Second Hand Books

I spent Sunday in book heaven. Or at least as close to it as I’ll ever be.

I went to the Brisbane Lifeline Bookfest – a second hand book sale where all proceeds go to the Lifeline charity.

With over a million books on sale it was a little crazy, but a lot of fun too. I managed to pick up a few books that I’d been interested in reading for a while now and some cookbooks to try and widen my recipe repertoire.

With my recent experience browsing and buying second hand books, I thought I’d post some tips that I thought might help someone who is looking to buy second hand.

1. Popular Books.
Books which have been popular in the last couple of years tend to have many copies at second hand stores. I saw hundreds of copies of the Twilight Series (by Stephenie Meyer) and the Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown) on the weekend for a fraction of the cost of a new copy. I could buy all four of the Twilight books for $10 and they were in fairly decent condition as well. The more recently popular the book was, the more likely the chance that you will be able to find plenty of cheap copies second hand.

2. Rare Books.
Keep your eyes open for rare books. You’ll be surprised what bargains and what great gems you can find in second hand stores. I’ve come across many books that I’ve not been able to find in regular books stores in second hand ones – especially for books that have been out of print.

3. Condition of Books.
When deciding whether to buy a second hand book or not, give a thought of the condition of the book. Sometimes books are affected by the damp and will have pages stuck together. Give the book a quick flip though to make sure all the pages can move freely. Also, check the last page just to make sure that it’s there. There’s nothing worse than getting 99% the way though a book and finding out that the last few pages are missing.

If the front or back covers are coming off – that’s not a deal breaker for me. If that’s all that is wrong with the book using some clear book covering contact can fix that problem. I managed to pick up a copy of Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome for 25 cents. After contacting it, it looks in great condition. It was a bargain!

4. The use of the Internet.
I use my smart phone when I’m second hand book shopping. Using sites like and Amazon, I can determine if the book I’m getting is significantly cheaper than buying it online or if the book has had a name change and is actually a book I already own but under a different name.

The sites are also helpful when I’m undecided on a book – getting a rating or reading reviews from other people can turn a book from a maybe into a keeper.

I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind about second hand books. You never know what you’ll find. I think that’s half the fun of second hand book shopping.


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