I've got a secret.
I don't usually share my book buying strategies because I don't want anyone getting my bargains. I know there are enough books to go around, but I can't help but feel a little selfish. But you're in luck--today I'm feeling generous.
My friends know me for being a book-buying maven who knows how to sniff out a deal and I'm going to share a few tricks of my trade. (Though I'm still keeping a few to myself--I can't give them all away!)
Hacking the Used Bookstore
The first rule of book buying is always sign up for the store's email list. The second rule of book buying is ALWAYS SIGN UP FOR THE EMAIL LIST. But really, companies tend to value their audience and signing up for the email list shows you're engaged and likely to buy, so they'll often send out news of sales to email subscribers first. Individual used book stores may not send out newsletters often, but the chains, like 2nd & Charles and Half Price Books, do.
Go straight for the clearance shelves. You'd be surprised at what you find there. Sure, at a used book store everything is technically on sale, but super sales are awesome! While you may not find the first thing on your list, you might find something you'd been kind of wanting for awhile, but for the right price, you might really want it.
Find out what their seller's program is like. Do you get store credit only or is there a cash or store credit option? Are there certain types of books that are in high demand? Selling a bunch of unwanted books for fewer, but wanted books is pretty good incentive to clean off your shelves!
Bring your own bags. Some used book stores cut down the cost of overhead by not bagging purchases (which is cool because they pass the savings onto you!), so if you're making a big book haul, you'll want to bring a container to carry it in.
Hacking the Retail Bookstore
The first rule still applies here: sign up for the email list! If you sign up, they assume you're likely to spend more money so they want to give you the juicy scoop on sales.
Check the tables. Yes, some of them will have cheesy curated books for moms, dads, and graduates with all the stereotypical finds, but other tables have sale items. Books-A-Million is known for their 2-for-3 sale where you buy two books and get a third of equal or lesser value for free. That's where I go when I've got some new-ish paperbacks on my to-buy list. Barnes & Noble has tables with the more popular sale items, like the novels from big hit bestselling authors that are no longer fresh off the press.
Hit up the clearance shelves. You might just be surprised at the stuff you'll find, particularly in the nonfiction department. Clearance shelves tend to be better for genre fiction, such as sci-fi, romance, women's, and war fiction, as opposed to general or literary fiction.
Sign up for the membership card. Last I checked, memberships at B-A-M and B&N were $25 each, and the benefits are that you get 10% off every purchase, free shipping on online orders, and a number of exclusive coupons. Now, I know what you're thinking: If the membership gets you 10% off every purchase and the card is $25, you have to spend at least $250 to make your money back. That's true, so that's why I always ask for membership cards for my birthday and Christmas. If I'm not buying the membership cards, all I'm doing is saving.
Haggle. That's right: HAGGLE. Bet you thought you could only do that at a bazaar in the Virgin Islands after stepping off a Carnival Cruise! It's not publicly advertized, but if you see a book you want and it has a bent corner or a slightly torn book jacket, you can point that out to the cashier and rather than find you another one, it's easier to just give you 10% off.
Hacking the Thrift Store
Now these tips will work for the entire thrift store, not just the books section, but the books section is, of course, my favorite section.
Most thrift stores have a color-based discount system where tags of a certain color indicate the week the donated items were accepted. After a certain amount of time (I couldn't tell you how long since it varies by store), once they've gone through their string of tag colors, the tags at the beginning of the loop will go on sale. So if their string is pink, blue, green, yellow, then the pink tags will go on sale. It's a good idea to check with the store to see what day of the week the sale tag colors change so you can plan to shop close to that day.
Hacking the Library Book Sale
Just go to it. Supporting your library is a marvelous good cause and if you don't mind owning books that look like they've been stolen from the library, it's a good place for sales.
There you have it! Those are some of my favorite book-buying habits for getting books on the cheap.
Do you have any favorite book-buying habits or tricks for finding books on sale? Tell me in the comments below!
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