Whether you're there to pass the time or just because there are fewer and fewer book stores around, buying thrift store books can be a fun and lucrative pursuit.
We may not all have a local bookstore anymore (thanks, Amazon). But no matter where you live, you likely have a thrift store with a changing inventory of used books nearby.
Most of the books you'll find at Goodwill or other thrift stores are better off being recycled. But that's really the joy of it. If you enjoy shopping, it's a very low cost endeavor and there are so few worth picking up you are not at risk of serious overspending.
With all of that, there are still some simple guidelines you should follow when buying ungraded used books.
If you are buying books from a thrift store for fun:
1. Buy what you like:
Look for your favorite authors. Maybe you don't have all of their stuff. What better time than when it's under a dollar?
Find a hardcover of your favorite books for posterity. Find a copy of a book you love to give as a gift. Used books are a more charming gift than new ones anyway.
2. Ignore the imperfections
If you're reading the book, all you need is all of the pages. If it's a book you love, so much the better to read a beat-up copy than your signed hardcover.
Most of the stickers are difficult to remove cleanly without some effort. Library card holders, signatures, and gift messages are common in used books. If it's for you, let them add to the history of your book rather than take away from its perfection.
Books don't need to be perfect.
If you are buying books from a thrift store to collect
1. Find the valuable ones:
There are a number of ways to do this quickly. The fastest of which is to use the Amazon Seller app. It scans barcodes and returns values very quickly.
You can also use the seller app if you ever get into retail arbitrage, but that's another story.
Take a quick skim, you'll get a sense for what might be valuable. Sometimes they're easy to overlook. Once you've got your short list, start scanning.
2. Examine the book inside and out
Chances are, the book's condition will be good enough for resale -- and the prices on Amazon will generally be for 'Good' copies. But you do want to be sure the binding isn't broken, that pages aren't missing, and so forth.
Stickers can be removed, but they are easiest to remove when they are applied to smooth surfaces, Stickers and price tags on creases tend to pull the paper apart.
Just get a sense as to whether you can clean the book up successfully before you cash in your payday.
Are thrift stores good places to find hidden gems?
In all likelihood, the collections are going to have been gone through when you see them. This is not going to be your new vocation, unless you make it a full-time pursuit.
But if you figure out when new stuff goes on the shelf, and you schedule your walk through the book section for soon after, you can find things worth buying.
And that means you can make a few bucks while you're scratching your shopping itch.