Ask The Readers: How Do You Buy Books?

By Ashley Jacobs on 26 July 2011 (Updated 2 August 2011) 192 comments
Photo: Phil Jern

Congratulations to Brenda, Raina, and DonnaFreedman for winning this week's contest!

Chances are you have heard that Borders is going out of business. With so many people opting to buy books at a discount online or download books onto Kindles, the fate of bookstores (and potentially even buying hard copies of books) looks grim. However, there are people out there who still enjoy going to bookstores to find and purchase their next must read book.

How do you buy books?  Do you buy online or do you prefer to go to the bookstore? Do you buy hard copies of books or just download them onto a Kindle? Or, do you not buy books at all and instead opt to use your local library?

Tell us how you buy books and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Mandatory Entry: 

  • Post your answer in the comments below 

For extra entries (1 per action):

  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, and leave a comment telling us you did, or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it. Leave a link to your tweet (click the timestamp for the individual URL) in a separate comment.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, August 1st at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after August 1st on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Note: Due to recent changes in Facebook's promotions guidelines, we have restructured the entry format of our giveaways.

Good Luck!

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Lyman Jenkins

If I'm looking for a particular book, I'll first try paperbackswap.com then half.com if they don't have it. For general reading, our local library has a large selection of discards for $3 per bag-full! Then, when I'm done reading them, I can usually sell a few of them on half.com for more than I paid for the whole bag!

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Emily

Our M.O. is test drive the books with the library, then order from half.com through ebates. I can't find a cheaper way than that - excited to see what everyone else has to say. :)

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Emily

"Like" you on FaceBook!

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mikele98

I download most fiction or use library. If I really want the hardback edition I order online or wait to find used.

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Maggie

I stopped buying books AT ALL a while back. There are so many books that I already own that I haven't looked at (let alone read), and pretty much anything else I want I can get at the local library.

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Maggie
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Misti

I usually buy my books from Amazon via the Kindle. They alwayas have such a great selection of free books and ocassionally I give in and buy an electronic book that I really want to read. I feel better doing this than buying 'paper books' - I believe it makes an impact on the environment.

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Lisa

I used to buy through a book club but their books are expensive! I now buy through Amazon and also use Kindle on my Ipod and love it!!

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Therese

I buy books multiple ways. Sometimes I buy them at the bookstore, but sometimes through Amazon or another book seller. Sometimes I buy them at garage sales, too.

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Merlene

I used to be an avid reader and buyer of books. At one point my home had several thousand hard cover books and hundreds of paperbacks: Many bookcases filled with books, every flat surface had piles of books, books piled on the floor in precarious stacks, books in boxes, bags and bins in my basement and in my garage. And yes, I'd read every one of them often twice. I bought books online (Amazon, Chapters, and BookCloseouts.com as well as eBay), I bought books from yard sales, used book shops, local book shops, big box book shops and Walmart.

I had to give up the books when I moved from a medium sized home (with garage) to a tiny apartment. During the downsizing and decluttering I sold or donated all but about 20 books.

Now I only buy digital books on Amazon Kindle and if there's a book I want that's not available for Kindle I either find it at the library or move on to another book. The interesting thing is that I'm finding I've bought MORE annually with the Kindle books than I ever did with the physical books because I never have to worry about clutter and running out of space!

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Cork

My book-buying philosophy in a nut-shell:
1. Never buy fiction unless it's designed to teach a point (i.e. Andy Andrews, etc)
2. Almost never buy E-books unless it is very compelling and there is no print alternative (many ebooks are free and there are good sites that make them available by genre)
3. Non-fiction: hardback or paperback, but always with highlighting, marking, and marginal note-taking in mind (can't do that on kindle or ebooks)
4. Always buy new books online unless there is a compelling reason to have it immediately
5. Scoure used book shops, thrift shops, and yard sales for good bargains and rare finds!

Guest's picture

I used to accumulate books at an amazing rate, but after several moves I decided that dragging them around was just too much trouble. I now use the library more often than not. I live in a college town that does interlibrary loan with other universities in the state so I can get most anything. I still buy books on occasion IF they only cost a quarter at a garage sale or thrift store. Most books that I buy get put on my PaperBackSwap account right after they are finished so that I no longer have an accumulation problem. Books that I really like and want to keep on my shelves I mostly get through PBS as well. Contrary to their name, PaperBackSwap also has many "like new" hardcover books.

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TrishB

I mostly buy books at thrift stores and yard sales. I'd love to go the library more often but most of the year they're only open while I'm at work.

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Margaret

Although I love "real" books - I simply cannot afford them. I download some books to a Nook I received as a gift and borrow 5-6 books from the library per trip.

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Ken

I much prefer hard-copy books to e-books. With that said, my strategy is varied. Books that seem interesting I'll rent at the library, while books that have really captured my interest I'll buy online or, if I have a gift card, at the bookstore. I have pretty specific tastes, and Amazon offers much better selection than my local Barnes & Noble.

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I use the local library, and PaperBackSwap.com

Guest's picture

I always buy hardcopy books, and almost exclusively online.
Digital is a dealbreaker for me, so it is immensely annoying when books I would like to read are only published digitally.
Online bookstores are very much cheaper than bricks and mortar, and their selection is a lot larger. And I admit, I haver a ownership issue with books, so I seldom use the library these days - considering the number of late fees I paid when I was younger, I am not sure this isn't the more frugal option anyway:-)

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Lee

I don't buy books any more if I don't have to, I live a block from the public library which has almost everything that I need. If they don't have it, our larger country library has newer titles.

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NJJ

I like paper back books and I like to get mine on line or a bookstore. To me I like paper backs better than e-books because I don't have to worry about my e-reader getting damaged while I'm on the go and paper back books don't take up that much space in my bag Also paper back books are easier to re-sell where many e-books can't be resold once bought only traded

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Abby

I don't buy new books, I borrow from family and friends.

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"Liked" you on Facebook :)

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Buying books quandary:

I LOVE books. I prefer to have a physical book over a digital version, and probably always will. That said, I'm not above checking out a digital book to see if I wish to purchase a hard copy later. Amazon's feature of having a look inside is quite often sufficient to convince me one way or another about a purchase.

It saddens me tremendously to see a place like Borders go down the tubes. It's been a pleasant pastime for many years to gather a stack of books and magazines to peruse over coffee while making decisions.

Thanks for this article! :)
Barbara

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Staci Sinkler

I always look at the library first, then I buy wherever they are cheapest! Amazon, used book stores, Kindle edition...

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Staci Sinkler

I 'liked' WiseBread on facebook.

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Susan D.

How about "all of the above"?
I usually buy books online, and I look for small sellers via Alibris and Amazon Marketplace. Some of those sellers are in my community! I go to the local bookstores, too.
I also have a B&N Nook that I use for downloads of books that are in the public domain, so they're free or very inexpensive. I can also download library books onto my Nook--can't do that with a Kindle, yet.
And then there's the library--I use it to try out books I'm considering buying.

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Guest

I like to borrow from my local library more than anything. Books I read for enjoyment are usually books I only read once, so that money is better served someplace else. Reference books that I have to revisit multiple times are usually purchased through Amazon.com or, if available, a local discount book store, typically located in some of the college towns I've visited. Students and faculty are always buying brand new books and after they're done, they sell the books back to the stores who then sell the used books at a reasonably discounted price. I don't buy books at Borders or Barnes & Noble unless there's a great deal to take advantage of (such as the deals offered during the Borders liquidation lol).

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Francesca

For textbooks, I always search and buy online for the best prices. I pretty much never have occasion to buy a book in person, since I don't buy my pleasure reading books either. That's what the public library is for!

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Devon

I start out by looking at bargain book sites - usually hamiltonbook and bookcloseouts. I then compare the prices at bookfinder, bookbutler, and addall.com. If I can find a used copy in great shape from sites such as amazon, alibris, or abebooks cheaper than the bargain sites, I buy it there. Of course, I also figure in the shipping aspect of it.

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Kim

I like to support my local independent bookstore. We have a specialty store for Mysteries and SciFi and it is wonderful so I do a lot of shopping there. We also buy from Amazon and our local Barnes and Noble. It just depends on what we are looking for at the time.

We are also book collectors and travel everywhere to go to used bookstores. I take photos of used bookstores before I go into them. So many are closing down nowadays that I am documenting the stores I visit in case that is the last time I get to see them before they close. It is sad but many can't stay open and the sellers are becoming internet only and working out of their homes.

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Lois M.

Hi! :) I got with both amazon.com and a bookstore, usually B&N. I love Borders, but the fact is, there are more B&N's around, and closer. I've been doing a lot more through amazon.com since I earn gc's from survey sites and swagbucks. Regardless of where, it's always print books. :)

Lois

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Allison

We actually get most of our books through Paperbackswap.com, though my husband does use Amazon to buy his school books.

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Guest

I purchase the majority of my books at thrift stores like Goodwill.

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joshua

I buy hard copies of books from both brick & mortar stores (sometimes you just can't replace the experience of physically shopping for books) and from online retailers, mainly amazon.com.

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lk

I used Paperbackswap.com, very rarely will purchase from B&N, or I'll download on my iPhone in the iBook reader.

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aeko

Stopped buying books and movies a long time ago. Get both from the library. Log on the internet, put the books and movies I want on hold, the library notifies me when they are in, I pick them up. Can't beat that.

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Stephanie

I buy my books from thrift stores! I will stop by and browse every once in a while and I almost always find something I have been meaning to read. They usually only cost $1-$2 for hardback and even less for paperbacks.

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Emily

I love getting books at the library, and I'm fortunate that my local library has great selection. If I want to buy a whole series, I'll usually look on eBay. In college, I bought most things on Amazon or from other students. I do love good old fashioned bookstores though. You never know what gems you'll find!

Guest's picture

I normally buy hard copies of books, online using my membership card from the bookstore. I prefer to actually hold the book in my hands and feel the satisfaction of turning the page. I will occasionally buy ebooks, but my main purchases are hard copies.

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Twitter comment
http://twitter.com/#!/applecsmith/status/95874643608612866

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TP

I use my local library first, paperbackswap.com second, and/or friends and family last. My entertainment budget is $10 per month. Therefore, I buy maybe 2 books a year. Before the Great Recession, I would buy two books or more per month.

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Becky

I usually look for books at the library these days. I also love to find books at second hand stores and the Friends of the Library store...I sometimes find books for a quarter! I think as a last resort, if I need a particular book, I'll order off of Amazon.

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Will

Fiction is bought on Kindle, except for my 2 favorite authors. Illustrated books are purchased as real books on Amazon. Books that I may need to refer to...well a judgement is made whether a real book is preferable to an e-book (or not).

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Angie B.

Since purchasing a Kindle before Christmas, I just buy most of my books from Amazon and have them sent to my Kindle.

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jaimee

I prefer to go into the store to browse and buy hard copies of books. I love the feel and sound of turning pages. That said, I am thinking of getting an e-reader- mostly for the "on the go" factor

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jaimee

already like you on fb (jaimee wood)

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Jean Shen

Local library for me. I rarely read a book twice so it doesn't make sense for me to buy books anymore.

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Amanda

I try to use the local library as much as possible. I love books, having books, the feel and smell of books, but I find that it just adds to clutter and costs money when I can read it for free! When I do buy them, I usually get them through Amazon.

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Sarah Varga

I buy books both ways - some I know I want to share and electronic books don't allow that, and I miss it! Something about passing books along and feeling the pages between your fingers.

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buffi

I am more of a combo kind of girl. I download some to the Kindle on my phone, but usually only if they are free or very cheap. I buy often from Amazon, but lately have found that I often can get used books from Amazon Marketplace for next to nothing. I don't care if it's new as long as I can still read it.

I'd like to say that I go to the library a lot, but, sadly, I never think of it. My kids would love if we went more.

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buffi

Also, LIKE you on Facebook (but have for a long time...)

Guest's picture

For pleasure, I usually get them from a library, or if I need to own them, from a local second-hand store, eBay or Amazon.
My high school had this wonderful textbook exchange where you could buy and sell on your student account. The man running it received $3 from every sale.
But I won't be able to access that for college, so say I'll use Amazon or the university bookstore (which gets loads of profit).

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Aaron

Buy em online! Or through discounted book shops

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Liked on FB and posted on Twitter.

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Joanna Tracy

i buy books thru amazon

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Elizabeth

I love going to the library. I get the elated feeling of a new book purchase without the guilt of spending money. Plus, since I have to return the books, they can't clutter up my space.

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Erin

How/what I buy depends on the circumstances. I have a Sony Reader, so unfortunately not all the books I want are available digitally. I tend to take notes in my literary fiction (I'm a writer/grad student), so those I always purchase in paperback. I occasionally purchase fiction in hardcover if I find it in the bargain section, but general hardbacks are too bulky. Most of my non-fiction or non-literary fiction I will purchase for my reader, unless 1) it's not available, or 2) the publisher is charging an outlandish price for the ebook. (That happened today. I went to look for a particular book, and the ebook was selling for $18 - "30%" of the $25 retail price - when the paperback was selling for $10 on amazon. I bought a used copy for $7 on half.com, which was still less than amazon with shipping. So the author missed out on earning a royalty because the ebook was priced too high.)

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Tamara

I rely on the library... If it's something I'll be referring to on a regular basis (e.g., a cookbook), I scope out used copies on Amazon or eBay.

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Elyse Stein Zois

I generally buy books online, used. I'll buy some at a bookstore if I have a gift card there. I also shop library book sales. a used book is no less enjoyable than a new one and I save money.

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Tamara

I like WB on Facebook!

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If recommended a book by a friend, I usually try to by a digital copy for my iPad. But sometimes I like going to local used bookstores and just finding random stuff there that I'd never read otherwise.

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Kelly E

I liked going to my local Borders store, but it has since closed. The city just closed our library as well, so my options are becoming limited. I have been buying off of Amazon lately.

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Mrs H

Kindle. if i need a physical copy of the book, Amazon. I've never been big on bookstores.

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Kelly E

Already Like on FB :)

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Superplexa

I always try the library first. If I'm going to buy books though, I usually buy from Powell's. I don't live in Portland anymore, but I grew up there, so for me it's like supporting a local business.

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Kelly E

http://twitter.com/#!/AngelMom037/status/95898425173868544

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Rachel R

As a college student, I only read textbooks right now, and I always buy mine from Amazon.com. Its been awhile since I have read a book for pleasure...I'll either peruse my current collection or visit the library. I am definitely a saver and cringe at having to buy anything!

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Sara G

Unless it's something we will refer back to several times we usually just wait for it to be at the library. We just donated many of our books to local libraries also!

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CWill

I always check PaperBackSwap first. If no one has the book, I put it on my wish list and check regularly to see where I am on the wish list. If I think it will take too long, or I just don't want to wait, I order from amazon.com. I almost never buy a book at a bookstore, but once in a great while I'll pick one up at Wal-Mart.

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Sara G

Like on Facebook!

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Rose Bartush

I buy books one of 2 ways. 1. I buy locally @ Half Price Books in Austin TX. or 2. I buy gently used from Amazon.com

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lostAnnfound

I mostly borrow books from the library or buy from their book sale (50 cents for hardcover, 25 for paperback). On occasion I will purchase a book usually online and hardcover for book club if an author is going to present so I can have the book signed.

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My default is to go to the library, but that's mostly becuase, given free reign, I'd spend all my money in book stores. I try to only buy books that I've read and know I'll either want to re-read, reference, or share with others.

I love to wander around physical book stores (used or regular) although I do buy about half of my books on Amazon.com. I have a kindle, but I don't often buy books for it. I use it primarily for the public domain books (Sherlock Holmes!) that I can get.

Guest's picture

I like to cover many areas, except e-books! I go to bookstores and the library and occasionally order from Amazon. For me it depends on how quickly I need the book and what it is for. If I know what I want and have time, I use the internet. If I just want to wander and find something I hit the bookstore or library. I personally have not gone digital yet as I love a good old paper book!

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Jennie

For most of my books (mostly anthologies <--English major), the campus bookstore had the best prices. The important part was not selling them back to that bookstore. Reselling online gave much better prices than the buy back. For one novel, they charged me $7 or $8 to buy but were only going to give me $1 back! Even half.com gave me a better price than that.

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Naomi

I rarely buy a book new. I typically use the library or PaperBackSwap.com to get books. If I really want to own a particular book and can't find it from one of those two places, I usually buy it from Amazon.

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Naomi

I also "Like" Wise Bread on Facebook.

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Kristin

I usually buy books on Amazon, since we don't have any more local bookstores in my area.

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Lisa

I rarely buy books. The last ones I got were courtesy of Wise Bread's gift certificate from Amazon. ;-) They were paper copies. Usually I borrow audio books from the Library of Congress' service for the blind and/or physically handicapped.

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Steve

I buy my books on Amazon for my Kindle!

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Steve

Liked you on Facebook!

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I LOVE WISEBREAD! read them everyday!
I peruse Amazon.com all the time, read NYT and other reviews - any book site I can find online or otherwise.
Keep rack on GoodReads.
LOVE LOVE LOVE BOOKS - AND owning them !!
~Mad(elyn) Magruder in Alabama

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Sharie

I use paperbackswap.com the most. If I can't find it there (or I think the waitlist for it is too long) I will buy it from Amazon.com. I recently discovered that Goodreads also has a swapping feature, so I may start using that, too! :)

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Felisa

I opt to get books from the "free store" as I can checkout both actual books and eBooks from my library. It's taught me patience in waiting for popular books, and has expanded my selection of books (when books I want are not available, I still check something out...). I occasionally will buy books from amazon, but typically only if they are on sale, and I frequently "buy" the books that are free (not the classics, but the newer books that rotate in/out). :-)

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Kristin

I must admit that I'm unfrugal about my reading books: I buy them on Amazon.com, usually from their 4-for-3 list. I take so long to read a book that I'd have to renew a library book several times to finish, and our library doesn't carry most of the books I want to read. And the Amazon.com reviews make finding an interesting book so easy.

Guest's picture

I am terrible at getting books back to the library on time so I prefer to own the book if possible. I have purchased books that are on the sale shelf at the library for $1, gotten a box of them from my Freecycle group or found some good ones at a garage sale. When there's something specific I want to read, possibly even good enough I want to keep a copy, I buy it at Amazon.com. That's also where I order books for my grandchildren. We especially like children's books in Spanish as the children are learning Spanish as their first language. Amazon does a great job of carrying a wide array of such books.

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Felisa

Though I hate the word "tweet" that's what I did!
http://twitter.com/#!/Felisa_L/status/95916196003717121

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Christina

I was never a big bookbuyer in the sense that I'd walk into a Borders, pick out a new title, and buy it. I used to go the Amazon route until I walked into my first used bookstore. Now, whenever a book looks interesting, I first look for it at my library and read it. If I like it, I'll try to find it on PaperBackSwap. If it's not there, then I'll trawl the local used bookstores and purchase it from them if they have it. Otherwise, I wait.

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Christin Puzz

I like to buy books online at Amazon or buy used books from half price stores or thrift stores!

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Guest Glenda

I buy books from Amazon.com. Best prices and free shipping!

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Andrea

Generally, the few books I do buy end up being cookbooks, craft books, things I want to have and be able to write it. I pick them up wherever I can get the best price online (half.com, Amazon zShops, etc.). Otherwise, I hardly ever buy books anymore, I usually just borrow from the public library, or from friends.

Guest's picture

I buy all my books online through Amazon! But this week I had to run to barnes and noble to get a book I needed in a quick pinch. But I had a gift card :)

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Evelyn

I get our via eBay or Amazon. Recently, I acquired a bunch through a church Rummage Sale.

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Razorbacks92

I have yet to purchase an electronic book device, so I still like the real thing. But, I tend to buy at garage sales, thrift stores, and online. I like searching for particular titles and getting them super cheap!

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Caitlin

I'm a librarian so I get most of my books from the library, especially fiction. I try to save buying books for nonfiction books that I know I will use again and again--cookbooks, gardening books, home improvement books, and craft books. Even then I try to check them out of the library or at least look at them in the bookstore to make sure they are what I'm looking for. When I do buy, it's usually used from www.abebooks.com. Their site let's you search by books with free shipping and if you join their e-mail list they often send you coupons for 15-20% off. Amazon also has good prices sometimes.

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Brenda Faulkner

I prefer paperback or hardback books to ebooks - too hard to keep up with and can't bend the edge of the page down:) We still have Barnes and Noble and some used book sellers here in my hometown so will continue to buy paper...

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Brenda Faulkner

I "like" you on Facebook!

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Patrick M. Berry

1. Science Fiction Book Club (deeply discounted hardcovers)
2. PaperbackSwap.com (free book-trading service)
3. Amazon.com (Kindle books, mostly)
4. Abebooks.com (for hard-to-find out-of-print books)

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Patrick M. Berry

I can't like WiseBread on Facebook today, because I already did it months ago.

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Guest

Library. If it's a book I'm going to need to hang onto for reference (physiology book for personal training, for example), I look at Craigslist, used bookstores and at amazon first.