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What’s Rachel Reading: And, my favorite sites to buy used books

Part of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King -- and, where to buy used books online.

I don’t know about you, but my reading habits have been all over the place these past few months. For a while, I found it difficult to focus long enough to get through anything lengthy.

So after finishing the last of my library books back in March, I found myself retreating into the comfort food of old series — and re-reading things like the Harry Potter books. (Which, by the way, read a little differently now that I’m the parent of two teenage boys!)

What have you been reading lately?

kids books on a shelf

Luckily for me, we still have a lot of children’s and young adult level books in this house for comfort food reading in quarantine. Unluckily for me, I’ve been spending the past few months purging and whittling down our book collection in preparation to put our house on the market (soon!). Talk about poor timing; with libraries closed, I should have read some of those books I hadn’t touched in years before weeding them out for good. 🙂

In with the new (ish) books

first three books in The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

As we emerge confused and blinking into the light of summer, though, it’s time to get reading again. I’m gradually stepping it up, so a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about how long ago I read Stephen King’s masterful The Dark Tower series — and about how these books would be a good bridge between Harry Potter and something new (when my library finally reopens…).

Like most people, I started my book search on Amazon — where the eight book The Dark Tower series set would set me back a pretty penny new. As of three weeks ago, they were also a month back ordered.

AbeBooks to the rescue: What a great place to find used books from various independent sellers. AbeBooks is, go figure, actually a subsidiary of Amazon (because they have been buying up everyone) — but, the site is kind of a different browsing experience.

If you don’t care whether your books are in pristine new condition, AbeBooks is one of my favorite places to pick up used books online while supporting independent sellers. I often actually prefer used books, seeing as I take books everywhere, read them outside, leave them upside-down, loan them out to friends, and read in the bath & while eating…

Not finding what you need at AbeBooks, or want to avoid sites owned by Amazon? Also try Alibris, where you can shop various independent and local booksellers. (Scroll down their homepage and sign up for emails to get a $5 coupon, too!)

Update: Some of you also suggested thriftbooks and BetterWorldBooks in comments, so try there as well.

Used bookstores, how I miss you…

used bookstore packed with books

Books are meant to be loved, passed around, read, and re-read — and, used book stores are the best. Since I can’t wander in a leisurely fashion through my local used book store right now, though, sites like Alibris and AbeBooks will have to do.

I’m so happy to have the whole The Dark Tower series on hand now, with weeks of reading material ahead of me. Since I intend to read, keep, and re-read these, I don’t mind that they came to me already a bit battered and well-loved.

How do used book prices compare?

I specifically wanted the newer paperback edition of The Gunslinger with the motion picture cover, because it’s been rewritten and expanded. (That movie, by the way, was such a disappointment, Idris Elba aside…)

This paperback edition of the first book in The Dark Tower series would currently run me $4.00 shipped at Alibris, while I paid $4.51 shipped at AbeBooks a couple of weeks ago — so, do remind me to try Alibris next time as well! On Amazon, the cheapest used copy is significantly higher at the moment.

Yes, of course you can buy used books on Amazon

used books ship media mail rate

Could I have purchased these books from third party sellers on Amazon? Sure. But:

  • AbeBooks allowed me to group purchases by seller and pay one set of shipping charges for each, while on Amazon I would have had to pay $3.99 shipping for several of the individual titles.
  • Prices on AbeBooks were overall cheaper.

On AbeBooks I paid $48.14 for the entire The Dark Tower series, shipped. Note, though, that books tend to ship media mail — so will take some time to get to you. (That was fine with me, because I had the Harry Potter series to finish…)

eBooks aren’t always for me books

Oh and before you ask: I do read eBooks, and do appreciate having a stash on my phone and ancient iPad mini to dip into as needed in waiting rooms, or if we ever travel again…

A couple of months ago I signed up for a free two month trial of Amazon Kindle Unlimited — which has, by the way, been extended thorough June 30, 2020 if you want one for yourself. (Cancel the trial at any time, but still retain access until your two months are up.)

But for me, at least, eBooks don’t always provide the same experience or satisfaction as physical books. I need both in my life!

Have books to sell?

AbeBooks offers a buyback service for books and textbooks, so check your titles here. You can also sign up as a “casual,” as opposed to professional book seller on Alibris.

Diane Geshkewich

Saturday 6th of June 2020

It sounds like we have similar reading tastes lately. I just finished reading all the Harry Potter books a couple weeks ago. We are also rewatching the Harry Potter movies. I am starting to read Stephen King books that I’ve never read, beginning with Salem’s Lot. T


Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

I was really unfocused for the first month or so of quarantine too! Someone suggested reading cookbooks like regular books and that helped me a lot. I am almost finished with A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. It's really intriguing and exciting, in the vein of Big Little Lies. I only have 20% to go and I really look forward to finding out what happens!

I must say I love being able to look up words and phrases right in a Kindle book. My last one had a lot of words I didn't know for sure, this one just has legal terms and Greek foods.

Lisa Rodgers

Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

Check out thriftbooks which has free shipping starting at $10.


Friday 12th of June 2020

I love Thriftbooks! I found an out-of-print book there for my music biography collection 🎸🎶🎸🎶


Monday 1st of June 2020

My favorite place to buy used books online is Better World Books. Books normally run about $4 (unless newer or rare) no shipping. They often have sales. $5 off orders over $25 today.

Every time you purchase a book from, they donate a book to someone in need.

They also have a rewards program which I've actually never even used. And you can donate books to their drop boxes if you wish.


Monday 1st of June 2020

Before our libraries closed for the pandemic, I checked out 20 mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed them. Now that they are back open, I am going back and forth between mysteries and chick lit.

Years ago, I donated nearly all of the books I owned for the same reason as you; I was moving and couldn't justify the effort and expense of keeping them. And, since then, I've stuck with the minimalist philosophy. Unless it's a reference book that I really want to own, I rely on our library.