I’ll confess: I’m a book-buying addict.
There’s really no point denying it when I’m writing this in a bedroom with books stacked high on every available surface, and with a bookcase stuffed full of more books downstairs in the hallway (and there are also books stacked on top of the bookcase too…as I say, I have a problem!). They’re literally everywhere, and I love it!
The only problem with my book-buying addiction is that it can be a pretty expensive habit: brand new paperbacks seem to start at an absolute minimum of £6.99 these days, and a hardback can go up as high as £20! And whilst I do have a full-time job, I have a lot of other more important things to pay for first (well… that’s what society tells me anyway!) like rent, and car finance and food etc., and so I don’t have endless money to spend on books.
Therefore I’ve had to find ways to get my fix of books for cheaper, and have spoken about my love for libraries and my newfound appreciation for Kindles and ebooks on this blog before. However, I still find that nothing beats the feeling of reading a physical copy of a book that’s all yours: a copy that you’ll get to put on your bookcase (or on one of your precarious book stacks!) after you’ve read and (hopefully!) loved it, as a memento of a great reading experience.
Which brings me to the subject of this post: second-hand books (yes, it has taken me three paragraphs to get to the topic of this post!). Buying second-hand is a great option if you want to own a physical copy of a book for cheaper, and they’re easy to get hold of through second-hand bookshops, eBay and Amazon, and even from charity shops and car boot sales.
However, I’ve also found a few drawbacks to buying second-hand books, so I thought I’d discuss the pros and cons here:
- They’re cheap.
I think if we were all honest, most of us would prefer to have a shiny new copy of a book if possible, so the main attraction to buying second-hand instead is the smaller price tag. I’ve picked up second-hand copies of books I’ve really wanted to read for as little as 99p on eBay, which is £6 less than the absolute minimum I would have to pay for a paperback from Waterstones or WH Smith.
- It’s super satisfying.
Most people love a bargain, and so there’s something extra satisfying about getting a book you really want for dirt cheap!
- You get to feel good about recycling.
It’s kind of sad to think about old books being thrown out or just generally being abandoned and unloved, so when you buy a second-hand book you get to feel good about recycling, and giving an old book a new home!
- They have their own charm.
Yes, they may have yellowed pages and odd stains (I’m getting to that…), but I do think there’s a certain charm to second-hand books. The thought of other people before you having read and enjoyed that same story is a nice feeling, especially when the copy of the book looks well-read and well-loved.
I also think there’s a definite charm about second-hand bookshops too: it feels a lot like hunting for treasure as you set off in search of bargains!
- Weird stains and other damage.
The biggest con with second-hand books has got to be the condition: whilst a book that’s a little dog-eared or has a cracked spine is OK, coming across weird stains can be off-putting, and don’t even get me started on ripped pages or where people have actually written in the book!!!
This is especially an issue when buying online from places like eBay, as you only really have the retailers word for the condition. Whilst I’ve rarely had any problems when buying books described as ‘Good Condition’ or ‘New Condition’, there are no guarantees with second-hand books. I think the worst I’ve ever received was a supposedly ‘Good Condition’ book that physically didn’t look too bad aside from rather yellow pages and a battered cover, but that smelt horribly dusty when I opened it, which made it rather unpleasant to read (which is a shame, because I enjoyed the story!).
- Potentially ugly covers.
Another problem with second-hand books is that they are usually old editions, and this means high potential for ugly covers! Especially if you’re like me and like a lot of fantasy, as old-fashioned fantasy covers are often pretty hideous.
Again, this can be a danger when buying online, as often the cover picture shown on the listing is the current edition, and not the edition you’ll end up receiving. I’ve also had a couple of odd occasions recently where I’ve bought second-hand copies of paperbacks online and received books that were not standard paperback size…they were absolutely huge! This made them really unwieldy to read, and they didn’t line up with all the other books on my shelves which was super annoying!
As I’ve said, there really are no guarantees when buying second-hand books!
So what are your feelings towards buying second-hand books? Do you love them, hate them, or make do with them?