Book Sale FAQ
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Information About Book Sales
Who Runs Book Sales
Where the Books Come From
How Much the Books Cost
Selection of Books
What People Do with the Books
What to Expect at the Sale

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Information About Book Sales

Who runs book sales?

Most book sales listed are run by non-profit organizations around the country. The majority are sponsored by Friends of the Library volunteer groups who hold the sales to raise funds for such things as local cultural activities and book purchases for the library. Many other non-profit groups also run bookstores or sponsor regular sales for general fundraising. These include such national organizations as the American Association of University Women, Bryn Mawr Alumnae, Brandeis University National Women's Committee, Goodwill Industries, and Planned Parenthood as well as neighborhood churches and charitable organizations.

We don't charge charitable non-profit organizations to list their traditional used books sales or bookstores on our web page.

We also allow book fair organizers and for-profit book dealers to advertise their sales as well, but we charge them a fee to do so.

Where do the books come from?

Donations. Even at library sales, most books are obtained from donations - not from the library itself. Of course, libraries often use these sales to 'weed out' some older editions of reference and other books, but the number is typically small compared to the number donated. The donations are usually from local patrons, however some sales have access to publishers' overstocks or galley proofs. Sometimes a person will bequeath books to a local library, which will include these in its sale. Some of the national organizations actively encourage their members to contribute their books.

And not just books. At many of the sales you will also find CDs, DVDs, Audiobooks and vinyl records.

This is recycling at its best. The donor gets a tax deduction, the non-profit group gets needed funds, the purchaser gets great items at great prices.

Everybody wins!

How much do they cost?

This is the best part. The prices are lower than you will find anywhere else. Most sales sell paperbacks for about 50 cents or $1, hardcovers typically sell for a dollar or two, children's books are often even less. Where else can you get weeks of reading for only $10? DVDs for $1 or $2 each? The bargains are amazing. You and the kids can walk out of a sale with an armload of books for less than you'd pay for one book at a traditional bookstore.

Is there a good selection?

It depends on the sale. Most sales have several thousand books. Some sales have a few hundred books, while others have hundreds of thousands (this is more than most bookstores). Again depending on the sale, about half to three-quarters are hardcover and the rest are paperback. Many of the larger sales have an enormous assortment of books, and they are often sorted at least as well as you would find in a traditional bookstore.

And speaking of bookstores, some groups run used bookstores, which rival for-profit businesses in professionalism and selection. The stores are open during regularly posted hours either year-round or seasonally. Like any other bookstore, they afford you the opportunity to browse at your leisure. Unlike a traditional store, however, the prices are quite a bargain.

Do you enjoy gardening, cooking, or do-it-yourself projects? You're in for a real treat. There are usually loads of non-fiction books on various subjects - build an entire library by attending just a few sales. Over time, you'll probably get more selective and search different sales for unusual books on the subjects that interest you. Many people throughout the country even plan their vacations around book sales at their destination!

If you like to collect modern first editions, book sales are the places to go. Used book dealers all over the country send their scouts to these sales to find the hidden treasures. It's not uncommon to find a first edition of a book for $1, which a dealer will sell for $25 or more. Of course, if you're going to match wits with professional book scouts, you have to get there early and make decisions quickly. It's really quite exciting - and worth the effort if you can find a first edition of a popular author's early book. It's a great way to start collecting.

What could I do with all the stuff I buy at a book sale?

Let your imagination run wild.
  • Develop a collection of cookbooks to keep or give as a gift.
  • Plan your vacation using travel magazines and books you pick up for a dollar or two.
  • Build a collection of mysteries by a single author.
  • Build a collection of investment guides - and get fabulously rich!
  • Donate some back to the organization the next year - and get a tax deduction.
The prices are so good there is no need to be decisive - buy them all! Where else can you get books on so many subjects for just a few dollars?

What can I expect at the sale?

Expect lots of people. Collectors and book scouts are in line before the doors open. The experienced book sale buyer knows that highly collectible books are often sold in the first hour or two of the sale. Remember that the sales are nearly always staffed by unpaid volunteers, so be patient with them. It's a good idea to bring your own bags so you'll have someplace to put your books while you're scurrying around grabbing book after book. Don't forget to look under the tables; there are usually more books than space so the organizers often replenish the books from boxes under the tables.

If you don't get to the sale when it opens, don't despair; many good books are available throughout the sale. Sometimes donors bring fresh books during the sale so you never know what you might find in the next hour. For the entire duration of the sale, you can always get good self-help books, mysteries, novels, and just about anything else you want. Book sale organizers often reduce the price of the books near the end of the sale. Many will sell books for a few dollers per bag on the last day. At that price, you can afford to bring a bunch home for friends to browse. Any that you don't want can be donated back next year.

Many of the book sales are accompanied by bake sales or garden sales, and many are held at the same time as local events. There are book sales during blueberry festivals, hot air balloon shows, flea markets, and town celebrations. After the sale, haul the books to your car and enjoy the rest of the day in town. Be sure to bring the family!

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