Let’s Talk Bookish: Buying Secondhand Books

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @Eternity Books  & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we get to discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts! You can check out these pages for March 2022 prompts & a full list of the past prompts!

Now without further ado… The topic asks us about:


Prompts: Do you buy secondhand books? Why or why not? What are the benefits of buying secondhand? What are the cons of secondhand books? What do you recommend people do to better support secondhand bookstores?


I don’t have the opportunity to buy secondhand books often these days but I used to love buying them when I lived overseas! There’s just something about being surrounded by the smell of pre-loved books that makes me feel slightly nostalgic. Is that just me? 😂 When I finished uni and moved to Cambodia, I was ecstatic to stumble upon this amazing secondhand bookshop in Phnom Penh and that’s how I kickstarted reading again after reading nothing while at uni, and that’s also where I first discovered Nora Roberts, Michael Crichton and Stephen King. It was like ✨magic!

Since moving to Indonesia though I’ve rarely bought used books. There was only one secondhand bookshop in Bali and a lot of the books were your typical beach reads or non-fiction/coffee table books priced at nearly the same as new books! Sadly, I rarely found anything that interested me enough to buy so I more often than not left empty-handed.


I think the biggest pro of buying secondhand books is that they’re cheaper than buying new books. Obviously, that wasn’t the case for me here in Indonesia but when I shopped in AU, UK and Cambodia, I could find a PB for £/$1-2 and sometimes even for as low as 50p/c and I’m sure we can all agree that’s a total steal!

Maybe it’s a bit of a ‘romantic’ notion but one of the things I loved most about buying secondhand books is the possibility of finding something left behind by the previous owner, whether that’s annotations/sticky notes or bookmarks in whatever form—I just love that little peek you can get into someone’s thoughts/life. And that might sound totally creepy but I don’t mean it that way! 😂 I think it’s similar to why some enjoy people watching? I’ve found a sad poem and a love poem, a couple grocery lists, a few business cards and receipts, and some cool bookmarks too!

I can’t think of many cons to secondhand book buying. Perhaps, depending on where the shop is located, the genre options might be limited. From what I remember, I came across a lot of non-fiction, mysteries/thrillers, and women’s fiction with a sprinkling of SFF though they were rarely big-name authors or recent releases. Another con could be that if you buy a secondhand book online there’s a chance the condition of the book is worse than the seller noted. I’ve previously seen people talk about the horrifying conditions their books came in and it was not terrible! 🙈


I’ve always wondered how secondhand bookshops can get more support, and well, specifically for my situation, I’ve always wondered about how to make secondhand bookshops more common here! 😂 Other than buying your books more frequently from secondhand shops and talking about the shops and your finds on social media to promote them, I’m not sure what else I’d recommend to support them!

What do you think of secondhand books? Do you buy them often, do you wish you had access to more secondhand bookshops or are they not for you? How would you recommend people support secondhand books and shops?

23 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Buying Secondhand Books

  1. I like secondhand bookstores because it is fun to peruse the aisles and find old covers of books! I have found some interesting, old covers of books by Charles Dickens, HG Wells, Poe, etc. The only reason I don’t prefer going to a secondhand bookstore is because, in my experience, there really aren’t many up to date books/new-ish releases! However, that being said, that is also the good thing about these stores because you may find a book that is no longer sold in Barnes and Noble or another, larger more popular bookstore.

    Great post! 🙂


  2. I love visiting secondhand book shops because it always feels like a treasure hunt. You never know what you will find. I also really love the smell. 🙂 I rarely actually buy anything, though, because I’m a stickler for my books being in great condition, if possible. Other people are often not as careful with them as I am, and that is apparent anytime I visit one of these shops.


  3. I don’t read physical books, so I don’t seek out second hand shops. There used to be one in my town, on the main street, but I think it’s gone. I would love to give my stacks of book to a second hand store though.


  4. I’m lucky to live reasonably close to a second hand book barn, that has lots of recent YA releases in stock, for around $4 each–if you are ever in southern New England, it’s the Niantic Book Barn. It hums with activity; there are always people trading in books, so the stock rotates quickly.


  5. Oh, I live the smell of old books and find shops that sell second hand book very charming: there’s a special atmosphere when you enter them. There was one such shop in New Orleans with an old owner with a cat living in the shop. Wow, i loved that shop right away!


  6. I love secondhand book shops, I always find something. I also buy books secondhand online, they are often so cheap that even the added postage doesn’t get you anywhere near the price of a new one. There is an online shop here that sells postage free if you buy over €10, so I always try to get there.

    In all those years that I bought them online, I have only once received a really bad copy, mostly it’s minor damages and I know they are used, so I am prepared. I am just reading a book by a second hand book owner and the stuff people complain about – it’s inbelievable.

    And I totally get your enthusiasm of the “treasure hunt”, we never know what we find.

    The con – well, it is a treasure hunt to begin with, always a nice surprise what you may find.


  7. I’m not opposed to it and do it sometimes for older titles. With newer titles I usually wait until they are cheaper, unless its an anticipated read coming in a book box because I want signed lol, or get from the library.


  8. Great discussion, Dini! The issue could be that sometimes you don’t find what you want in secondhand bookshops. There is a great website in the UK where we can exchange books, which I love it. I get used/read books that I want to read but not 100% sure I want to buy or keep. I give away books I didn’t enjoy and take space in my bookshelves, so I can make space for more 😂😂


  9. I can see why the genre options might be limited in different locations. When I go to thrift I can find any horror unless it Stephen King. Some thrift stores have more sci-fic and fantasy then others.
    I like buying used books. To go to used book sales and never know what I might find is the best feels.


  10. I moved recently and don’t really know where to get secondhand books here yet, but I did enjoy going to library book sales in the previous places I lived. My biggest thing is that, at this point in my life, I’d like the books to be in basically like new condition. I don’t care how cheap the book is if it looks ratty.


  11. Honestly I’d go so far as to say I prefer buying secondhand books! Partly for the points you listed like the price and the little peek into someone else’s life, but also just from a sheer sustainability point. I’m also always a little miffed if I drop a chunk of money on a new book and then am not at all a fan of it. xD But if it was only a couple dollars, no big deal and I’ll happily throw it in a local little free library.

    PS – the weirdest thing I’ve ever found in a book I bought used was someone’s government issued social security card, which is basically the key to a person’s legal identity in the US so that’s a CRAZY thing to find!! I was able to track the person down online, but felt like it would be weirder to reach out and give it back so I just had it destroyed safely. You can get copies. Plus if they sold a book with it in there… they probably aren’t looking for it any time soon!


  12. I completely forgot about all the extra finds that come in used books! I love that, as well. I’ve found train and plane tickets, pictures!, and bookmarks, as well. I’m usually just as excited by the inside finds as the actual books they’re in. 😉 Great post!


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