Monday, March 2, 2020

I tried ordering from used bookstores. Here's how it went!

In the last few years I have made an attempt to buy books from places other than Amazon for obvious reasons. I've tried making more trips to local bookstores. Unfortunately, my local options are Books a Million and a used paperback store that only seems to sell books from the 90s. Of course, I've often bought from sellers on eBay and Amazon Marketplace, but I'd heard good things about World of Books and Thriftbooks and decided to give them a shot.

Title: The Gathering Dark
Store: World of Books USA
Condition: Very Good

As you can clearly see, this was NOT a book in Very Good condition. The spine was broken in too many places to count, there were dings in the very yellowed pages, and there were stamps and writing inside. Let's review the definition of "very good" according to World of Books: Minimal amount of creasing to the spine, Square binding, Minimal or no discoloration to pages. Hm. Not quite. When I emailed World of Books I was told that the condition was fine and refused a refund or replacement. Moving on.

Title: The Ritual
Store: World of Books USA
Condition: Very Good

This book was purchased in October of last year in time for Halloween. Again, this was listed in Very Good condition from World of Books. Again, it came with a badly broken spine and severely yellowed pages. Again, they told me the condition was as they'd described. You can scroll back up to reread their definition of very good.

Titles: Ombria In Shadow & The Forrest of Serre
Store: ThriftBooks
Condition: Very Good

Next up were two books from Patricia A. McKillip, purchased with nostalgia in mind. Both these books were listed in Very Good condition on the ThriftBooks website and honestly both were questionable. While both had dust jackets in good condition, one had very yellowed pages and the other had stains in the back and a sticker in the front. I'll probably keep the one with the yellowed pages, but the other may have to go. Literally what are the stains?? But I won't hold ThriftBooks to a definition that isn't their own, so let's check theirs out. According to ThriftBooks, a "very good book" is "a copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. The spine remains undamaged." I mean, technically yes, these things are true. However, it's worth noting that the "good" condition apparently may have "From the library of" labels, so take that as you will.

Titles: The Tower at Stony Wood, This Monstrous Thing
Store: ThriftBooks
Condition: Like New

A final McKillip title and This Monstrous Thing are the final books on this list. Both were ordered in "Like New" condition. The Tower at Stony Wood was especially bad. The dust jacket was ripped in several places, the pages were yellowed, and there was MOLD on the inside front cover. Obviously that one had to go. Lastly, This Monstrous Thing was purchased like new also, but came with multiple library stickers (inside and out) as well as the dust jacket glued down inside. The pages were also quite yellow. Like New books are defined as "an apparently unread copy in perfect condition. Dust cover is intact; pages are clean and are not marred by notes or folds of any kind." Obviously, neither of these were. When I contacted ThriftBooks I was given a refund, but also told that they "do allow ex-library items to be graded as Like New if the book is otherwise in perfect condition except for the library markings, as that issue is detailed with the condition note." Feels questionable to me, but what do I know?

All in all, I'd say my experience buying from used bookshops online has not been great. I have one final "like new" book coming ThriftBooks and I'm sincerely hoping that one is okay because it was one I really was excited for. Despite the issues with non-independent stores, they remain the most consistent and easiest to buy from. In the future, I definitely won't be purchasing any used books without seeing photos of them ahead of time.

Do you buy used online?
What have your experiences been?
Let me know in the comments!