April 25, 2008

PaperbackSwap and cheaper alternatives

I've seen a bit about PaperBackSwap.com lately. Its a nice idea for sure. Using the service individuals can trade books with other individuals and just pay the cost of postage. There's no fee for the site involved. The website keeps track of it and gives you a credit for shipping a book to someone which you can use to request a book from someone else. They have over 2 million books available from members to trade. Overall its a pretty nice idea. BUT postage costs in the $1.50 $2.25 range to mail a book. So if you add this in then you're basically trading 1 book for 1 book + $2. Due to the postage costs I believe this isn't a particularly frugal option. There are a lot of ways to get books cheaper.

Here are some ideas for getting used books cheaply..

Use the local library and buy at library sales


The library is a great resource for books. The biggest advantage the library has of course is that the books are free to borrow. Of course you can only borrow books for a limited time, though you might be able to extend the deadline. If you're not good about returning books on time it can also cost you late fees.

Libraries or organizations that support the local library may have a book sale of either library discards, general used books or both. These can be great bargains for books with lots of selection and low prices. You can often get books for $0.50 to $1 at these sales and they may have deals like stuffing a paper sack full of books for $5. Try looking at the site Book Sale Finder to locate book sales near you. These sales aren't frequent though and are often only held annually. My fiancée and I visited such a library book sale this past weekend and bought about 20 books for $20.50 and about $7 gas money or $1.37 per book plus we had fun doing so.

Buy bulk lot of books on eBay


Go to the eBay category for books and then search for your favorite author and the keyword 'lot' for example if you like Stephen King then search for "stephen king lot" or if you have a genre of writing you enjoy you can tray a search for that topic name. Like if you enjoy romance books then you can do a search for 'romance lot'. Once you get the search results then sort them by 'Time: ending soonest". This generally works best for the more popular authors or genres and some books are more or less expensive on eBay depending on availability and popularity. I tried this for Stephen King as an example and I came up with an auction of 6 books going for $0.99 and $8.95 shipping which comes out to $1.66 per book. Keep in mind when you're looking on eBay you should check out the sellers feedback rating and add in the shipping and handling fees to the costs.

Trade and buy at used book stores

Used book stores will often have a trade system where you can trade in your used books for credit or a 2-for-1 trade system. So for example at my local used book store they sell their books for 1/2 cover price + $0.25. They give you 1/2 cover value in trade towards books for your trade ins. So if a book originally cost $8 I could buy it there for $4.25. Or I could trade in an $8 book and get half the value in credit and pay $2.25 additional. So for new books that retail for $8 I'd be looking at 1 book + $2.25 to get a used book, which is about the same as the PaperbackSwap site. But if you look at slightly older books that retailed for $5-7 then you come out cheaper. I could trade a $5 used book in and pay $1.50 to get a used $5 book. Buying at used book stores generally works out better if buying a book with a lower original retail price.

Try the local Thrift store

The local thrift store will probably have some books. Prices vary a lot but you might find some $0.50 or $1.00 books.

Last but not least, don't forget to keep your eye open for books at Yard sales. You can often find some cheap books for sale at yard, garage or estate sales.

There are pros and cons to shopping any of these methods. You should be able to find cheap books at all of these. The selection of books and convenience may or may not meet your needs. While in general I don't think Paperbackswap is the cheapest method of book shopping, I do see it has a lot of selection and convenience. I just urge people to keep their eyes open to the shipping cost involved and consider the other options out there.

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