Shop Online for Books vs. Browsing Shelves on Bookstores – Overlooked Tips on Finding the Best Deals
It feels as though I am in the growing minority of people who prefer tangible, literal page-turning books to electronic readers. If you’re like me and still like the feel of the page between your fingers, and the much reduced risk of taking your book in the bathtub as you relax from your day, you might also like to know the best places to shop online for books. As an avid reader, mother of 4, and homeschool parent, I have spent countless hours browsing shelves, both real and virtual, for the perfect books and have discovered some valuable and sometimes overlooked tips.
Choose large chain stores
When it comes to prices on books, as well as shipping costs, large chain stores are very hard to beat for low prices, especially on new copies. There are many quaint and wonderful used book stores online, but the selections are typically very minimal and the prices don’t always reflect the decrease in value of a used book. While I am not personally opposed to buying used books, and have found many wonderful copies through places like eBay and thrift stores, you can’t easily give a book as a gift if it has been dog-eared and one corner looks like it was dipped into the bath. (Notice I didn’t say dropped into the bath, which may happen if one accidentally dozes in the bubbles and the book slips!)
Barnes and Noble and Amazon are often within pennies of each other in terms of purchase prices. Pay attention to hard or soft cover options, as these can make a world of difference in prices.
Search for items that qualify for free shipping
Many online retailers offer reduced rates on shipping – spend $25 and get free shipping – on selected items. This can be more of a headache through Amazon as this site also acts as the storefront for other sites which DO charge for shipping. If you want to search Amazon for only those items that qualify for free shipping, look for the search feature on the toolbar to the left to select their “Free Super Saver Shipping” option. Beware, however, that you also might be more likely to actually spend more as you try to reach that $25 mark in order to qualify for the free shipping.
Read the book reviews
Read the book reviews because you can’t judge a book by the cover. Even if I have no intention of purchasing a book online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, these are the first places I go to read the reviews by people who have actually read the books.
Book Buying Basics
- When buying and selling used books online use Media Mail rates whenever possible for reduced shipping fees.
- The prices of books on-site and online for places like Barnes and Noble can be different for the same book. Check online for a price comparison before heading to the store.
- Pay attention to descriptions when buying used, and remember that each vendor has their own definition of “slightly worn”. I learned this the hard way when I ordered a book from eBay and read the phrase read only once and assumed that meant great condition. When I got the book it looked and smelled like it had been read once by someone lost in rainforest who celebrated finding his way out by smoking a pack of cigars while hugging the book.
- Check out used book stores like Thrift Books, where the shipping in the U.S. is free, and to other locations is fairly inexpensive. Their selection is small, but their prices are often at huge discounts.
One final tip: Let your reading voice preference be heard by buying on-site
Online book shopping changes the way your local bookstore stocks its shelves. I couldn’t find a book for my son at Barnes and Noble because they didn’t stock it, so I told the clerk I would order it online. She actually asked me to request that I have her order it and ship it to the store (I wouldn’t be charged shipping). She explained that the books on the shelves of stores are there because of in-store demand. If I ordered the book through the physical store, the store would be more likely to carry books of similar author or subject. The shelves of physical stores are reflections of the people who shop there, so if you like to browse the stacks, make sure you occasionally let your reading voice preference be heard by buying on-site.