"It is not love that is blind, but jealousy."
November 28, 2006 8:38 AM   Subscribe

What's the cheapest way to order many copies of one book (used)?

I want to order as many secondhand copies as possible of Lawrence Durrell's "Justine" to include in my gift packages this year.

On Amazon there are copies available from vendors for under a buck, but the shipping and handling from each vendor is over $3. While this still adds up to under $5 per copy, it galls me to spend so much on postage for each transaction when the books are so cheap-- when postage is 3x the price of the book, there has to be a better way.

Is there a way for me to order large quantities of a single used book? I'm looking for 15-20 copies, or as many in a bunch as I can find. I'd like to spend under $40 total.

Paying full-price for new books is not an option. Searching for the books in actual bookstores is a very limited option because the book is not very easy to find (and used books in NYC are often almost as expensive as new ones). All other ideas and suggestions welcome.
posted by hermitosis to Shopping (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go to a university bookstore (I'd suggest Follett, 'cause their buying system will make this easier) and talk to the textbook manager. They're usually in charge of procuring used books (of all kinds, not just textbook textbooks—they buy whatever the professors want for their classes, provided the book is in print), so they have access to resources most people and bookstores don't. That means they can contact and purchase books from used book wholesalers.

If you're nice and clearly explain what you want, noting that you know they don't normally place orders for non-professors, but that you will buy every copy of the 20 they order—you may want to offer here to prepay, as that may make them more willing to work on it for you—they may be willing to help you procure a number of copies of the book by putting it on the "want list" they send out to wholesalers. Want-listing allows the bookstore to secure all the copies of the book they need as wholesalers get them in stock—so it's a more effective search method than just asking around for copies.

Right now is a great time to ask, because textbook departments are already in the process of procuring next semester's books. It's also a hectic time to ask, though—so be mindful of that, and very polite when you talk to the text manager! They're busy people, and they're too often forced to deal with professors who don't understand that books take time to procure. So don't be a jerk about it, be very patient, and you may find the text manager willing to help you.

(Added bonus: you probably won't have to pay the shipping cost for the books, since the bookstore is already factoring in that cost as part of their operating expenses.)

Further questions? E-mail's in the profile.
posted by limeonaire at 8:51 AM on November 28, 2006

Well, you could help with your shipping costs if you can find used book sellers on Amazon that have multiple copies of the book. I've seen that quite a few times myself. Other than that, I don't know of any other decent places. While it sucks to have to pay $5 per copy with crazy shipping prices, you might just have to suck it up. That's probably the cheapest you're going to find.
posted by antifuse at 8:56 AM on November 28, 2006

Acknowledging that you said you didn't want new books - you might still want to contact Barnes & Noble.com's Volume Ordering department. They may be able to help you. Since you usually get a discount and free shipping - this might work for you.
posted by AuntLisa at 8:59 AM on November 28, 2006

Powells has a few copies under $3 and some for more than that.
posted by dobbs at 9:10 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: I am very intrigued by the university bookstore route because it makes sense and yet is the kind of idea I'd never thought of on my own. St. John's uses Follett to manage their bookstores, so I'm going to try to (gently) pester them. Wonderful advice, limeonaire.

The main reason that new copies are out of the question is that the new edition that is currently in print is a slim beautiful trade paperback that is $11. Even with a discount, that's still too rich for my blood. And I really love the idea of giving usedwell loved books-- it reinforces one's recommendation.

Between everyone's suggestions, I may be able to accumulate a stack of them from various sources, which is just fine too.
posted by hermitosis at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2006

Could you post whether or not you manage to succeed in your quest, and if so how you did?
posted by drezdn at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2006

Well, this isn't "well-loved" copies, but bookcloseouts.com is selling them for $3.99/ea. At least you'd get the consolidated shipping.

Erm. I just realized the quantity available is 1. But, they also have the hardcover for $18.96, and they have 100 of those.

I would call - in my experience, sometimes the quantity avilable number is off. A person could tell you for sure.
posted by timepiece at 11:41 AM on November 28, 2006

Oh, no, looking again, $18.96 is the savings. The HC price is $7.99.
posted by timepiece at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2006

Glad to help. In my day job, I do ordering for the trade books dept. of a Follett store, and actually did a bit of ordering for the textbook department this past summer—hence how I know it's possible.

(I also mention that as something of a disclaimer: I'm not trying to shill for the company, but from what I've seen, their ordering system does make it easier to throw in orders like yours on the spur of the moment.

Also—something else I've learned working there—if it turns out that you can get used copies, but they arrive with those orange "Used Saves" stickers all over them that leave sticky stuff when you peel 'em off...the easiest way to remove those is with an Econo-Pry peeler (or something similar) and Bestine solvent.
posted by limeonaire at 12:05 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Update: I just spoke to the Queens campus bookstore of St John's University, and she agreed to make the order for me as long as I was willing to prepay. Right now she is checking on the availability of used copies-- however, she told me that the price for them is $10.50 apiece (new copies $14.00)! I didn't want to sound too incredulous about that on the phone since she's being very nice, but if that's the best she can do, it won't save me any money. If this doesn't work, it will have been, at the very least, quite educational!
posted by hermitosis at 1:01 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Update: Acquired 3 at $2 each from Bookman's in Mesa, AZ. Since I'll be in Mesa during part of the gift-giving season, I'll be able to pick them up and save on shipping.

I have 2 extra copies I'm willing to give away if I need to. Only 15 more to go!
posted by hermitosis at 1:24 PM on November 28, 2006


I just decided to check the system Follett uses for trade books, and yeah...it looks like the prices she quoted may be pretty much it—the version of that book that's in print right now is new at $14, and the used price is always 75 percent of that, i.e. exactly the price she quoted you, $10.50.


Now, here's another thought—you may want to search around and find out what some old ISBNs for that book were...it was first printed in 1957, looks like, so there may be a few older ISBNs. Those versions are probably all out of print, but the wholesalers may still have some.

The current paperback ISBN (and there are different ISBNs for paperback and hardback books) is 0140153195, first published by Penguin in 1991. So that's the one you don't want—maybe search Amazon and see if other ISBNs with different (older) publication dates come up for that title. If they do, make note of them and try running them past the text manager, noting that you know they're out of print, but wonder if there may still be a few circulating in the wholesale market. 'Cause out-of-print titles can be want-listed...there's just no guarantee any will be available. (Then again, there's no guarantee anything you want-list will be available.)
posted by limeonaire at 2:26 PM on November 28, 2006

Two other places to look:

-bookfinder.com (suggested by my manager in trade books)
-abebooks.com (a favorite of an old religious studies prof of mine, who always insists upon ordering out-of-print books for his courses)
posted by limeonaire at 10:39 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: The manager at the university bookstore searched my other ISBN's and came up with nothing. I have to say though that my friends were boggled that such a request was even possible, and it's a very handy trick to know. I owe you one, limeoneaire.

I bought 1 copy from Bookfinder for $3.50 that came with free shipping, making it a little sweeter than the $1+$3 shipping option at Amazon.

ABEBooks has the same shipping problem as Amazon: $1 books, $3.50 shipping, even in cases where the merchant is in my state.

Since I already had luck at Bookman's, I'm going to call their other branches in AZ (Flagstaff and Tucson) and ask if THEY have copies, which they will then ship to the Mesa location for free, and which I can then pick up the week before Christmas.

At this point it's like a game so I'm still having fun!
posted by hermitosis at 7:16 AM on November 29, 2006

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