Many people have purchased new books from Amazon.com, with their attractive prices and oftentimes free shipping. Maybe you have browsed the “Used” book advertisements, but wondered if it was safe to purchase from these smaller vendors.
The internet is a great place to find that perfect book, the long lost childhood favorite, specific information on a favorite hobby or a research project. How about collecting signed copies of all the books by your favorite author? Collections that would have taken a lifetime to assemble before the internet (and may have cost a fortune) are now accessible and affordable.
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Most services allow you to contact sellers directly with your questions. If the description of the book isn’t specific enough to suit you, don’t hesitate to email the seller with your questions. Most sellers will be happy to provide information from dust jackets and copyright pages, as well as pictures for more expensive items.
If you order “standard” shipping for your book purchases, please be aware that your book will be sent USPS Media Mail – a special rate provided for books, tapes and CDs/DVDs. This mail may take from 4 – 21 BUSINESS days to arrive. Only order the standard shipping if you are prepared to wait a while for your book to arrive.
You need not worry about using your credit card on any of the web sites listed below, all offer secure credit card ordering. The dealers never see your credit card information, and many do not give dealers your email address unless you want to ask a question. Never email your credit card information to anyone. Do not deal with a book dealer who attempts to get you to cancel your order with a service to deal directly with them (even if they offer you a discount to do so!).
Amazon.com offers their famous “A-Z Guarantee” on everything they sell – including used books from third party sellers. This means that if you are dissatisfied with your purchase, for any reason, and can’t work out a refund with the seller, Amazon will refund your money.
Amazon allows every buyer to leave “feedback” on each seller they purchase from. The ratings range from 1 to 5 stars – with 5 stars being the highest rating. In general, one in every twelve to fifteen customers will leave feedback for the seller. Therefore, if a seller has 20 ratings he has probably completed over 200 sales. A rating of 4 stars or higher usually represents a reliable seller.
*Not Quite New – Gently Used Books has 4.9 Amazon stars
Alibris is home to thousands of New and Used book dealers, and they have millions of books. Most Alibris sellers are professional book dealers, and Alibris is very strict about the fulfillment rates their dealers must maintain in order to continue as Alibris partners. Alibris rates their dealers on how many orders they fill, and customers do not leave feedback for individual sellers. Alibris also sells books out of their own warehouse. Alibris purchases popular books from their dealers to keep a steady supply available for their customers.
Alibris also guarantees your satisfaction or your money back. To return a book purchased on Alibris you send it back to Alibris – not to the dealer you purchased it from – and Alibris will promptly refund your sale. You will never have any contact with the dealer unless you initiate a question.
Choose dealers who have a reliability rating of at least 4 dots, and who provide good descriptions of their books.
*Not Quite New – Gently Used Books has all 5 dots.
AbeBooks is home to book dealers from all over the world – many of whom have “brick and mortar” stores and are long established antiquarian and collectible dealers. AbeBooks also specializes in Textbooks. Their site is set up to allow you to easily search a specific dealer’s bookstore. If you are searching for books for a hobby or research project, and you find a book you would like to purchase, it might be worth your time to search the dealer’s other books on the topic. You will usually save on shipping by purchasing more than one book from the same dealer. AbeBooks does not advertise their sellers’ fulfillment rates – so you may want to judge the reliability of the seller based on the detail included in their book descriptions and the number of books they have for sale. (Although we know some large dealers who list relatively little stock on internet sites.)
AbeBooks shipping may be less expensive than other services because dealers set their own shipping charges and do not pay AbeBooks commission on the shipping. AbeBooks also guarantees your satisfaction with your purchase.
Biblio is a relative newcomer to the book selling world. However, they already have over 2600 book dealers and 17 million listings. Their searching, browsing, and shopping cart features are excellent. Books may be less expensive on this service because of their low commission structure for their dealers. Biblio dealers set their own shipping rates, usually discounting shipping for multiple purchases.
After a few online purchases, you may discover some dealers who provide excellent customer service and seem to consistently carry books you are interested in. Many (like us) have their own web sites. You should consider purchasing directly from these dealers. They may offer you a discount (usually around 10% for direct purchases) because they will not need to pay the listing service commissions on the sale. Also, shipping may be less expensive, due to the fact that the majority of the listing services keep a substantial proportion of the “shipping” charge on each sale as part of their commission – and do not pass the full amount on to the dealer. Most dealers will be happy to email you periodically with a list of their offerings on your areas of interest.