Like all bibliophiles, there are few activities I love more than shopping for books. Online or at the store, I can spend hours browsing for just the right books to fill up my shopping cart. I also love to patronize library sales and used bookstores. My library contains many lovingly used books I have collected over the years.
I sometimes struggle when deciding whether to buy a book new or hold out for a used copy.
New books are easy to shop for. I can always find the latest and greatest edition and I know that the book is in good condition without having to see it in person. Shopping for new books is much more convenient than hunting for their used counterparts. All I have to do is log on to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and I can have my books shipped to me without ever leaving the couch. But there are downsides to buying new books as well. New books are more expensive and they are more costly for the environment.
The greatest advantage of buying used is that it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. At my favorite library sale, hardcovers cost just $2-3 a piece, a remarkable discount from the usual $15-25 that Amazon and other popular Internet retailers charge. Despite the extra effort it takes to find just the right used copy, the hunt itself is a lot of fun and can lead to discovering new books I might not have picked up otherwise. I also love the feel of a gently used book. The spine is already worn in and it has a lived-in feeling that I just love.
There is one major downside to used books though and it’s the reason why I NEVER buy them online.
Mold, mildew, and must. The bane of used bookstores everywhere. Every single used book I have ever bought online smelled strongly of must upon arrival. I learned my lesson quickly and stopped buying them online.
The thing about mold and mildew is that it spreads. One moldy book can infect your entire home library. There are ways to decontaminate moldy books but they’re not easy and often the best solution is to simply throw out affected books. Certain types of mold can also be dangerous, which is another reason to be selective about which books you add to your collection.
I used to shop quite frequently at my local book exchange. Most of the books there were musty but there was a reasonable selection of new and recent releases that still smelled relatively fresh. I stopped shopping there a few years ago, not because of the mold and must but because they changed their pricing policy. It used to be that you could pay for paperbacks solely with credit from trade-ins. The new policy requires 50% (25% of the cover price) to be paid in cash. So for a $15 paperback, $3.25 would have to be paid in cash, plus $3.25 deducted from your trade-in credit. Library sales offer a much better value.Do you prefer buying new or used #books?Click To Tweet
Library sales have been a mixed bag for me. I’ve only been to one library sale in Virginia since I’ve lived here and the books were rife with mold. I never went back. My library in Massachusetts does an exceptionally good job of weeding out moldy books. A librarian once spotted me sniffing books in the ongoing sale section and told me that they check books for mold before adding them to the sale. Apart from the very old/antique books, the vast majority smell fresh as a daisy. Nothing beats guaranteed mold-free books at $2 a title.
In general, I prefer to buy used because of cost and the environment but the mold issue is often a critical factor in my decision to buy new instead.
What do you think? Do you prefer to buy new or used? Has mold ever been an issue for you when buying used books?