|GfB: buying guide|
There is no substitute to browsing through a real bookshop. You can (usually) handle the books, check the condition for yourself and decide whether or not the price asked is fair and right for your purposes. You will probably also find other books that you didn't know you wanted. This is why we at GfB are committed to a bookshop that customers can come into and experience for themselves.
On the other hand there are times when you need a particular book and the convenience of buying it online is difficult to ignore. Or a book may be so elusive that you could spend a lifetime searching all the bookshops of England without knowing that there is a bookseller desperate to sell a copy in Orkney, or Corsica, or Nova Scotia.
We would recommend 2 internet book sites that you probably know of already, but there are a few guidelines to follow to try to avoid the occasional, but inevitable, disappointments of buying books unseen.
You can also buy online with a clear conscience by always accessing the book sites from this page. That way your local REAL bookshop will benefit from a small commission for every purchase made, at no extra cost to you. The best of both worlds, so please...
Abebooks.co.uk is the British window on the world's largest online marketplace for second hand books. The Advanced Book Exchange is based in Canada but its sellers are truly global and, on the whole, professional. Many sellers are long established booksellers with good reputations and plenty of experience in describing books. There are exceptions and even the best are not infallible, but generally...
Firstly, there is an art to knowing how to find the book you want. We would suggest filling in the surname (only) of the author and just one or two key words from the title. If this produces too many results click on the "Refine using Adv. Search" link to the right of the results page. One of our tricks to finding the edition we want is to put the year of publication in the "Publisher:" box. This works.
For buyers in Britain or anywhere else in Europe, it is sensible to select the "UK booksellers first" option from "Sort Results By:" as postage rates and speed of delivery are important factors in chosing which copy to buy. Then read the description of each copy in turn until you come to one which is described as being in better condition than you are hoping for. Bear in mind that sellers are aware that they are competing on their descriptions of condition as well as on price.
Unless you have had previous experience of a seller on abebooks it is often worth contacting them by e-mail first. Their e-mail address should be on the seller info page, together with a contact name, a postal address and, sometimes, their web site address. The speed and manner in which they answer your e-mail should give you a clue as to how they will treat your order.
Amazon.co.uk is the best known site for new books, often at a reduced price. If you want to buy a new copy of a book, and Amazon promises despatch within a week, then this is a good bet, and bargains have been known. If despatch is promised in 4 to 6 weeks it means that the book is probably out of print and unobtainable.
Always look for the "More Buying Choices" / "New and Used" options to see if anyone is offering a cheaper copy, but bear in mind that many of these are amateur sellers. This can affect how accurately books are described, (so don't order anything described as ex-library or "a bit tatty"!), how well they are packed, and how promptly they are posted, although some amateurs put the pros to shame.
An invaluable guide to the reliability of a seller is their feedback rating. Amazon gives sellers a rating out of five; our current rating is 4.9 out of 5. We would suggest ignoring the 4 and thinking of the number after the point as a rating out of ten, so our rating would be 9 out of 10. Be wary of buying from sellers with ratings below 4.7 out of 5, (or 7 out of 10, by our system). Also, check the feedback on the seller's page to see if there are any consistent complaints.
It is also worth navigating to the seller's zShop page, if they have one, to find out a bit more about them.
One last word: be very wary if the only sellers listed are in America. There are one or two who, if no other copies of a book are listed, will ask ten times what the book is truly worth. Recently they have been hunting in gangs. You have been warned!
Expect the book you have ordered from any online book site...
to arrive later than you had hoped
to be less well packed than you had hoped
to be in worse condition than you had hoped
to be a cheaper edition than you had hoped, and
to have had the vital page torn out
...that way you should not be disappointed, and may even be pleasantly surprised!!!