Buying Books and Used Bookstores

March 09, 2022

Recently, I had to login to my old Amazon account which has order history back to 1997. As I recall, Amazon was selling just books back then, and my order history shows that (the first thing I bought that year was 'The Forever War' by Joe Haldeman). I remember that it seemed amazing at the time to be able to order almost any book at a discount - even including shipping costs it was cheaper than the big bookstores.

My how times have changed. For me at least, Amazon is a "hold your nose and buy this thing you can't get anywhere else" kind of store now. They play games with pricing and reviews, often they are no longer the cheapest alternative. Not to mention how they treat their employees.

I don't buy many physical books anymore, but when I do I opt for the online used stores like Thriftbooks (Abebooks was bought by Amazon years ago, so that is out) and I also use Amazon for the reviews. For ebooks I have a Kobo, so I use their online store or get ebooks from the library in Montreal. I manage things with Libby and Calibre, with the Calibre plugin to strip DRM from my Kobo purchases.

I do miss browsing brick & mortar used book stores, where we live now there aren't any to speak of. One of my favorite used bookstores in the States was 'Raven Used Books' in Northampton, Massachusetts. I could browse there for hours. If you look at the pics linked from their website (instagram warning), you can see the glorious wall-to-wall, sagging shelves with books overflowing onto the floor in haphazard piles. It smells just as you would imagine, of dust and old paper.

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