Comparing Used Book Websites: What I’ve Learned

It’s officially March and this weekend is “Spring Forward”. I’m hoping the snow melts to at least have green grass poking up so it *feels* sorta like spring, but in the meantime, grab a book and hibernate until it thaws! If you don’t have a good one nearby, head to your local library or… read on to find out about my experience with used book websites.

If you’re thinking, “why in the world does anyone need more than one book at a time. You read it and then you’re done. What’s the big deal?!” You might have happened on the wrong website. Your perfect blog might be “Minimalists in all things – including books”. This blog could’ve been accurately titled “Book Hoarders Anonymous” – which is taken. (I just checked.)

If you’re thinking, “The smell and feel and excitement of finding the best edition for the best price?? Yes!! Bring it on!! Oh and reading it? Love that too!!” You are definitely in the right place. Read on, good reader.

Periodically, I find myself needing a certain book for book club or writers group or just because I heard it’s amazing and the library wait list is literally 8 months long – and I don’t have the time to hunt through thrift store bookshelves.

Now, to be clear, Amazon is great, and whoever makes perfume needs to bottle the scent of crisp pages, ink and coffee one is greeted with upon opening the door to Barnes and Noble. (Ah, Bliss! I’d slather that stuff on.) But, alas, it’s not always an option to meander the shelves.

So. Here are the sites I tried and what happened.


Thriftbooks.com

This was my first foray into the used book market other than a major website such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I found those sites rather cumbersome when it came to getting to their marketplace/used book sections – which is understandable considering they want me to buy their brand-new options instead.

Thriftbooks prices were great! I felt like I was getting a deal: a good quality used book for 3.98 and if I put together an order of $10, the shipping is free! Score!

AND every $1 spent turns into so many points which add up to actual free books sent to you! Free. Plus they have a very handy app – it might be too handy. But I do like it to keep my wish list. It will send me a little ding when something in my list comes up for a deal.

I did have one snafu with them. On Writing by Stephen King arrived in the promised great condition until I opened the cover and ruffled through the pages. Pages and pages of every line underlined in ink – true newbie college student style.

So I found their contact info and called the phone number listed. I got a nice guy whose instant response upon hearing what happened, told me to keep/donate the faulty book and he would send me another one. I was happily shocked! Such fantastic customer service! His response made me feel secure, that they would stand behind whatever they sold.

I’ve sung their praises since. (I should be one of their affiliates! ha!) Oh, and my free book count is up to three.

Shipping: I ordered a book January 24 and received it January 28! That’s their typical turnaround time. I’ve ordered 10 times since 2016. 

Thriftbooks, you are amazing!! Keep up the good work! Give your customer service people a huge pat on the back. They are the reason I look at your site first if I’m on the hunt for a book. Sincerely, Your VERY Loyal Customer. 


Abebooks.com

AbeBooks is rather like eBay for books. Sellers pay a subscription fee to be able to list their books on the website. There are far more options than just the latest books everyone is talking about. They offer textbooks, rare editions, paper collectibles, comics, even maps. It’s quite a database they offer.

The ladies in my book club recommended it because there are no shipping fees. The book cost is all you pay. Not too bad, I thought. I can get a book shipped to me for less than $4?? Sure!!

As I found out later, something should’ve flagged in the “maybe it’s too good to be true” category.

The Unintentional Saga of Ordering a Book

October 17 – ordered the next book club selection for the meeting on Nov 13.

November 6 – book still hadn’t come and the 10 day shipping period was over. So I contacted the company through their contact form on their website/help page. I got a form response. It was badly formatted at that – basically assuming I had no idea how to navigate their help section. Very frustrated.

November 8 – got an email responding to my request on the contact form. She said that it showed it was on its way but that the wildfires in California had slowed things way down.

November 15 – Got an email from another person giving me the same information that it’s in transit and to check with USPS. My blood was boiling a bit considering the book club meeting had come and gone.

November 20 – an online survey arrived in my inbox.

November 29 – Responded to last email. Updating her that after 5 attempts to get through to the USPS office near us, the helpful mechanical voice told me that it would be over an hour before I would be able to speak with someone. I hung up.

November 30 – She sent me the $3.63 refund – which is the reason I almost didn’t want to deal with it. But the principle of the thing kept kicking me.

So I sent in that survey. I let them know (kindly but directly) what I thought of their service. They missed a great opportunity to make me a true customer. The fact that the book never arrived at all should’ve been on the radar of that customer service person. I would hope that her boss would’ve given her some leeway to offer a conciliatory discount/freebie.. something to a customer in this situation.

I even mentioned that I was putting this post together. Nope.

AbeBooks, you might be a great service if the seller actually does mail the book. I’m sure you’ve had great reviews from other customers. This one, however, is not. Tip: make your customer service people and emails more understanding and personable. Give them leeway and allow them to offer options to customers who are frustrated. You will have a lot more loyal customers in this world of competing coupons and deals. Loyalty is valuable. If you value it, you value your customers. Sincerely, Not A Fan


BetterWorldBooks.com

Around the time of my experience with AbeBooks, I began to search out other used book websites to see how they worked to provide you, my reader, with a greater perspective.

BetterWorldBooks was the other option Google suggested.

I decided four of my paperback Patricia Polacco books needed to be upgraded to hardcover editions for the sweet price of 3.98 each, even for library editions.

I placed the order November 4. An email was sent November 5 telling me they shipped. Even with shipping from Reno and Mishawaka, they arrived a week later.

There are always a lot of deals running on their website. They love to tell me with many emails about all their great discounts, but I have to say – after ThriftBooks – I wasn’t inclined to go anywhere else. Maybe I’m too loyal, but what do you expect from an Enneagram 6!

BetterWorldBooks, your service was fantastic and the books arrived in the condition promised when you said they would. Well done! If I wasn’t already seeing ThriftBooks, I’d take you up on your many offers. I will gladly recommend you to my amazing readers! Sincerely, Taken But Still Recommending


So there you go – my used book website experiences. Not exactly riveting, though I tried. I hope it helps you when you’re faced with where to find a needed used book.

Happy Reading!!

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Comparing Used Book Websites: What I’ve Learned

Add yours

  1. I recently ordered some books from BetterWorldBooks for the first time, and it was a great experience!!! My books came on time, they were in new or nearly new condition, and the price was fabulous!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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