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Why Should You Buy Second-Hand Books?

Who does not enjoy buying a brand new book?

The wonderful smell, the soft feeling of the barely touched paper of the pages, and the spotless cover.

But what about the books that have lived a long and eventful life?

The photograph above was taken in one of my favorite spots in Buenos Aires City: Plaza Italia's book fair. It is, in my opinion, one of the best places to buy second-hand books, not only for the prices but for the variety that it offers.

Also, it is just one block away from the Botanic Garden (That happens to be a great place to sit and read your new acquisitions)

But in general, whatever the location, buying second-hand books has some important advantages. Here I tell you some of them.

The Cost

This is the most intuitive point in the list: Buying second-hand books is considerably cheaper than buying new ones.

The convenience relies on whether you can get the kind of books you like that way. If you are looking for the last publications maybe you will not be very lucky.

In my case, I am very fond of classic literature, so finding books that might interest me is not hard. I have also been lucky enough to find some books in English, which you do not find everywhere here (And the few places that have a big offer are not exactly "student-budget friendly")

If you want books for academic purposes (For example, a book in calculus, biology, or any other that can be rather expensive to buy new) a second-hand copy is a great way of saving money.

You can also choose to go shopping on a day the owner of the shop is offering special offers and prices.

For example, last year I went to Plaza Italia the first week of December, and most of the sale posts were offering two or three books at the price of one, or making other "book combos".

I was there to buy myself a present (Last year I studied so much that I felt like I deserved a little treat) and ended up leaving the place with twelve books in my hands, having spent the same money I would have buying one "new" book.

I may have looked quite peculiar carrying all those books, for even the owners stared at me as if I was crazy. Not that I cared particularly.

The History

I believe this ever since my history teacher showed my class a handwritten love letter he has found on the last page of a book he bought in the street.

Second-hand books carry more than one story inside their pages. They possess not only what the author intended, but also what their previous owner left them.

Despite what most people think, I believe books to be very personal objects.

And for me, imagining who that person was, why did he want to get rid of the book and how did he acquire it in the first place, are topics of great interest.

In the years I've been buying these kind of books, I've found more than one surprise inside: A party invitation, a list of words copied in a booklet, a religious stamp, an old bookmarker, paragraphs highlighted in pen, and some funny dedications.

If you are interested in old books, there is always the possibility to find what I call "a little piece of the past" buried in a secluded corner.

The first time I bought in one of these places, I found a 1943 edition of "Camille", which is, until now, the oldest on my bookshelf.

I am also the owner of a 1966's copy of "Gone with the wind" and a 1961's of "Juvenilia".

Two years ago, I bought a copy of "A study in scarlet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for my younger sister. We are not sure, because a few pages are missing, but we believe it to be an edition from the 1910s.

Isn't it amazing?

The Adventure

Buying new books is easy: You go to the store, ask for the book you want and go home. Now you can even pick your books online and receive them in your house.

When buying second-hand books, in some cases, you will have to get your hands dirty.

Second-hand shops can be from big places to little sell posts on the street, but whatever the case, most of the books are on display on tables or accessible shelves, so people can go and take a look for themselves.

Of course, you can ask the owner if you are in the search of a particular title, but the real fun comes when you let the place surprise you.

I like to go and see what the shop has, just for fun, without expectations, search in every corner, and open all the books.

The most important thing about this adventure is that you manage to relax, and find a moment for yourself.

And maybe also end up taking some of your discoveries home with you!

© 2020 Literarycreature


Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on November 03, 2020:

Two comments inspired by your section on "The History":

I once read that George Bernard Shaw was shopping in a secondhand book shop one day when he found a book he had given to a friend, with his inscription on the title page, "Best personal regards, George Bernard Shaw." Shaw bought the book and sent it to the same friend again with the second inscription, "With renewed personal regards, G. B. S."

In an old book that a friend once gave me, I found a dried pressed flower that I'm guessing was about 50 years old.

Lorna Lamon on November 03, 2020:

Most of my books are second-hand as I believe they hold a glamour of their own.

Lynne Samuel from Malaysia on November 02, 2020:

I buy secondhand books all the time, I don't mind. There's a yearly book fair in my city I always go to right around this time of the year called Second Time Around, selling used books for cheap. Sadly, this year, because of the pandemic, the fair is postponed to next year.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on November 02, 2020:

I agree totally. I have probably1000 books in my collection (of course not all fit on the shelves. Many are in boxes, under beds, in storeroom etc.) Probably 90% of them have been purchased second-hand. Many have interesting dedications inside the cover, one was signed by the famous author, and another had a $20 note inside as a bookmark.