Places to get second hand books

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about why I love libraries.  Libraries aren’t the only way I get books for less money or in a more sustainable way and I thought I would come back and share some of them.

Charity shops are the obvious way to get books cheaper and as they’re second hand most people assume it’s better. Wrong. Cheaper yes, particularly green, no.

Most charity shops receive so many book donations that unless they are in absolutely perfect condition they throw them away. Obviously if a book is completely falling apart and can’t be read they should bin it rather than sell it. But if the books got some creasing to the spine or the odd scuff a lot of places will also bin it. I don’t agree with that.

I don’t care what it looks like, I’m buying a cheap, second hand book and hopefully supporting a charity as well. I want to read it not look at the shelf thinking how pretty and like new it looks (I buy actual new books for that).

I have noticed that the Helen and Douglas House charity shop in Didcot is one of the few here that sells less than pristine books. I don’t go in often but I like chosing books that look like they’ve been read and enjoyed – it’s almost like a recommendation.

I’m also a big fan of book swaps. If I go to a bookshop with my mum we have a “don’t buy without checking with the other” rule. And one particular book of mine has been read by me, my mum, my sister and a friend.

There are a couple of websites specifically for swapping books.  Read It Swap It is the one I’ve used but there is also Book Mooch and probably others (those may work slightly differently). I use it to get old books I want via a wishlist.

You list the books you want and then look at the books others have listed. You request a book you want and the site contacts the person who listed it. If you have a book they  want you swap (via the post). Make sure to keep the packaging the book comes in and then you can save even more money on your next swap by reusing it. When you’ve finished with the book either keep it or reswap it for something else.

A really fun way to get books is BookCrossing.  People “release” books into the wild by leaving them in public places or even just on the street. They list where they are on the website and people go hunting for them and report where they found them. Books are labelled with an ID number and you can see a book travel.  I’ve only found a couple of books – mostly just by spotting them when out and about but I like it.

Writing this post is making me wonder just why it is I don’t do more swaps and Book Crossing.  I might have to start!


2 thoughts on “Places to get second hand books

  1. I didn’t realise that charity shops will threw away books that are not in perfect condition. That is a real shame. I really like buying my books second hand – especially if they have some marks and scuffs, because that shows that they have a history. The best is getting a book with notes scribbled in. I’m always trying to decode it so I know what the person before me thought about the book!


    • I didn’t until someone I know started volunteering in a charity shop and told me. But from what others have said it’s pretty common in all the big name charity shops. Shocking really.


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