10 Tips for Buying Books

Hey everyone! It’s been a while! Today I decided to write a post about the ins-and-outs of buying books.

*Please note: This blog post was written a while ago. My thoughts, opinions, and writing skills have changed since then. Any posts written before 2020 should be assumed to not fully reflect my current thoughts, opinions, and writing capabilities unless otherwise stated. If you would like clarification on my thoughts/opinions about any specific points mentioned in this post, feel free to reach out to me.*

Hey everyone! It’s been a while! Today I decided to write a post about the ins-and-outs of buying books. There are definitely many people out there who have had much more experience with this, but from what I’ve done and seen I have learned a lot about how/where to get books that are cheap and good quality. So I am going to share my advice, and hopefully you can glean some helpful tips from this post! By the way, sorry for the poor quality of the following pictures. Although they do illustrate my points, they aren’t really what one would call “pretty.” I’ll try to work on visual appeal in future posts.

Tip #1: Do not buy from Amazon.

I have had terrible experiences buying books directly from Amazon (independent sellers are a different story and I’ll get more into that later). Of course, buying from Amazon might seem like an appealing idea, because it is sooo much cheaper than places like Barnes & Noble. However, unless you don’t care about the quality of the book and only about the content, you will be disappointed with the conditions. Personally I like having books that both look good and are a good read, and I regret not buying the books I have from Amazon from a different seller. Of course, not to say that all books from Amazon will be in terrible condition. The two books I have bought from the site however, were very bad quality. The first is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. When I received the book the cover was really dirty–there were grey smudges along the spine, front, and back. My mom called Amazon to get a replacement but the second one was not much better. The second experience is when my dad ordered The Chamber of Secrets Illustrated Edition for me this past Christmas. Of course, the book is lovely. However, the spine is not bound well and the front and back are misaligned. Two Christmases ago, my dad bought me The Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition from Barnes & Noble and it did not have this problem (note that he bought the book from the store and not online).

Tip #2: Barnes & Noble always has good quality and pretty books.

For those of you that do not need to worry much about saving money, go to Barnes & Noble. It’s popular because it has a lot of book editions for those that actually collect books and try to complete collections. I love going to B&N just because of how many books they have. They always have new releases and you can find signed copies there too. Also, all the books I’ve bought both in store and online from B&N have come in perfect condition. Books here are always full price and quite expensive (especially hardcovers). So make sure you buy books you know you will love and reread, or you will regret it. I have several books from B&N that I wish I hadn’t used all that money on, especially since one hardcover will be about $20 usually. They do have good deals though. Make sure to sign up for emails on sales. In store I have bought editions with several classics in one book for only $7.98 each.

Tip #3: Buy secondhand.

This is probably the best and most common sensical tip you’ll ever read. I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before but it’s so important!! There are many second-hand stores out there where you can buy stuff for cheap. My public library sells old books they don’t want and it’s sooo much less expensive than buying new copies. This is also where Amazon can be helpful. On Amazon, I’m sure you know that they let independent sellers sell secondhand versions of books. They have a ton of good offers there. It’s always a risk buying online because you don’t know how good the condition will be, however, it won’t even really matter that much because you can get books for like $2-$10 and it is so. freaking. cheap. Sometimes there are reviews for the sellers so you can read those to see if they can be trusted and if they have good customer service. And buy books that are stated to be in new condition, obviously. I bought my copy of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart from a random person on Amazon and it came in perfect condition.

Tip #4: Go to independent bookstores.

Independent bookstores tend to be cheaper than chain ones like B&N. This isn’t always true, for example my local bookstore in town still sells books at full-price. However, many small obscure ones will have really good deals. For example, when we went to Princeton University there was a small bookshop near it called Labyrinth Books. It is true that these small bookstores will not always have new releases. Labyrinth had several. But the best part is, if you go downstairs in that bookstore, they have discarded books that are SO CHEAP. Again, you probably won’t find any new releases in this section. These discarded books are usually old and obscure. However, if there’s certain topics that interest you and not a specific title, then go to these sections! I got a book called The Sorcerer’s Companion (explains backstories and legends about creatures and topics in Harry Potter) for only $4.

Tip #5: Look for deals, bargains, and gift codes.

This is super obvious but super important. Sign up for email listings, and you’ll tend to get exclusive codes. Check websites for deals. Go to the stores on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or during holiday season. Watch booktubers, because sometimes they have codes. Do well in school!! Last year when I graduated from middle school I got awards for different subjects and each subject was a $100 gift certificate to our local bookshop. I ended up with $400 or $500 dollars, and that goes a LONG way. Goodreads has deals on books as well. They cater it to books they think you’ll be interested in.

Tip #6: Start a bookblog or bookstagram.

I’m hesitant to put this on here because you should not start one with the intention of getting deals on books. You shouldn’t have any ulterior motives for this. You should do it because you genuinely enjoy it, and it should not feel like a chore. However, apprehensions aside, this can be beneficial because it has the added bonus of possibly getting sent free copies. I’ve had my bookstagram for more than one year and just a few days ago I was contacted by an author to give an honest review of his book Melody’s Key! But please please please remember to NOT START A BOOKSTAGRAM/BLOG FOR THE BENEFITS.

Tip #7: Ask for books for birthdays/holidays.

This is pretty straightforward. Parents are usually happy to buy books for you because it’s “educational.” And if you tell someone the edition/title you want, it’s going to be easy for them when they go gift-shopping, because they don’t have to think of their own idea.

Tip #8: Do your research and compare prices!

I know we all love to impulse buy… or even if we hate it we love to do it anyway. However, one way to slow yourself down is to research the book you want and compare prices across different stores to see where you can buy it at its cheapest.

Tip #9: Paperbacks are the way to go.

This isn’t really always true if you’re looking for a specific edition. Especially since most special editions come in hardcover. This is also really hard if you want a new release, because books almost always release first as hardcovers then as paperbacks. But I’m telling you, if you just want to book and don’t care for edition, go the paperback route! If you want to read a new release, just go to a library and borrow it, and buy a copy for yourself later. Paperbacks are sooo much cheaper than hardcovers, usually by half/$10. Also, there are tons of pros to paperbacks: they’re light and easier to transport, you don’t have to feel bad about cracking the spine, and they are usually smaller too.

Tip #10: Don’t buy books!!

My last tip isn’t really a real tip, and I’m sorry for that. I couldn’t think of a last piece of advice and I was originally going to use this as a bonus tip but I’m putting it here. I know this isn’t helpful for those who collect books, and I know owning a book and borrowing books are completely different. However, if you want to just read a book then go to the library! Or borrow from a friend, or do a book exchange. Or, you could read an ebook or listen to an audiobook. I am a physical copy person so I don’t like those two choices, but they’re options! Most of my impulse buys I have regretted. The books I’ve bought and actually enjoy are ones that I’ve read excerpts to, heard great reviews of, and actually interest me vs. being all over bookstagram. For example, I saw the book Everything, Everything everywhere, so I bought it without really reading much into it. I did not enjoy it. I like to buy from authors that I know are reliable. I also tend to buy books I’ve already read, and loved enough to want to reread over and over. A general tip is also that if you liked one book from a series/duology/trilogy,etc. buy the next one. However, this isn’t always true because I loved Me Before You by JoJo Moyes but am not enjoying After You. 

I hope this blog post was helpful in some way! Again, I’m sorry for the quality of the pictures, they make me cringe too. Don’t forget to check out my bookstagram for more frequent updates. And as always, leave requests for future blog posts in the comments section. Thanks for visiting!

Merry Readings,


Author: april | lostinthebookstacks

hello! i'm april (she/her), an asian american reader who’s passionate about words and scallion pancakes.

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