Thursday 1 June 2006

How to find used and out-of-print books!

Hunting for phyllos and leaves

Hunting for used and out-of-print books can be frustrating and discouraging. This is especially true if you need it for that all-important essay. Here is a guide to some of the better resources to help you achieve your end.

Your professor has mentioned a book in an offhand way 3 or 4 times, and you want to score some bonus points in your next essay by quoting from her ‘pet’ book. You go to the library, but their copy is listed as missing. You try to interlibrary loan it only to find out no one else has a copy. So you decide to search online for it. Well here’s the short list of sites to check and the order in which you might want to check them.

First, if money is not an issue to you, you can check both Chapters and Amazon and see if they have them new. (They also have some used resellers. You might luck out.) Now if you don’t have luck there, you can move on. Abebooks is a website run out of Vancouver; it is a search engine that checks thousands and thousands of online bookstores. This is the premier used retailer online. They have been around for 10 years and give excellent service.

It that still fails, there are a few more options. You can try ebay’s book and media section There are a variety of ways to search: author, title, ISBN. Don’t give up - you may still yet find it. Two academic used and out-of-print search engines are Loome and Alibris. Both specialize in textbooks and arts books.

If, after all that, you still cannot find the book, you can check and see if there is an electronic version of it available at Project Gutenberg. There are literally thousands of free ebooks available.

The best advice I can give you is to recommend that you be persistent. Recently I found an out-of-print book that has been OOP since the late 50’s. I had been looking for it for years but it was always too expensive. Then it showed up on abebooks for only $4 from a used bookstore in Edmonton. I received it in KW for under $10 with shipping. So don’t give up.

Hopefully these tips will help you find those elusive books, and get the bonus marks on that paper.

(Complete list of website referenced in the order they appeared.)

(First Published in Imprint 2006-06-02 as 'Hunting down old and rare books: On the trail of that elusive, must-have text.)

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