Thursday, December 8, 2011

Finding Used Books Online

Amazon has made buying books a lot easier, but what if you're looking for out-of-print books, for yourself or as a Christmas gift? Or you want to find a cheaper second-hand copy, or a first edition? Sometimes Amazon will list sellers of used copies, but what if they don't have the book you want?

Thanks to the Internet, finding that elusive book is much easier than it used to be, whether you're a serious collector or just want cheap copies of everything your favorite author wrote. There are websites that allow you to search the holdings of thousands of booksellers worldwide with one click. Here are my favorite resources: lets you limit your search in many ways-by publisher, by price, or first editions in dustjacket. (Read the seller's description carefully, though; the seller may specify "No dustjacket" and the computer catches the "dustjacket" and ignores the "No.") You can sort your results-cheapest copies first, or "most recently listed" (to see what's been added since you last checked. Best of all, you can register "wants" if you can't find the books you want (or the copies listed are too pricey), sign up, and you'll be e-mailed as soon as they become available. There's no charge for this service, and you can sometimes get great bargains. works similarly, and also allows you to sort results by condition. You can often get discounts by checking or Googling for "alibris coupons." the most comprehensive site. allows you to search abebooks, alibris, Amazon,, and other sites simultaneously to find the best price (especially useful if you're looking for textbooks). But since it searches several databases simultaneously, it's less efficient than abebooks and alibris at limiting your search and sorting results.
If you have questions, feel free to see me in the library, or email me. If you want to borrow books rather than purchase them, there's always interlibrary loan.

* This blog post was authored by Arthur Robinson, the Reference and Interlibrary Loan Librarian at Lewis Library.

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