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A Guide to Second-Hand Book Shopping

By Holly Presswell with Nazifa Khan

As book lovers, we much prefer reading with a book in hand over a Kindle or phone. There’s just something special about holding a physical book – feeling the weight of it, turning the pages and breathing in the unmistakable scent. It’s a sensory experience that digital devices can’t replicate. And as for the sound of the spine cracking, it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we find that it’s another delightful quirk that makes reading books so unique and enjoyable. However, it can be challenging to afford the luxury of buying brand-new books all the time, so we have come up with various methods to build up personal libraries in the most inexpensive way possible. Throughout this article, we’re going to share some top tips on finding affordable books.

Charity Bookshops

Photo by: LinkedIn

The first suggestion would be to pay a visit to your local charity shops. The beauty of the book selection in a charity shop is that you never know what you may find. With all sorts of people donating, the variety of books displayed is phenomenal.

Most of the books sold in charity shops typically cost between £1–£4, depending on the store. We’ve given some tips below on a more sustainable way to shop for books.

First tip: get to know your charity shops in the local area.

Discovering the best charity shops in your local town or city can be a fun and affordable way to find pre-loved books. Keep an eye out for charity shops that specialise in books, like Oxfam Bookshops. You can also take a look at your weekly farmer's or thrift market – you might find a stall that’s devoted to second-hand books. Once you’ve found the best spots in your area, you’ll know exactly where to go for your next book.

Second tip: don’t go too often.

Different from a bookstore with new bestsellers arriving daily, charity shops will not rotate stock around as much. To make sure you’re making the most of your trips, visit the shops every two to three weeks to allow for new stock to be put out and a new range of books to browse through.

Third tip: rummage around.

In some charity shops, the books will not be displayed to perfection, so make sure to rummage around in boxes and shelves to find the best books.

Hidden between James Patterson’s novels and David Beckham’s autobiography could be the signed first edition of your favourite book!

Fourth tip: enjoy the process!

The joy of charity book shopping is that you never know what you will come back with! Treat yourself to five books for the same price as one brand-new book. You could find most of your to-be-read list while browsing the shelves – you just have to be patient!

Donation Points

Another good place to find affordable books is at donation points. These can be found in your local supermarket, post office, swimming pool or community centre.

The donation points just ask for a donation of any size, most likely cash, in exchange for a book. These can be hit or miss, but it is always a good idea to check them out once a month to see what wonders are hiding there.

Online Second-Hand Book Stores

If you prefer not to venture outside for shopping, we’ve discovered some of the best online second-hand book retailers. The one drawback to shopping online is that items may occasionally arrive bigger or smaller than expected because you won’t always see the exact images of what you are buying. However, it’s always worth it.

When it comes to buying books online, there are a few go-to websites that we turn to. is a firm favourite. We’ve never been let down by their selection of old and new books. Another great option for affordable, pre-loved books is, which is known to be one of the UK’s largest online sellers. And, of course, there’s always eBay – the ultimate destination for used copies of just about every book imaginable. Lastly, we have to mention The Oxfam Second-Hand Book website. Although there’s no better feeling than perusing their bookstores in person, their online selection is just as impressive and houses everything from crime and sci-fi to comics.

We cannot recommend second-hand book shopping enough, and perhaps after following our tips, you'll be able to get out there and find your new favourite book in a charity shop! Remember to bring any old books you no longer use or need so that others can enjoy them. Buying second-hand allows everyone the opportunity to read.



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