Do you buy secondhand books? Why or why not? What are the benefits of buying secondhand? What are the cons of secondhand books? What do you recommend people do to better support secondhand bookstores?
It’s pretty rare that I buy secondhand books anymore, for the main reason that I curate my collection of physical copies very carefully. I typically buy only those books I really want and know that I would reread over and over for many years to come, so I like getting the best copy I can find. This means that I’m usually looking for a very particular hardcover or special edition which is unlikely to be found in secondhand bookstores. However, if that is not the case, I do buy secondhand books when I can find them.
Secondhand books have their advantages though. The big one that comes to mind is of course, saving on money because they tend to cost much less than a brand new book. This also means that you can buy more books on the same budget! There is also the possibility of stumbling across a rare gem or two, like vintage editions no longer in print. Browsing the shelves of a secondhand bookstore is almost an adventure of its own as you never know what book you might come across. I will forever coddle my books and never break the spine, but one final benefit I see in this, though it doesn’t apply to me, is that secondhand books are most likely already broken in, so you don’t have to be as careful when handling them.
On the downside however, a book in good condition is not always guaranteed when buying secondhand. It could have been poorly handled, with dog-eared, or worse, torn or missing pages (really, any number of horrific scenarios come to mind now that I think about it) and I certainly wouldn’t buy such a book for my shelves, especially because whatever books I buy, I intend to keep long term. Secondhand books could also have annotations in it from a previous owner (which is a huge no for me since I never write in my books), or perhaps be missing a dust jacket, some of which are pretty unique for certain editions. Stock is also limited, so it can be hard to find a copy if you’re looking for a specific book.
If there’s a secondhand bookstore you love to shop in, I feel that a good way to support them would be to spread the word other readers who may not be aware of it. Outside of some well known stores, there isn’t really a lot of publicity or marketing for them.
Do you buy secondhand books? Share your thoughts in the comments below!