Updated: Mar 6
As a freelancer in the 21st century, I spend a lot of time with my eyes on a screen. Not only do I spend 8+ hours a day working on manuscripts while researching, editing, and writing, but a lot of my pastimes involve screens as well, from watching videos, playing videogames, and of course reading books and comics.
A combination of the internet and libraries has made enjoying these things more accessible than ever; however, there's just something about having a physical book in hand that brings a wave of nostalgia and changes the experience I have with a given story. While businesses like Barnes and Noble, Ebay, and of course the juggernaut Amazon are household staples when it comes to buying both new and used books, when it comes to older titles pickings tend to be slim and prices sometimes leave one with sticker shock, especially when it comes to price gouging by 3rd party sellers. As someone who lives in a more rural area where libraries are quite a distance away and with even less access to sources for used books or in-person exchanging with other readers, purchasing books online has been my go-to and most economical method for acquiring more of the titles on my reading wishlist.
With that in mind, this month I'd like to share a bit about my own personal experiences with two websites that enable me to keep my bookshelves always busting at the seams with new titles, as well as enables me to fill gaps in my collection at a bargain—all while also moving once-loved books on to a new owner through a combination of two websites: Thriftbooks.com and PaperbackSwap.com.
Thriftbooks.com is a website that grew out of an Amazon store and went on to become its own entity. They began like many other resellers, buying up bulk books at a discount with the intention of reselling them online for a modest profit. While they do offer new books, the fact that by using Thriftbooks I am able to get my hands on used books that otherwise may have gone unsold and would've been pulped (as well as books whose scarcity would typically have sellers on other websites charging a premium, particularly for like-new condition copies) has a huge appeal for me as someone who prefers printed books when I can get them. Not only does it decrease the carbon footprint of these books, but it also lets me gain access to books that otherwise aren't readily available in libraries or that do not have digital copies available.
Take for instance this pair of books from my most recent book-buying experience:
A hardcover copy of Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton had a list price of over $100 USD at its time of publication in 2011. This sort of reference book is essential to my work as a freelance editor and writer. In 2023, even an ebook copy of this book sells for over $20, and a paperback reprint retails at $30.
On Thriftbooks.com, however, I managed to snag this like-new and essentially unread-looking copy complete with its dust jacket for $28.69. And here's the kicker that really makes Thriftbooks my #1 stop for buying books: at the same time, I was able to score a similarly like-new and virtually unread-looking volume from one of my favorite manga series, Kimi ni Todoke for free thanks to their reading rewards program that grants points for every dollar spent on the site. Altogether, I was able to get what amounted to me as someone who likes newer condition and especially hardcover reference books (due to how their added durability really helps them last over decades of use), roughly $110 worth of books for less than 30% of the retail price.
If you'd like to get a jumpstart on filling out your shelf, use the code 74D4B7AB3 to receive your first free book credit after placing your first $30 book order! Using the code helps me out too: for every person who uses it, I get another book credit on my account. And it's not like I have some sort of special privilege, either: every person who is a member of the free reading rewards program is assigned a similar code, so if you love Thriftbooks as much as I do, you can share your code and get more free books too!
As a book editor and writer, I'm always acquiring new books to read for inspiration, and frequently find myself running out of room on my shelves. When the time eventually comes for a book-purging binge, I turn to my second go-to website: PaperbackSwap.com.
As a member of the site, I've listed dozens of books up for exchange. The only costs involved in this are the cost of sending via post (typically $4 or less via USPS Media Mail for a single book at the time of writing) and I receive a "book swap" credit that I can then either donate to another member or charity, or that I can use to receive another book from another member (which also includes a roughly 50 cent "swap fee" that helps the website cover its maintenance costs).
When I first tried out PaperbackSwap.com, I used the site to purge my indie comics and single-volume manga collection as well as a handful of my old college textbooks. The market for these items was slim, and on websites like ebay wasn't exactly "worth" it to me to make back pennies on the dollar, but to pass along these books to other book lovers in exchange for other books I'd had my eyes on was a golden opportunity!
Within just a couple of months, I managed to snag myself quite the little book haul including a near-complete set of the manga series Sweetness & Lightning, as well as some birding guides, writing advice books, and poetry and short story collections.
Each and every book was sent to me by another book lover who clearly took good care of their books, making it an absolute win-win for everyone involved.
If you'd like to give PaperbackSwap.com a try, use this link or type my username luminousworldstories into the referrer box when you sign up to get a free book swap after you post 10 available books to your trade bookshelf!
Happy writing, and happy reading, everyone!