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Sources Abound For Bargain Books

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Newspaper) - 10/22/2008 by Mary Caldwell
You might have heard the saying, "So many books, so little time." That certainly applies to everyone in my family - including, fortunately, our two young children. They come by it honestly. When Barnes & Noble was building its store in Spartanburg several years ago, my husband practically had it under surveillance. He'd drive into the parking lot often to peer in the windows in an effort to figure out when the store might open.

Buying for a family of book lovers can get expensive. But there are many ways to save while still having plenty of great reading material and providing our children with access to a house (over)filled with books.

Borrowing

The public library is, of course, a wonderful asset to the community. From board books for the very young to the latest bestseller and everything in between, they have a wide variety of books, DVDs and much more available to borrow. And if a book that you want isn't available at your local branch, you can ask to have it sent over from another branch in Spartanburg and even from libraries in other parts of the country through the interlibrary loan system.

Borrowing from and loaning books to friends, families or coworkers can also be a way to expand your reading material on the cheap. I used to be fortunate enough to work with a woman who bought more hardback books than anyone I've ever met. I always imagined that her house must look like a large, well-stocked public library. Fortunately for her coworkers, she was kind enough to loan her books to her coworkers, bringing them to work in large bags.

Sites such as www.paperbackswap.com, www.tradingbooksonline.com and www.booksins.com take swapping to the next level. Some let you receive credits as you mail a book on someone else's wish list, allowing you to get books on your own wish list.

Buying used

Thrift stores, yard sales and library book sales are also gold mines for buying used books. The Spartanburg County Library's Friends of the Library holds a large sale each year, as does the Greenville Literacy Association. The sales are usually divided into categories of books such as children's books, cookbooks, sports, etc. Some can be quite a workout. For the Greenville sale, serious book lovers line up at the three entrances to McAlister Square before the sale opens. They're armed with maps showing the layout of the book categories and often have wheeled carts to hold their stacks of books.

The dates and locations of more used book sales can be found at www.booksalefinder.com Just click on the state you're interested in.

Used book stores offer credit if you'd like to trade in some of your old books for new ones. Policies differ from store to store, so it's best to ask or get a copy of the policies so you can know what you'll be paying out of pocket.

The Carolina Book Rack, located in Pinewood Shopping Center near Wade's, has been in business for several decades and has mostly used paperbacks.

Boiling Springs also has a used book store that opened recently. The Book Store & More is located off of Hwy. 9, just past Rite Aid. It has hardback and paperback books, including large biography and history sections.

For online shopping, www.half.com has used paperbacks and hardbacks for as low as 75 cents, plus shipping. You can also sell your books here, with no fees applied until your book sells. The site is owned by ebay, which is also a good source for books that might be difficult to find or groups of books in a series or by a particular author.

Other sites, such as www.alibris.com and www.abebooks.com, allow you to search for a book title and find which of its thousands of sellers can send you the book and for what price. Amazon.com, which is well known for its new books, also has used books offered by sellers who are affiliated with the online giant.

New books

We still shop a good bit at Barnes & Noble, appreciating their knowledgeable staff and comfortable atmosphere that's well designed for browsing. That's an experience that buying online can't offer. After holding out for quite awhile, we finally purchased their discount card that gives 10 percent off most purchases. Signing up to be on their e-mail list is also a good way to add to your savings, since the chain e-mails coupons from time to time, including ones that are good for 15 percent off of a book. This can be combined with the 10 percent off for discount card holders.

The store has plenty of seating if you'd like to take a more leisurely look at some of the books, and their children's story time events are a good way to help encourage young readers.

And Costco and Sam's aren't just good places to buy giant packages of paper towels. Both warehouse clubs have book sections that include hardbacks, paperbacks, a large number of children's books, bestsellers, Bibles and more. The selection isn't as large as what you might find at a store that's solely dedicated to books, but if you're lucky enough to find what you want, you're likely to find it at a good discount.

If you're looking for inspirational or religion-oriented books, Christian Supply has a great selection. They frequently have a flier with coupons in Sunday's Herald-Journal, and you can also receive other coupons if you're on their mailing list.

Finally, if you have a young child, he or she can receive one free book in the mail each month until they turn 5. The books are funded through the Imagination Library program, which was started by country singer Dolly Parton and administered through the United Way. The program isn't solely for low-income families - any child whose parent or guardian lives in Spartanburg or Union counties can receive the books. It's a treat for the child to receive the hardback books in the mail, and it's a good way to expose your child to excellent books that you might not have necessarily heard of or purchased. For more information about participating in and/or supporting the program, visit www.uwpiedmont.org/imaginationlibrary.php.

Mary Caldwell is a freelance writer who lives in Boiling Springs. Contact her at mary.caldwell@peoplepc.com.