We all know that feeling: You’re walking down the aisles of your favorite bookstore, the quiet crackle of patrons browsing the pages and the relaxing aromas of paper and coffee setting the atmosphere. You reach the shelf you’re looking for and spot a glossy copy of the volume you’ve been dying to read. Heart racing, you excitedly grab it off the shelf – and groan at the price on the back.
Let’s face it, new books are not cheap. According to the School Library Journal, the average price of a new book in 2018 ranged from 16 to 28 dollars. And price is not the only drawback of buying new. Printing books requires paper, ink, and energy, which are supplied by harvesting trees, burning fossil fuels, and extracting other resources from the environment. Compounding the paper industry’s impact is the fact that large numbers of books are thrown in the trash and sent to landfills each year. According to the EPA’s web site, paper and paper products make up 25.9% of landfill waste.
So what is a booklover to do? You could give up your reading habit (ha!). You could invest in an e-reader, though the upfront cost for these can be high, not to mention that a lot of us book worms just don’t like the idea of staring at a screen while we’re trying to relax. Or, you could consider the benefits of buying your books used.
Benefit 1: Used Books are Affordable
Bargains abound in the world of used books. From your local used bookstore to online vendors to public libraries’ annual used book sale, nearly every title you could want can be found gently used for a fraction of the price of a new copy. Library sales can be especially generous: During the final weekend of many library used book sales, they will offer deals along the lines of buying as many books as you can fit in your bag for 1 dollar. Talk about bang for your buck!
Benefit 2: You Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Buying and gifting used books reduces the demand for new books to be printed, as well as the demand for the raw materials that go into making them. Also, keeping used books in circulation keeps them out of landfills. Granted, many books and other paper products are recycled, but keep in mind that grinding paper back into pulp and making new books and paper products out of them also costs resources and energy. Recycling books is more environmentally friendly than trashing them, but buying used books and keeping them circulating is better still.
Benefit 3: Used Books Can Be Very Heartfelt Gifts
What would be a more meaningful gift to your niece or nephew for their tenth birthday: A brand-new set of the Harry Potter series that you just purchased from Barnes and Noble, or your own well-loved set that you enjoyed as a child? Everyone’s taste is different, but if it were me I would go with the latter. Used books can be wonderful items to pass on, making the new owner the latest in a line of booklovers who have handled and found enjoyment in that particular volume. I remember several occasions browsing my local library’s book sale, deciphering the notes previous owners scribbled in the margins or reading passages that they felt were important enough to underline or highlight. It was almost like peering into the minds of those who had read the book before me, and as I added my own notes I felt like I was adding to the conversation.
Where is your favorite place to find used books? Let me know in the comments below!