Lovin’ me some used bookstores!

I buy a fair quantity of trade and hardcover collections.  It is my main form of comic purchase.  I do very few floppies these days, maybe one every couple of months.  Getting these from my local comics shop gets very expensive, getting them from Amazon only somewhat less so.  Even at the common 30 to 40% off online, it gets mighty ‘spensive! 

Increasingly I have relied more and more on something that has really started to emerge in the last decade or so for the graphic novel market, the used bookstore.  Comic books have had a form of secondary market for several decades.  We are all familiar with the comic shop.  Before the direct market took over the distribution model, the main product of the LCS was back issues.  Very few had more than a basic selection of new issues before that.  Once trades and GNs started becoming popular, places like Barnes & Noble began to carry them, paving the way for secondary market stores to carry them as well.  Used bookstores buy these books as remainders or from consumers, and sell them at a fairly discounted amount.  Most are in reasonably good condition and are very often a great find for the money.  A word about the condition:  the collector’s market for trades and hardcovers is very soft.  While a few books do go on to be in demand, commanding greater resale prices, those are very few.  Just like the collector market for comics, these are never really hard to find, so the demand is usually less than the supply.  So the condition is not factored into the cost you pay, unless a book is in very poor condition.

There are many brick and mortar locations that will carry trades.  The size of the store is the biggest factor.  A small store has less floor space and will stock more of what they think they can sell.  Even the larger stores still only devote a tiny fraction of their space to GNs, but even that small space and really drive their sales.  Trades take up less shelf space when displayed spine out like on a bookshelf at home, so the space that would be taken by 2 hardcover novels, selling for 5 to $10 each used can hold 4 times that in GNs that sell for the same range.  The profit potential for the stores is clear.  As a clue to that, the stores that buy directly from customers pay much higher prices for trades and GNs than for regular books.  The demand is greater in many markets, so the price they are willing to pay is equally greater.  The money the customer gets by selling GNs they no longer want can be turned right back into purchases at that same store, which the stores are hoping for, and tend to be a great way to recycle old books you don’t want into something new to read.  As an example, this weekend I took a pile of 10 books, a mix of hardcovers and trades all less than 2 years old, and got nearly $55 dollars cash for them.  The pile was a mix of books that I knew the instant I finished reading them (Frank Miller’s Holy Terror—ugh!) and books that I found decent enough, but never picked up a second time (Bloom County volume one collection—loved it, but realized that if it got read cover to cover more than once a decade that would have been a lot).  With my fifty bucks I managed to get the hardcover Grendel archive (a book I did not want enough to buy new), a hardcover copy of Daredevil Yellow (something I have been telling myself I needed to get) and a copy of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls!!  New these would have run me a minimum $120.  The DD hardcover is out of print.  Amazon has it as “new” from $58.  The lavender 3 vol slipcase HC of lost girls is also OOP and shows starting at $58.

Of course you will not always find things you have been looking for, but the key is to keep a mental list of the titles that you have been wanting.  Particularly for this that I didn’t want enough to pay full retail or even Amazon’s price, the used shop is perfect.  Many of the “B-list” books I end up getting there end up being ones I am very happy to have in the end as well.

Every area has a few of these shops, some larger than others, some chains, others independently owned.  In my area it is Half Price Books.  They are also online.  Another large chain I have liked buying from is Hastings.  They have a lot of stores, mostly in the middle of the country.  The online site is also quite good. 

While you won’t find everything you want, I have often found old gems at the used bookstore, and almost always something worth my time.  Recycling old unwanted GNs etc. is a great way to get more to read and save money at the same time.  Look in your area if you have not previously discovered these great stores.


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