Tips for Used Book Shopping!

Westsider Bookstore New York City
Here’s a question: how do you shop for books?

There’s the local bookshops, the big branches, your local library, and of course… Amazon.

Personally, I’ve found some of my most treasured books at local used bookstores. No matter where I travel to, I always make a point to go to a used bookstore there and get a literary memento from the trip. The result is that I’ve been able to amass a collection of vintage books from all over the world, some even in different languages, and all holding wonderful memories.

When I joined the book community on Instagram, I noticed that so many people only buy new books from chain stores or online, so I’m here to champion the little guy! I’ve compiled some tips and tricks I’ve learned from over the years to guide those new to the vintage/used book game, so let’s dive right in.

Vintage Books

  • Stock up on the classics!
Vintage Jane Austin Emma
I admittedly am not even that big a fan of Austin, but this copy of “Emma” was way too beautiful to pass up!

The books you’ll find in these stores most likely aren’t going to be any recent publications. Instead, you’ll find a lot of “fad” books (ex: Y.A. hits from 5+ years ago), and what people might refer to as “the classics”. You’ll be surprised by the books you thought you hated in high school coming back again and proving you wrong in your later years. I never in a thousand years would have picked up “Moby Dick” for example if I hadn’t found an edition from the 1960’s I thought was beautiful. Which leads me to my next point…

  • Look for the best edition

I personally am a huge edition snob. I collect different editions of my favorite books, and it drives me nuts when the books I have by the same author don’t match. The good news for fellow book design freaks like me is that used bookshops will often have multiple editions of a title in stock, so you get your pick to match what you already have at home.

  • Always check the bargain bins!

Lots of used bookstores will have bargain or $1 bin, typically outside the store on the sidewalk. It’s easy to assume that the books there are trash, but I very often find some real gems there. One of my favorite copies of “Jane Eyre” was from a dollar bin, so roll up your sleeves and get digging! And hey, even if you don’t find anything in the bargain bins, the books inside the store are usually pretty cheap too.

  • Don’t let a little damage scare you away

Most of the book I find myself attracted to are from the 1950’s and 60’s, which means they’ve got quite a bit of wear and tear on them. If you’re looking for a book to actually carry with you and read, then don’t be afraid of the older books! Scotch Magi

c Tape really can work wondering on covers and pages that have tears. Also, be sure to flip through the book before you buy to see if anyone left something! I’ve found letters, inscriptions, and even a photo from a family’s vacation to Disney in books before, which I think just adds to the magic.

Do you frequent used bookstores often? What’s the best thing you’ve found there?


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