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The ever-changing book buying process.

Posted by richburridge on May 3, 2004 at 8:50 AM PDT

I'm an avid book reader. Anything from fiction through to
technical books. The following applies to all types of books.

Ten to fifteen years ago or so, I'd happily go spend an evening
browsing a local new or second-hand bookstore.
Five to eight years ago, along came the online web bookstores like
Amazon and I tried it out with a simple relatively small order, found
that it was good and started using it more and more. My time at new
bookstores reduced (although I still went to the local used bookstores).

Amazon and the larger bookstores
like Barnes and Noble and
Borders (which also have an
online presence) have been one of the main reasons why smaller bookstores
are no longer in business which I find depressing.

Over the last five years, my book buying style has changed again.
I've recently been buying a lot of books from
Edward R. Hamilton.
This bookseller sends out a catalog every month or two that reads like
the For Sale section of a local newspaper. These books are typically
remaindered or shopworn books but there are the occasional newer books -
all at reduced prices. A good thing is that no matter how many books you
order, the shipping cost is only $3.50. There are a couple limitations
to the way this bookseller works that are a distinct inconvenience, but
I've learnt to live with them. You can't order online (although you can
search an online catalog). You have to send in your order by snail mail
with a cheque or money order (although you can generate an order online
which you can then just print out and mail in). As the bookseller is on
the other side of the U.S from where I live, this order process takes
about two weeks.

Another problem is that a lot of these books are unknown to me. Are they
any good? Should I buy them? To decide that, the reviews section at
Amazon.com has helped me. If a potential book that I want to buy has a
rating of 3-1/2 stars or more (out of 5) and has been reviewed by 5 or more
reviwers, then there is a good chance that I will buy it.

Another change is to use the online book search facilities provided
by companies such as the
Advanced Book Exchange. If there
is a particular book that I'm searching for that is either out of print
or I can't find it in the local second hand stores, then I'll try to
locate a copy through ABE, typically picking the cheapest copy from
several choices.

I also enjoy going to the local library book sales. These occur
typically every 3 months (although
one local library
does have a sale every month). Prices are very low and you can find
some true bargains. Some library book sales have a special "bag sale" near the end,
where you can fill a bag with anything for a fixed prices (usually $3-5).
This is like a feeding frenzy at the zoo. Not for shy retiring types.