bookstores not only provide those cheaply priced books, but the adventure of finding a book that sparks your interest too! Yes, you will be walking away with more books than you intended, but hey—they’re not priced at store-value.
Keep reading for 7 reasons why you should buy second-hand books.
1. Buy More Books without Breaking Your Wallet
The perks of buying used books? You can buy more for less! There’s nothing better than finding a bunch of books on your mental To-Be-Read list marked down to half the price. Stack up a bunch of those desired books on the counter and watch as the low prices make you and your wallet sing. Why buy two brand new hardcover books for $30 when you can buy 10 used books for $30?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying the typical new hardback to support the book industry, but keep in mind that you can always get more for less while supporting a second-hand shop. Whether you buy the books to complete assignments for class or to build your personal library, there’s nothing better than buying more for less.
2. Don’t Like it? No Big Deal
So, you bought a bunch of used books. It sounds great in theory. But even with all of the research you conducted before buying these books—reading reviews on Goodreads or Bookstagram, even reading the blurb on the inside of the cover—sometimes the book you bought doesn’t tickle your fancy. The best thing about buying used books? The lack of remorse when you Do-Not-Finish it. At least the cover will look fantastic on your shelf.
3. Little Surprises Inside!
It’s no secret that used books come with history. Sometimes while flipping through a used book, you’ll find something surprising inside. Whether it’s a sweet note dedicating the book in your hands to another person, or even a super old bookmark, these surprises elicit a little spark of joy. When asked, students found plenty of amazing little surprises in their used editions! From a polaroid of someone in a detective’s hat inside a used copy of Steven King’s The Outsider, to miscellaneous bookmarks from stores across the country, you never know what awaits you in between the well-loved pages of a book.
“My freshman year of high school I attended Xavier High School in Manhattan which was only two blocks away from my favorite comic bookstore, Forbidden Planet. One day I stumbled upon a Venom hardcover paperback whose sleeve had been terribly mangled. Upon a quick glance through the pages, I noticed the spine and even some of the pages were creased, ripped or even missing,” College of Staten Island senior Kyle Feliciano said. “The owner of the shop gave me a discount and I got away with paying half of what I would usually pay for a hardcover graphic novel. It wasn’t until I was on the train ride home that I realized the dried marker streaks of a signature on the inside cover. It was signed by none other than one of my favorite comic book writers, Rick Remender.”
My personal favorite surprise inside of used books are the dedications from the gift-giver to the receiver. Notes between friends, grandparents and grandchildren, even couples can transport you to a different place in time for a moment. The glimpses into the lives of people who once held the same book in your hands feels like such an honor—especially for books printed from before your birth.
4. Beautiful and Rare Vintage Covers
Of course, new books have those beautiful and glossy covers, always catching your eye. But what about out of print covers? Editions printed in different languages with way cooler covers? Limited edition covers from the 70s or 80s? You know those cool sci-fi books like the back of your hand thanks to their unique covers. Or what about those books with a cover that had a mistake and now claim the title as “most sought after by collectors”? You mean you found it while shopping second hand?
“I have never personally been lucky enough to find a limited edition of a book in a used bookstore, but I have found older, out of print covers. I found a copy of West Side Story with a cover produced in 1967 that I don’t believe is in print anymore,” St. John’s University junior Samantha Hanyia said. “Finding older copies of classic books that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else is an amazing experience.”
For all you lovers of secondhand books shopping online, beware. Sometimes you may not get the edition you wanted even if you copy and paste the correct ISBN. If you aren’t the picky sort, enjoy that beautiful and quirky edition. However, if you really need that specific edition for class, keep that edition you bought for four dollars to display on your shelf. One more book never hurt anyone.
5. Those Fantastic Annotations
Students who buy used books for class to avoid breaking the bank celebrate the editions that come with annotations. Who wouldn’t? Sometimes the clock remains your greatest enemy and you find yourself without ample time to read all those assigned chapters. Fear not! The owner before you left their own notes for you to review and gain inspiration from.
“A major perk of buying used books for my classes are the annotations made by other students. Being a history major, I like seeing different perspectives from other students,” St. John’s University junior Reese Dominique Dalisay said. “I found scattered notes on the edges of the page inside of my book. It’s good to know that, ‘Hey! I was going to say the same thing,’ on the assigned reading and the previous owner had the same thought as me.”
While the annotations prove immensely helpful, don’t always rely on them. Sometimes those annotations can merely convey the wide range of emotions from the previous owners. “What the heck?”, “lmfao, lame” and “Why would they do that…” can bring a laugh to the exhausted student reading 10 minutes before class, but prove themselves pretty useless.
6. Recycle and Upcycle—Make Something New
It comes as no surprise that the used book you bought may slowly crumble. Torn covers, horribly cracked spine and pages falling out. After you read that book—because hopefully it’s still readable—why not give it new life? Many creative individuals find multiple ways to give their well-loved books a spark of life. From accent walls filled with the pages of your favorite books to framed book art, many ideas await your creative minds.
“I don’t use books for ‘art’ personally, because I’d cry ripping out any page. But when my uncle was a kid, he hallowed out one of his books to create something to hide his stuff in,” College of Staten Island junior Anastasia Cheremisinova said.
Proud of that book art you made? Of course, your talent remains undefeated! Share it on small business sites like Etsy. Booklovers and other creative minds alike will swarm your Etsy shop to snatch up your work. Too many loose book pages left over? Sell those too! You never know who needs yellowed pages of an old book for their next project.
7. Donate When You’re Done!
You ended up buying a ton of used books, but previous purchases find themselves overflowing your shelves. What do you do with all of these wonderful books now? Donate, of course! From libraries to schools and small organizations, so many places accept gently used books as donations. If you plan to donate to spread the joy with others, make sure the books you choose remain readable for all ages—i.e., no inappropriate gifts left from previous owners.
“If I really like the book, I’ll keep it to lend out to friends or reread. I mostly donate them to the library or trade-in for store credit at Strand [Bookstore] in the city,” St. John’s University senior Aria Mutkoski said.
Instead of donating, you can additionally lend your books to friends who you know will take the same class. This allows your friends to spend less money on their books and receive your thoughtful annotations as well. You can also gift your friends your used copies to spread literary love and continue the book’s journey. Stores such as Strand will buy books from you so you can continue buying more! Pretty great system, huh?