Feb 3, 2005

A Passion for Page-Turners

Bargain-hunting for books has never been easier, thanks to both the internet and to the fact that, surprisingly, few people attach sentimental or monetary value to titles like Doris Day: Her Own Story (they're missing out, I know, but that's where you get a great deal). I have compiled a list of the best and most reliable resources for quality reading at low prices. And please, trust my recommendations, because let's be honest: any girl who can get Kitty Carlisle's mint-condition autobiography for 25 cents can be deemed a seasoned book-buyer, can she not?

Here are your best bets for book collecting:

Non-Retail Resources
eBay - The online auction site offers an inventory as diverse as the millions of sellers who list new auction items every day, so while finding a title may take a week or two, there is still the very real chance that its starting price will be a penny. Sign-up is simple, bidding is a breeze, and paying for purchases is swift and secure with PayPal, a service that transfers money between parties' bank accounts.
Hillary says: I've used eBay for nearly a decade, and it's aided in the acquisition of many a vintage video, long out-of-print book or hard-to-find Hollywood artifact at ridiculously low prices. Be wary, though, and bid with patience - be sure to compare prices between sellers to guarantee the lowest possible price on good-to-mint condition books, and you should always be satisfied.
Noteworthy: Always consider three essential parts of any auction: the seller's feedback score, which is fairly indicative of their reliability and trustworthiness (it can be found as a percentage following the seller's name on the auction page, and feedback from their prior transactions is available by clicking on it). Secondly, review the methods of payment the seller allows - most popular is Paypal, the free money-transfer service that eliminates check-writing and money orders - to avoid issues with cashier's checks or cash transactions, which are never recommended. And finally, always factor in the shipping cost of any item, as it may be so significant that you'll be paying more than had you purchased it at any old retailer - that Esther Williams Collection won't be such a steal once you add $17 shipping (we're scoping out deals, remember?). Be sure to sign up for Paypal, too, as a means of payment; it insures your purchases and tracks your transaction, and is invaluable in holding the rare deadbeat seller accountable for what you're owed.
Best Deal: Jane Fonda's My Life So Far, hard cover with dust jacket in brand-new condition: $2.00 with $2.50 shipping.

Your Local Library: The beauty of the local library is two-fold: it not only houses an enviable collection of books, films, and other resources for weeks-long rental, but it may also sell used books as a means of re-circulating titles, ridding shelves of underused or duplicate copies, or fundraising. This is an excellent opportunity to snag superb issues of old books that may really only be available from a library collection.
Hillary says: My local college town library has an area devoted to selling donated books collected from all over our community, and they ask for monetary donations in return. As a result,
I've amassed an amazing assortment of vintage celebrity auto- and biographies that would have taken years to find by other means, all for the price of what I'm able to give - generously, but within my college-student means.
Noteworthy: Call or visit your closest libraries to see what their policy is on bookselling. Even if they don't continually offer books at discounted prices, many will hold book sales at regular intervals, or will conduct such sales in conjunction with community fundraising efforts.
Best Deal: Kate Remembered by A. Scott Berg, 50 cents; Kitty Carlisle Hart's Kitty: An Autobiography, 25 cents.

Goodwill, Savers, and Thrift Stores: The name will vary depending on where you live, but chances are you're familiar with a local store that profits from the selling of donated items.
Hillary says: Be patient when shopping thrift stores. The merchandise is cycled through rather quickly, so it is likely displayed haphazardly and with no particular method of ordering, but don't let that discourage you:
devoting a few minutes to scanning shelves can result in a most rewarding discovery.
Noteworthy: Books are often donated in large quantities from estates or private collections, so it is likely that if you locate one hard-to-find title in the pile, similar titles will be lurking about. Even if one search yields nothing, try stopping in at regular intervals to get a feel for how frequently new items become available for purchase.
Best Deal: The Films of Henry Fonda, The Films of Gary Cooper, The Films of Gene Kelly, The Films of Spencer Tracy, all softcover, three excellent condition and one fair condition, $1.00 each.


The bottom line is, of course, this: with even the least substantial of budgets and an inventive approach to shopping, an expanded library is within reach - just be sure to save a few of those dollars for some Asti and a good chocolate cake, because you're going to be spending a lot more time curled up with some engrossing reads.

This post was part one in a two-part article on shopping suggestions; next week's counterpart will detail recommended retail outlets.

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