Yesterday we went to the used book store. The good one.
I took in a few books...maybe seven?
I brought home a women's study bible, a concordance, two books about the life of early settlers on the prairie, two children's books about early American history and a jewelry making book on wire work.
Total out of pocket - zero.
Bonus - I still have some store credit for next time. (I have a running 'tab' at this bookstore, and had some existing store credit.)
The library is, of course, the best frugal place for an avid reader, but the used bookstore, at least a good one, runs a close second.
The way most used bookstores work is this:
You can bring in your used books for store credit. You can use that store credit and/or cash to purchase used books at a lower price than the new price. Some stores require a partial payment of cash in order to insure operating costs are covered, some do not. Some stores will actually pay you cash for books you sell, most will not.
Each store has its own system, so you really have to learn the workings of the store you patronize. "My" store doesn't require the partial cash payment, and the store credit never expires. Store credit is set up in categories. If you bring in a sack of romance novels, any books that they keep will give you credit in 'romance'. If you bring in books that are perpetually in demand, you will get 'special credit', which you can then use to choose those books that have high demand. There is general credit too, and a few other categories that help the bookstore owner maintain a balanced inventory.
A few things I've learned from experience, and from talking to the bookstore's owner:
1. The current top 10 bestseller novels by famour authors are easy for her to get, and often, they don't have tons of staying power. If you read it the week it comes out, you may be able to bring it in and get special credit for it, but soon, she will have a lot of people offering her that same book.
2. Books about history - particularly local history have steady demand. So do how-to books, especially books about crafting, quilting, building, cooking, etc.
3. Computer books are practically obsolete when they are printed, because the technology is moving so quickly. There is low demand for books about learning diferent programming languages, systems, etc. However, very current books that teach end-users how to do things (how to blog, how to sell on ebay, etc.) have some market.
4. Nonfiction has a much longer 'life' than most fiction. That makes sense if you think about it. Once you've read 'The Stand' by Stephen King, you don't refer back to it over and over again the way you would refer back to abook about how to build up the soil in your garden.
5. The books must, must, must be in good condition. An inscription is generally fine, and even an occasional note, but books that are heavily highlighted and full of notes and drawings are hard for others to read (personally, they drive me bats!)
6. I have had good luck buying books from thrift stores and library sales, then trading them in at the used bookstore after I'm finished with them. This might have to do with my love for nonfiction, but it sure has saved me a lot of money.
7. Current inventory helps drive the book trader's decision. If she has enough copies of the cookbook your brought in, she probably won't take your copy. However, in a month, she may be running low on that book, and then she'll want it.
My best 'luck' has been with nonfiction titles - arts and crafts, cookbooks, even some self-help titles. (If I see a copy of 'Codependent No More' at a yard sale for a quarter and it's in good shape, I'm likely to pick it up. I can get roughly $5 in store credit for it at the bookstore, because it's one of those books that has steady demand.) Classics do well too, if/when you can part with them. First editions by famous authors will almost always trade, but if I were you, I'd check the current listing/selling price online first. You may be able to get more for your book (and get cash) by selling it online.
If you've never tried trading at the used book store, scout one out and give it a try. It can be really rewarding - there are treasures to be found in books.
-Laura at TenThingsFarm