This column was supposed to run September 14. It got preempted. But books – especially used books – are timeless.

Nancy Tindle: ‘My husband found this one the other day, and it allows you to quickly comparison shop between new and used discounters: addall.com.

Dorothy Mallonee: ‘There’s only one source for used books today, in my not so humble opinion: abe.com. It is, from what I can see, a ‘clearinghouse’ in which used book sellers can upload their databases to abe.com’s database. Essentially, when you go to their site and use their very powerful search engine, you’re searching the inventories of hundreds of used bookseller all over the world – for my purposes, primarily in North America and the UK. Not surprisingly, sellers in Canada often have wonderful deals for US buyers because of the exchange rate; most seem to accept checks drawn on US banks in US$. Yes, even I, the die-hard Amazon.com maven, don’t use Amazon for used books. Amazon tends, in my experience, to be expensive and not particularly enthusiastic about finding used books for customers.’

Les Rosenbaum: ‘I can chime in with a comment about half.com. As far as selling items, no problem. It works quite nicely. Buying is quite another matter, however. One of the items I ordered never arrived. Another was heavily damaged. The problem is that it is such a pain to get your money back from Half.com. Multiple e-mails to get refunds is not fun. I can understand dishonest or stupid sellers, but I can’t understand why Half.com makes it habitually difficult to get refunds.’

Greg Curry: ‘I’ve been a buyer and seller on half.com and have had no problems whatsoever. I only buy from people with very high ratings (4.8 or above), which is probably why I haven’t had any problems like those described in today’s column. In one instance, when I was displeased with the quality of a CD I purchased (and said so in my seller feedback), I received a full refund for my purchase price from the seller (way beyond the call of duty, IMO). I think that if you stay with highly rated sellers, you probably won’t have any problems. As a seller, half.com has always remitted to me very punctually through a direct deposit into my checking account.’

Karen Tiede: ‘You ask whether the library is really worth it, given the travel cost and, especially, the time. Well, the library’s on my way home, across the street from the grocery store. No additional travel. The time spent in a library (for a book I know I want to read) is probably the same as what I’d spend on-line deciding if I really need the book, so count ‘time invested’ as a wash. And then there’s the on-line catalog, so I can do a ‘hold’ from home and they call me to tell me when the book’s ready for pickup, so no time lost looking for a book, either. Net: a $25 investment for my out-of-county library card, approximately 20 books a month, assume $20 each, $400 x 12 = $4800 savings (not counting shelf space as noted by other writers) . . . do I have this right – a 19200% return?!?’

☞ And for free books in the public domain, there’s always Project Guttenberg.


CAVEAT PAYOR

Mike Lynott: ‘In keeping with your recent theme of keeping more of your own money, I would like to encourage my fellow readers to review their credit card bills each month. I’ve had two double-charges appear on my Amex and one on my Visa in the last two months. Both vendors moved quickly to correct the error, but of course I was the only one (or at least the first one) to find it.’

 

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