Buying books on the cheap.

I love used books and I love remaindered books but most of all, I love, love, love cheap books. You can call them “inexpensive,” if you find “cheap” too pejorative, so long as you point me to a pile of ’em. I found a new (to me) remaindered bookstore in the Medford Outlet Center in Medford, MN and scooped up six books, four being audiobooks, of which they have an ample selection. I was so delighted, I thought I’d make a post about a few of my favorite “inexpensive” bookstores and websites.

Seek out used books.

When I was in middle school, I fell in love with the book section of Goodwill stores. Filled with musty, yellowing paperbacks, this sea of dime novels and quarter hardcovers fueled much of my reading material during those early teen years. Peter Benchley, James Clavell, Michael Crichton, Ray Bradbury, David Eddings, Stephen King, and George Orwell by the shelf full. Nowadays, pickings are a little slim, but I still stand firm that thrift stores like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Savers have a veritable untapped treasure trove of cheap reads, just for you.

If you shop in Uptown Minneapolis, than you’ve probably stopped by Magers & Quinn Booksellers, who have as many new titles as they do used. One can usually find a title in the new section there, only to walk across the store to the used section and find the same title used for a few dollars less. And if not, well, buy it new because it’s supporting a great store! The staff is friendly and helpful, too. If they feel you’re making a solid purchase, they won’t hesitate to tell you so, and I’ve found, they do it in such a manner that one doesn’t feel self-conscious or that they’re snooty. They simply come off as people who appreciate good writing, and I’m always interested in those sorts of people.

I tend to buy too many books, so I limit much of my active seeking of used books to the bi-annual Rummage Sale at Excelsior United Methodist Church in Excelsior, MN. To my dear Minnesota readers, this is the place to go for Jon Hassler, Jonathan Kellerman, Garrison Keillor, Alice Sebold, Milan Kundera, Nick Hornby, Jodi Picoult, Jean M. Auel, David Sedaris, Carl Hiassen, and many more. The children’s section is typically well-stocked, too, and that’s beyond the battered copies of Narnia and Harry Potter fare. It’s held bi-annually during the last weekend in April and the last weekend in September / first weekend in October.

I’ve never participated, but I think BookCrossing.com is a wonderful idea. Take your most beloved books, the books you want others to love as much as you do, and give them away. Register them at the website, then put them in a public place for someone else to pick up, update its status on the website, read and enjoy, then repeat the process. I’m too much of a “Stuff Owner,” so I don’t see myself parting with books, really, but again I find this idea fascinating. Here’s an NPR podcast from 2002 about the phenomenon.

Seek out remaindered books.

Remaindred books are those books which may rock it, may rock it hardcore, but for some reason or another just aren’t selling anymore, so the publisher basically tries to liquidate them at super-duper low prices. If you’ve ever picked up a book with a magic marker slash on the pages spine or over the UPC bar code, it’s probably a remaindered book.

I’ve been going to bookcloseouts.com for years, as faithful readers of this blog know. They have a wide selection of both genre and literary greats, and all for prices ranging from two bucks to other numbers under ten. I’ve snatched a few titles by Elmore Leonard, Neil Gaiman, Harry Crews, Kevin Brockmeier, Nick Hornby, Ray Bradbury, Michael Cunningham, Alice Sebold, Walt Whitman, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Chris Crutcher, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Wright, Neil Simon, Louise Erdrich, ZZ Packer, and Dorothy Allison, just to name a few. If that list of great writers doesn’t whet your reader’s appetite, I don’t know what will. Click here for a $5 off $35 coupon.

I’ll say a little more about the store I found in Meford this week, Book Warehouse. They appeared to have a little of everything, and in particular I picked up some Neil Gaiman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elmore Leonard, and a production artwork coffee table book about The Incredibles. An unexpected bonus was a punch card claiming that for every $100 I purchase, I’ll receive $10 off the next purchase of $15 or more. With my better half here at Scrawlers living just south of Medford, as well as road trips to Iowa-based family, something tells me I’ll be stopping here often enough to see that punch card get used, and then some.

And of course, there’s always the bargain sections at Barnes & Noble and other such bookstores. Never miss the chance to peruse through these shelves for neglected reading. I’ve found some great work by T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, and more in these places, and who knows what you’ll find.

The above certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start if you’ve been meaning to build a pile of cheap books. I’ll have to write about my favorite merchants for new books (I’m looking your way, Dreamhaven Books, Comics & Art) one of these days. If you’ve got leads and hook-ups on where to get cheap books, toss ’em in a comment.

-nm

[tags]used books, remaindered books, dreamhaven, book warehouse, bookcloseouts.com, Neil Gaiman, cheap books[/tags]

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