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Second hand textbooks

  1. Jan 17, 2014 #1
    Would you buy a second hand text book if you couldn't afford a brand new one? On amazon for example there are $100 books selling for $5 second hand or multihand but I just have a feeling they will have scribbles and crap all over them.

    What is your general experience from buying multihand books?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2014 #2
    I have bought dozens of used books on the Amazon Marketplace and I could not be happier. Books marked ad "Good" and "Very Good" are usually good and very good. Sometimes the seller is a bit too generous with its descriptions and you could get an acceptable book as very good. But Amazon's policy is very good and if you get a 'lemon' you can have a reimbursement. I had two books reimbursed because they were full of annotations instead of being "like new" and "very good", and there were no problems with the vendors: I sent them pictures and they immediately issued a refund. Obviously, if you buy a 30-40 year old used book, you should expect to see yellowish pages... But this is not always the case, you could find very well conserved books (I did).

    I have bought several books for 1 pence (they cost me about 5 euros including shipping) that were sold as "good" that are practically like new. Sometimes these happen to be ex-library books, which means you might have stickers, labels and possibly the name of the library stamped on the side of the book. In my experience, ex-library books coming from the UK are the best. May be because the Brits are accustomed to respect public property, or because they don't read books in libraries, I am not sure. :-)

    In any case, I encourage you to give it a go. I too, was hesitant at first ("Come on, a hundred dollars book for 1 cent? This has to be a scam!!!"), but now I try to find used books before the new ones. Heck, I can buy quality books at the price of a magazine, without even having the trouble to go to the newsstand!

    One caveat: you must be prepared to wait. Marketplace vendors make money out of shipping too, so they tend to use the least expensive way of shipping they can find. Forget the quick deliveries of Amazon - most vendors will have you to wait for a week, some for a month or even more (should your parcel need to cross the Pond).

    Read user feedback.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
  4. Jan 17, 2014 #3


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    I buy used books all the time. I managed to get a "like new" copy of "Gravitation and Inertia"-Wheeler and Ciufolini for ~$8 when Amazon's list price was ~$60 and when the book arrived it looked perfect so I was quite content; I also got "Relativity and Geometry"-Torretti for ~$3 when Amazon's list price was like ~$16 which was a sweet deal. Just make sure that whomever you buy from in the third party market has good user ratings; it is also generally safer to go with those who have, on top of good user ratings, a lot of user ratings.
  5. Jan 17, 2014 #4


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    I buy used older edition texts almost exclusively; it just doesn’t make any sense not to. Look at something like Larson Single Variable Calculus, the 10 edition is ridiculously priced and a scam for such a crappy book that unfortunately gets used for some reason. 9th edition is much cheaper, and basically the same damn book. Anton, 6th edition, a much better text for the everyman’s calculus course, is somewhere around 6 bucks + shipping.

    You can read the comments about the book while browsing for used copies. It normally lists if there are excessive notes or highlighting in the text.

    All of the used books I've bought had no highlighting or notes in the margins (until I read them and scribe my ramblings in the margins). Making notes in the margins as I read is sort of hobby of mine though. :wink:
  6. Jan 18, 2014 #5
    I've bought a lot of books used. They have all had highlight marks and writing. The amount ranges from very little to excessive highlighting. You have to ask yourself if the highlighting bothers you enough for the savings though.
  7. Jan 18, 2014 #6
    Woopydalan, I am sorry to hear that. My experience is exclusively with Amazon vendors and apart from three books (two of which had been refunded), I never had that problem. I choose almost exclusively books in the "Good", "Very Good" and, if the price is good, "Like New" categories.
    A couple of times I tried "acceptable" books and I have been lucky.

    I also noticed that adherence to description is a quality of certain vendors, while others are a little more... carefree. For example, my experience with AnybookLtd (please mind the Ltd that means it's the British incarnation of Anybook) has always been stellar: all books were completely free of annotation (apart from the name and a small scratch in pencil that were duly noted in the book's specifications!) and all in good condition. Even the book I bought as "acceptable" that was advertised has having major damage to the cover came in like new (apart from the damage to the cover).

    In general I have been very lucky with British vendors. Not so much with American ones - the few I have tried showed me that the adjective "good" must have a different connotation in American English. Perhaps it means "good for me to sell at this price"... But my sample is too small to make a reliable statistic, so I won't name the two American vendors who disappointed me twice each (right now I am waiting for a book that was due for January 3, I hope it will be "Very Good" as stated, otherwise I will never trust that vendor again).

    Just consider that your problem could be vendor (or location?) specific.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
  8. Jan 18, 2014 #7
    I live in the UK so I might try AnyBookLtd thanks.
  9. Jan 18, 2014 #8
    100$ books for 5$? I've never seen that. I always find a better price for my books on either Ebay or somewhere else, and end up paying over 50$ at least, unless it's the international version, which I always go for if available.
  10. Jan 18, 2014 #9
    Well, I might have rounded the numbers to the orders of magnitude :-) but if one likes 'seasoned' books (to me 'seasoned' means 'not dumbed down'), you can save a lot of money.

    For example, I bought this http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0137127952 for 9 pounds.
    And I had Jenkins White "Fundamentals of Optics" for less than 5 euros, shipping included. If you look up this paperback edition http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fundamentals-Optics-Francis-Jenkins/dp/0072561912 it costs 160+ pounds. (Ok, I am cheating, I bought this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fundamentals-Optics-Electromagnetics-Francis-Jenkins/dp/0070853460 ) but it's the same book.

    Sometimes I can have a book for a ridiculous price just by getting one or two editions before the last one (this could also mean less useless colour). Check out Devore's http://www.amazon.co.uk/Probability-Statistics-Engineering-Sciences-DeVore/dp/0538733527 - the eight edition is 136 pounds (hardcover). The sixth edition hardcover I had for 5 pounds.

    Of course really good books do not come cheap, because people tend to treasure them. :-)
    But you can find real bargains, if you look well.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2014
  11. Jan 19, 2014 #10
    Yeah. I guess i'll just dive in a find a book although I don't know whether or not to believe the ratings. When I look for books the first thing I look for is the rating, then the price and then I peak inside the book. That quantum mechanics book you linked has only 3 stars but how accurate are the ratings? I know obviously that different people learn differently but when you have 25 people give it 5 stars it must be a good book... Maybe I should just stop worrying and buy a damn book it's only a couple quid anyway
  12. Jan 19, 2014 #11
    Just to clarify that by "read user feedback" I meant "read the user's feedback for the vendor", which you can access by going on the vendor's page in the marketplace. That will give you an idea of how customers are treated, how long it takes to ship a book and what happens when books do not match the vendor's description.

    Good luck with your book.
  13. Jan 19, 2014 #12


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    I've just recently got into ordering textbooks, and I ordered several used, older editions (marion, griffiths, larson) incredibly cheaply and they all came in immaculate condition. I would never buy a textbook new.
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