How I Buy Books

Buying a book seemed pretty straightforward…until we started homeschooling! Buying a book turned into buying a lot of books. Luckily, we have access to a great city library, and we use it heavily. It lacks a lot of older books, so if I want them, I have to buy them. But there are several other reasons I might buy a book even if the library has it:

  • I have 5 kids. If a book is good enough to check out for each child as he reaches that reading level, I may as well buy it, and save myself the hassle of requesting it and checking it out from the library five or more times.
  • The book is part of series, and the library doesn’t have the whole series. Betsy-Tacey books–our library has maybe two of them. All-of-a-kind Family books–it has all but the last. And so on.
  • I want to encourage re-reading of or frequent reference to a certain book. So if I buy it, it’s in our house, and the kids are more likely to read it when they are bored or something.
  • It is a well-loved book and will get trashed, so I may as well buy it to avoid the library fine. 🙂
  • It’s on my personal list of Every Child of Mine Needs to Read This Book . Someday I’ll post that list (maybe when my oldest is a bit older than 7).

So this is how I buy a book:

  • I hear about an interesting book (usually on forums). Or I remember one I read when I was little. Or I need a book to fill a specific need, so I start looking on booklists (lots are linked in the sidebar).
  • Then, if I am not familiar with the book, I start reading Amazon reviews. Sometimes I’ll check the forums at Ambleside Online or the Well Trained Mind…this is especially helpful for getting info on particular editions of a book. While I’m at Amazon, I check the price, but I almost always head over to
  • where used books are generally cheaper than Amazon, and you don’t have to have Amazon Prime or meet a minimum for free shipping. There are other online used bookstores which are probably just as good, so leave me a comment if there’s one you use and like! I’ve used Abebooks for several years. They don’t have book reviews but they list publishers, whether the book is hard or softcover, date published, etc., so if you are looking for a particular edition, it’s easy to find. They sometimes have coupon codes.  A couple times, they sent me the wrong book, but when I emailed, they just refunded me and I kept the book. Good customer service. I’ve bought a ton of books there for $3.47, and lot for $4-6, which adds up after a while (since Amazon’s cheapest books are usually $3.99). I like to buy from booksellers with a rating of 97% or better, and books listed as like new, very good, or good. Sometimes I’ll buy a fair one if there’s nothing better available at a reasonable price. If it’s a book for me to read, I’m ok with acceptable since I can read around highlighting and underlining, but if it’s a kid book, I like a clean text.
  • Speaking of editions, there are a lot of print-on-demand publishers, and there are some publishers who specialize in re-printing out-of-print books or public domain texts. Some are good; some aren’t. Dover and Yesterday’s Classics are great. Wilder is bad (no page numbers, irregular font, missing illustrations). Some other publishers basically photocopy an old book, bind it, and call it a day–they are horrible editions. I like old hardbacks, new softcovers, and library editions (they are often reinforced and hold up well with lots of uses).
  • And there’s always Ebay. I buy (and sell) books there occasionally. It’s been best for buying sets or lots of books, like our Little House on the Prairie set, or read-alouds for a Sonlight Core.
  • One last thing that’s nice about buying books online: you can go back into your account to see if and when you already purchased a book. Then you avoid searching boxes you’ve packed for moving, or yelling at the kids to put away the fifty-one books scattered through the house…

So that’s about it…a pretty straightforward method for adding to a home library. Cheers!


2 thoughts on “How I Buy Books

  1. melanie

    Good stuff, Sarah! You guys did a lot of great work last year! A couple other options for book buying is Paperback Swap and hosting a used curriculum sale (just had ours and came home with 2 boxes of free books at the end) or local homeschool book swap. We have ours at a local church and it is amazing. I love that you too are a lover of books!

  2. marisolstice Post author

    Thanks! You helped me get going way back when with Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook, and Charlotte’s Web 🙂 Can you use Paperback Swap just for buying, or do you have to do trades too?


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