Friday, December 18, 2009

Thing's I've Noticed: Used Book Store shopping is an art

Like many men, I shop in a hunting style. I am not very good at all when it comes to browsing through a store and gathering what I need. I like to know what I'm shopping for, and then like a hunter I slip in at the best time (usually right after the store opens), head directly for my target and scoop it up. I tend to stay away from stores like Winners and Costco due to their constantly shifting merchandise - sometimes I can get overwhelmed in such a store and then the hunter can become the hunted (pictured above), and instead of leaving the store with the simple item I wanted, I end up leaving with bags and bags of stuff I might need.

This is infinitely worse at Used Book Stores.

As a huge fan of genre books, Used books stores (pictured right) carry a big threat for me and my wallet. I can easily spend hours looking through a store in case an item was shelved strangely. The horror novel I'm looking for could be listed under Horror, Thriller, Authors, Staff Picks, or sometimes Movie Tie-Ins.

Therefore, like I do with many things in my life, I prepare ahead. Here is my simple 5 step strategy for Used Book Store shopping.

1. Make a list
Considering how easy it is to add books to your to be read pile, it is a good idea to keep a list in your wallet of all the used books you would immediately purchase if discovered. I have a list of about 20 books that fall into this category. BTW I've checked to make sure that my public library doesn't have them, because that may save me a few bucks in the long run.

2. Have a budget
Knowing exactly how much you are willing to spend on a trip makes a huge difference. If I know that I'll only be spending $40 (the cost of a new hardcover), I will be less likely to go crazy and come home with multiple shopping bags full of books (why yes, I have been watching Hoarders on A&E, how did you know?)

3. Go on a regular schedule
In my home town we have about half a dozen really good Used Book Stores to shop in, and thankfully (for me) most of them are not within walking distance of my house. I tend to spend a day going through the various used books stores about once every three months. This allows the stores to change their product from the last time I was in and gives me time to read all the books I purchased between trips.

4. Remember to check in unexpected places
When it comes to finding your book, you have to remember that the staff in the store are only human and unless the cover of the book has a well known author, or an obvious genre image (Robot for SF, Unicorn for Fantasy, or Possessed person for Horror), the book may get misplaced. Also keep in mind that if you ask the staff, they may have boxes of books in the back that they might let you check out.

5. Go with a friend
The single greatest piece of advice I can give is to do your used book shopping with a friend, preferably a friend who is also into reading. This gives you a chance to hang out for a day, and effectively gives both of you a spotter in case the other is going a little crazy with purchases. For the last couple years I've gone with my BFF Mike, and in addition to getting a lot of book shopping done (6 or more stores in 1 day), it is a great way to see what kind of things your friend is into lately.

There you have it, my suggestions on how to make the most of a shopping trip to the Used Book Store. If you have any great tips that you think might help me, feel free to let me know, I'm always looking to improve my technique.

1 comment:

  1. This is really helpful. I've tried the WBI a few times and been just intimidated! SO many books!