buy used at amazon

Earlier this year I decided to do something about the amount of money I spend at on books. While I am buying fewer books now, the biggest change I made was to buy used books rather than new.

After a few experiences, I've found that the used books are often indistinguishable from new and come at anywhere from a 20% to 60% discount even after you factor out shipping (I have Amazon Prime, so I'm used to "free" shipping).

Why didn't I think of this sooner?

If you regularly buy books from Amazon and aren't all hung up on having something brand new, I highly recommend looking at the used options. It adds up over time.

Posted by jzawodn at June 28, 2006 07:41 AM

Reader Comments
# Rod Begbie said:

I started buying used CDs through Amazon a year ago, and have had great success with it too. The couple of times that I didn't receive something, I pinged Amazon, and my cash was refunded almost immediately.

on June 28, 2006 08:22 AM
# Gerald Buckley said:

Jeremy - Have you tried out O'Reilly's Safari? Bought a good deal of access to preprints and digital copies of existing titles (still, have YOURS in print tho). Just wondering if you've tried it? & if so, what you think?

on June 28, 2006 08:37 AM
# Marc Hedlund said:

Yes, seriously. This not only saves me money on immediate purchases of older books, it also is a great way to keep myself from buying any book when it first comes out. I know a month or two of patience will reduce the price by about half.

on June 28, 2006 08:38 AM
# Joe Grossberg said:

If you like buying used books through Amazon so much, you will find that the AmazonTotalUsed Greasemonkey script -- -- is the second best thing on earth.

It automatically rewrites the pages to show you shipping costs and how much they add to the price of a used book.

You can tell at a glance whether or not it's worth getting a used copy.

on June 28, 2006 08:45 AM
# anon said:

Except, used books don't have free shipping. So, make sure to check the price between the cost of the used book+shipping versus new book+free shipping. A couple of times I've found that the new book+free shipping works out better.

on June 28, 2006 08:52 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Yeah, we have Safari access at work. I've used it a couple of times and been fairly happy with it.

on June 28, 2006 09:01 AM
# Peter said:

I've done that on quite a few occasions. The one problem I run into is the insonsistancy in shipping. Some I get quick, just like if I ordered it new. Others, come slowly, or not at all. Because you're not really buying from Amazon, there's huge variances in the quality of the service you'll receive. In other words, if you need it fast, just order it new, if you can afford to wait, go used.

on June 28, 2006 09:05 AM
# Sean O'Donnell said:

Yea, I've bought some $40-$50 books (used) on Amazon for as cheap as $2.00, and they were in perfect shape.

Of coarse, most of the ones that cheap are 2 editions old, or some would argue as 'outdated', but I've still found them to be of relevant use.

One instance in particular, was the 'Writing Apache Modules with Perl and C'. Although this is not that great of a book for C programmers, it is a great book for (novice/intermediate) PERL Programmers who want to create custom Apache Modules.

For $2.00, I can't complain! =)

Some people ask me why I even buy books at all 'in this day and age', when I can simply download a (pirated) e-book version, and I simply remind them of things like Vinyl Records, Analog Synthesizers, and other 'stuff' that has been technologically surpassed, but can't physically be replaced by digital emulation.

on June 28, 2006 09:57 AM
# Yaron said:

And buying used books from them is only cheaper if you have a US mailing address. A few years ago they increased the prices for international shipping very drastically.

on June 28, 2006 10:50 AM
# Ken Norton said:

In addition to buying used books you'll be amazed at how efficient it is to *sell* your used books. Just type in the ISBN and use USPS online system to pay and print Priority Mail labels, then dump the book in your mailbox. I cleaned out almost an entire bookcase and got some pocket money to boot (for buying more used books off of Amazon, natch).

on June 28, 2006 11:52 AM
# Tim Converse said:

The one serious marketing mistake Amazon ever made with me was telling me how much money I could make by taking all the new books I bought from Amazon over the previous year and selling them as used.

This of course made me confront the fact that I'd spent even more than that amount on Amazon in the past year. Yikes! I scaled back my purchases, for a while anyway. I doubt that was the intent of the campaign.

on June 28, 2006 12:51 PM
# You Mon Tsang said:

I did exactly what you did. Then I took the next step: the library.

I grew up believing in the concept of accumulating a library. That is no longer a belief as I cherish simplicity (and lack of stuff). I read a lot and most books read go to Goodwill.

After spending thousands of dollars, then hundreds (after I went to used books), now I spend less than $100 a year. (And I read more).

I was pleasantly surprised at the advances of the library. At least here in the Bay Area, you can search for books across many libraries in your region. They will deliver the book to your branch, email you when it is ready. You can do most everything online (except pickup and dropoff).

Give it a shot.

on June 28, 2006 01:25 PM
# Adam Trachtenberg said:

I do the same thing, but buy my books on instead. :)

Actually, I find half to be the cheapest option most of the time. Now, if only I could somehow convince half's corporate overloads to let me use PayPal during check out.

on June 28, 2006 04:42 PM
# kasia said:

I just use a local used book store. They're great..

on June 28, 2006 06:13 PM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

The BookBurro Firefox plug-in does automatic comparison shopping for you when you're looking at an Amazon page. It's boss.

on June 28, 2006 08:16 PM
# Matt said:

Yes, the shipping's not free. But ever since Amazon affiliated with Borders, they've had to charge sales tax on purchases from them shipped to any state where Borders has a store. But if you buy used, there's no tax.

'Round here, at least, saving the sales tax almost completely makes up for having to pay for shipping.

on June 29, 2006 02:17 AM
# AM said:

Well, I buy books from Amazon too and I also use the Amazon Visa card from Chase. Everytime I accumulate 2500 points,
I get a $25 certificiate that I can use for buying anything
at Amazon.

3 points = $1 purchase at Amazon
1 point = $1 for purchases everywhere

This has worked well for me.

on June 29, 2006 11:49 AM
# W, F. Zimmerman said:


Your post highlights a structural problem for authors and publishers: they are not getting a single dime from your purchases. That is unfortunate ....


on July 3, 2006 09:21 AM
# Kevin Burton said:

Honestly..... Most of these ideas mask a much simpler solution...

Don't sell physical goods. They destroy forests, waste gas, cause pollution, and take time to mail and are all around bad.

Sell me an ebook (without DRM please) and I'll buy WAY more. I get it instantly. No destroying trees. No wasting of gas transporting the book across teh country. I can read it anytime and anywhere I want (as long as I have power). It doesn't weigh anything. I can search within the book. Tons of benefits.

Best of all... the author can get a cut of the transaction.

iTunes for books please! Anyone at Amazon listening?!!!

The key will be charging about 1/3 of the cost of a normal book since there are no transport or printing costs. This should yield a much higher rate of consumption which would yield higher profits.

Granted I don't think this will destroy the need for physical books but I think it would solve a real niche for a lot of us.

on July 3, 2006 11:18 AM
# Brian Duffy said:

"Your post highlights a structural problem for authors and publishers: they are not getting a single dime from your purchases. That is unfortunate ...."

And why do they deserve a dime? Should I feel bad for factory workers when I buy a used car or send some cash to unemployed construction workers if I buy an existing house?

Amazon represents a real open market for books. Good books maintain their value and provide an incentive to buy new. Books like "Mastering Regular Expressions" sell for $20 to $30 used, and even the first edition sells for $10. Other, less useful books tend to sell in the $1-5 range.

Write a book or create something that people don't want to resell, and aftermarket sales won't hurt you.

on July 10, 2006 01:01 PM
# Roman Rytov said:

The only feature I'd expect from Amazon in this context is to allow me to search more than one book from 3d-party sellers. Then it'll be really preferable (if it's possible to find a few used books from the same seller to save of the shipment).

on July 11, 2006 09:32 AM
# Web Designer said:

Hmmm... good idea... I just checked out the available deals... it sure will add up.

on October 28, 2006 07:21 AM
# Country Books said:

Currently selling books on Amazon, doing fairly well, but would like to know if there is a way of broadening my sellers base. Will sell directly if I can.

on December 31, 2006 05:31 PM
# said:

Have a bad experience selling at amazon. They only protect the buyer instead of seller. Buyer got the book and paid nothing.

on February 1, 2007 07:10 PM
# Jim said:

Thanks, I wasn't quite sure if I should buy used books as I don't know who has had the books before. But with all the great responses here, I feel much better now.
Also I don't like reading off the monitor, and it would be cheaper for me to buy a book then to download an ebook and then print out 400 odd pages out taking up ink and printer wear and tear.


on December 7, 2007 06:44 PM
# b2b news said:

I buy only used books

on June 25, 2010 02:18 AM
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