Trip to Wonderful

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Buying travel books

If my readers haven't figured it out yet, I'm a research hound; I live to do research. Probably the reason that in my pre-Stay-at-Home-Mom days I wore the professional mantle of archaeologist. It was just a means of spending hours upon hours lost in the stacks of the local research library.

Of course, that was before the massive expansion of information now accessible on the Internet. I don't even have to leave my home to do much of the work at hand.

Generally, that is. It's still difficult to find most books on line, particularly travel books. That, however, gave me the excuse to spend hours thumbing through relevant volumes in our local Borders. And, to be honest, as long as you're not looking for books on travel with special needs kids, there are a lot of interesting and useful books out there. Pretty ones, too. One could spend a fortune in fact, just properly outfitting a library on US locations alone. Ah, there's the problem - I don't have a fortune to spend, and if I did, I'd much rather spend it on actually traveling, not reading about it.

Libraries are great, but often don't have the most up-to-date editions, which are generally more important in travel books, than, say, the history of the Middle Ages. Enter the underappreciated utility of the online used book store.

I first entered this new domain through good old Amazon.com, when I noticed the "buy it new or used starting at $---" below their list price. The first time I clicked through, I was amazed that some bookstore in Massachusetts was offering the same book, which they claimed was in "like new" condition, for a little over a dollar. I figured they must get you on the shipping charges, but it turns out, there's a flat fee of $3.25 per item. Not cheap, but less than Amazon's basic shipping charges, and I still would get the book for less than a quarter of what I would have paid through Amazon, and a sixth of my local Border's sticker price. I took a chance (the book seller had a record of good feedback) and placed the order. Ten days later (twice as long as it usually takes Amazon), I received my $4.50 book, with the original $19.95 sticker still attached, in perfect condition. Not even a mark, although the seller warned me there might in fact be one.

Since that time, I've ordered six such books. All but one I previewed at Borders, and the one I missed (a 99 cent late 1990's edition) was in fact a dud. All the others. ranging in price from $1.07 to $7.45, have been great additions to my growing travel collection, and I've added a few more to my future purchase list.

Other online bookstores offer similar passthroughs to used sellers; I like Powells a lot, and although they don't have as extensive a selection, their shipping prices are lower. I've read here and there about Half.com, but I can't say I was impressed when trying to find any of the books on my original list for a lower price than Amazon's resellers.

I'll be adding the new books to the sidebar in a few days. I've been putting it off, hoping the new site would be up, but I won't delay much longer. Yesterday's lot (two books via post) was particularly enjoyable as I vegged on the couch, recovering from some form of late winter flu.

4 Comments:

  • Do you ever use half.com? I do comparisons between Amazon & Half - usually the same sellers sell both places and they're cheaper at Half...

    By Blogger Moi ;), at 3:33 PM  

  • OK, I am blind, too...lol

    Half.com makes people send books via media mail and I think the average charge is $2.25 for shipping.

    By Blogger Moi ;), at 3:35 PM  

  • Just stopped by to see if you had any information on group travel I have been doing so research and your site caught my eye. There is a lot of information out here in the online world it is just hard to sort through it all. Hey, anyway thanks for the read.

    By Anonymous travel inn, at 4:01 AM  

  • Hi, your blog is fantastic! Well done!

    I have a budget travel site/blog. It pretty much covers budget travel related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time :-)

    By Blogger Richard K, at 7:35 PM  

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