Finding books online

Years ago I got a lot of helpful comments on a rather long post I wrote on finding used books online. (The comments are gone: Echo’s demise was also the demise of my blog’s old comments.) In yesterday’s post about a strain of political science books, I found myself veering into the same old territory. I think a single paragraph on book buying would be adequate now, and I reproduce it below from yesterday’s post. But I’m sure the paragraph is incomplete, and I suspect it’s inaccurate. Do you have any suggestions for improving this summary?

Three good steps for finding free or cheap books: (1) showroom Amazon (many would say it’s only fair) using its customer reviews and its “Look Inside” feature where available, or Google Books, to see what you want, (2) look for free e-book downloads at Project Gutenberg,’s texts sectionOpen Library, or Amazon’s Kindle store and the like (usually books out of copyright) (you can borrow many e-books at these sites, too), and, barring that, (3) shop for used hard-copy books, starting at and often shine there. And three guidelines for buying used books: (1) hardbacks are often way cheaper than paperbacks, (2) older editions are often way cheaper than newer editions, and (3) (contrary to all reason) well-marked books are often way cheaper than “clean” books.

(I thank Margaret, Julie, and Nancy for their helpful suggestions. I’ve amended the above paragraph with them.)

Copyright Thalita Carvalho. Used by permission.

Photo copyright Thalita Carvalho. Used by permission.


  1. For hardcopy books, I always look at Advanced Book Exchange – – best source I’ve found of used books, but have to be careful to compare total cost (price + shipping).

  2. There is also Project Gutenberg at for free ebooks. They’re free because their copyright has expired in the US. They have over 42000 books and partner with other countries.

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