Saturday, December 27, 2008


As a book-hungry graduate student whose money is a precious commodity, it's not surprising that I am loathe to walk into Borders and buy a brand new book. If the book is older I would rather haunt used book stores, comb through the hundreds of sometimes boring titles, and pick the one gem ensconced among them which others' eyes have not noticed. Needless to say, this gnaws away at another one of a graduate student's precious commodity- time.

However, another option is Amazon's used books service. I was hesitant to use this but was finally egged on to try out a few titles. My conditions were simple: spines should be intact, and there should be absolutely no underlining or highlighting inside. The rules are pretty simple too: go for sellers offering books whose condition is marked "very good" or better, who have at least a 97% rating and who have been selling at least for a year or so. Most importantly, buy ex-library books if they are available; the seller will usually indicate this explicitly. These books get you the biggest bang for your buck. They are usually wrapped in plastic with the tender loving care characteristic of many public libraries, their dust jackets are usually firm and intact, and they may have some library stamps on the first page or on the sides.

But if these simple rules are satisfied, then ex-lib books can be better than even brand new books. Consider that hardbacks usually cost no less than 18-20$. So if I do end up buying new books, I buy paperbacks whenever they are available. Paperbacks cost between 10-15$. Now consider ex-lib books which I have gotten for about 3$ on average. Even with the shipping it comes to 7-8$. A well-protected hardcover ex-lib book warmly clasped with a plastic-covered dust jacket beats a brand new paperback even if the hardcover is a few years older.

Until now I have had a great experience ordering these ex-lib hardcovers from Amazon. Starting about six months ago, I have already ordered about 30 of these and have been satisfied 99% of the time. There may have been one or two which looked none the worse for wear, but in their defence, they were selling for 20 cents apiece. There's a limit to what you can expect.

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Blogger Rhucha said...

I totally agree with you that Amazon is a great source of used books. I myself rely heavily on Amazon and 99% times I am very satisfied. Many of my textbooks have skyrocketed prices and I just can not afford them. The bookstore sucks as they sell even the used books at a higher rate than what I get on Amazon. It's interesting that some of my professors openly mention about Amazon even if they are supposed to be directing students to the school book store. I love books but I feel I don;t have to pay $160 for a book which I can buy at a much lower price, online. I am so glad we have such an option about buying anything and almost everything online. And I am also a seller on Amazon, so I make sure the books I sell are in a great condition :)

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a lighter vein, if you ordered 30 books, how were you satisfied 99% of the time? Either you were 100% satisfied, or, if were not satisfied with one of them, the satisfaction percentage comes down to 29/30 i.e., 96.7%

12:35 AM  
Blogger Wavefunction said...

It's possible I was satisfied with 7/10 ths of a particular book in which case I was satisfied 99% of the time :) It's actually true; I was satisfied with 70% of "The Manhattan Project" but unsatisfied with 30% of it that had black blotches

10:02 AM  

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