Secondhand Books: Locating & Buying

“Used books start to shake off their second-class image” says a 10/12/2005 article in the Christian Science Monitor. According to this article, Americans “spent $2.2 billion to buy 111 million used books in 2004.” Pretty impressive. And what a hoot! I’ve been buying used books for what seems like forever and I expect that you have, too. Here are some of my favorite spots for buying secondhand books online.


According to their web site, Abebooks offers for sale some 70 million books from some 13,000 booksellers. The search box on the front page is great for finding a particular title or author and then the advanced search feature makes it possible to narrow the results. Shipment saving tips are also provided. I have purchased books from this site and have found that the descriptions of the books are accurate and that the booksellers make the whole process fairly effortless. While all of the book sellers accept credit cards there are some alternative methods of payment at some of the stores.


This site states that Alibris offers some 50 million books which include used books, new and out of print books and new and used textbooks. They also offer new and used movies and new and used music. The homepage of the site offers basic searching but there is a link to advanced searching which enables you to search on one or more criteria and to sort the results in a variety of ways, such as by hardcover or soft cover, by first edition or by signed copy. What I particularly like about this site is that one paragraph descriptions are provided for the vast majority of the books. This is very helpful when you know an author but cannot remember which title it is that you want., a part of EBay, offers new and used books, textbooks, music, movies, video games and game systems. Once you have found what you are looking for, you add it to your cart and proceed to checkout. You are able to pick the seller whom you wish to use and then charges your credit card so that the various sellers do not have access to your credit card information. allows you to store the names of the sellers with whom you have had good luck in the past. It is also possible to click onto a sellers name in order to search his/hers particular collection. Interestingly enough, Abebooks is one of the sellers on allows you to find the lowest prices available on new and used books by searching the catalogs of some 25 online bookstores. “Our price comparisons include: Shipping Cost, Shipping Time, Sales Tax (when required), Availability and Condition (New or Used). The process is straightforward. Once you have located the book you want, you simply click the compare price button and you get a chart which shows who has it, the price, the shipping cost and the sales tax where applicable. From the chart, one can link directly to the seller and purchase the book. One thing to keep in mind is that does not actually sell books. It only provides comparisons and links to the actual sellers.

Barnes and Noble

Good old Barnes & Noble also offers secondhand books through their authorized sellers (“To become an Authorized Seller, each seller must go through an application and approval process. To remain an Authorized Seller, each seller must conform to a set of performance guidelines established by Barnes &”). Once you have clicked on the Used and Out of Print tab, you may search by title or by author as well as restrict the search by price and/or format. You may also specify an autographed copy, or a first edition, or a dust cover. The first time you purchase on this site, the registration process is not as straightforward as it may first seem. However, once you are past that, you have clear sailing. As you check out, you have the opportunity to select the speed of the shipping and can see exactly what the price is for both standard and express shipping.

Compiled by Joanne Blinn of Foley Hoag LLP in Nov. 2005.

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