The Top 7 Compelling Reasons You Should Shop at a Used Bookstore

A close up of a bookshelf with all white book spines

Bibliophile. Bookworm. Word nerd. 

I’ve heard them all - and I’m proud to claim them! I’ve loved books my entire life, and have been collecting my favorites since I was a child. (I still have my hardcover Alice in Wonderland from 1988.) 

However, I found I just didn’t have time to have 3 jobs to support my habit. (Plus, when would I have time to read them if I was working 16 hours a day?)

The day I discovered the local used bookstore was a revelation! I could bring a stack of books home instead of having to painstakingly decide which two to walk away with. Heaven. And unlike the library, I didn’t have to bring them back. 

15 years later, one of my absolute favorite things to do when visiting a new city is to find the used bookstores. The first thing I do after booking accommodations is to make a list of all the used bookstores within the area and figure out how to fit them all in.

All of this is to say, at first I shopped for used books instead of new for the price. But through the years, I’ve realized there are so many more benefits to buying used than new. 

From supporting local businesses, to getting to know my community, to finding random treasures, shopping for used books has been a real joy in my life.

Local used bookstore owners are putting their hearts, passion and values out there to share with all of us. We just have to walk through the doors to experience it!

1. Get to Know Your Community

Of course the people at your regular Starbucks know your face and your triple shot latte needs no foam. But so often with locally owned stores, the person who actually owns it works there as well. 

Local stores also often support other businesses and programs in the same community. Literacy programs, schools and teachers, and fundraisers are often donated to by local business owners. 

Book clubs are another treat used bookstores offer - and you can get to know some like-minded folks while hanging out in a cozy, personalized space. 

2. Supporting Local Business

Some of the most charming and surprising shops are the ones owned by locals. They put their stamp of personality on everything, perhaps because it’s a direct representation of them! brings up a terrific point - by supporting local stores, you are keeping variety alive. Small business owners are not at the mercy of a corporate brand. 

Unique decorations, homey vignettes and even a furry friend or two are just some of the ways the used bookstores put their stamp on our experience.

3. Put Your Money in the Pockets of Locals, Not Billionaires 

The ease of shopping on Amazon, coupled with the pandemic forcing shops to close and making it harder for us to get what we ‘need,’ has meant an increase in Amazon’s profits during that time - 220% to be exact. 

There’s a lot of conversation in the world around how billionaires should be reinvesting their fortunes in communities that need the support, the jobs, the economic stimulation. But what many of us don’t realize is that we are the ones who put that money in their pockets in the first place. 

There’s a term called, “voting with your wallet,” which has a few different meanings, but at the bottom of it lies the fact that you get to choose where you spend your money, for whatever reason you like. 

Yes, you are only one person, but every time you put your money towards something, you are supporting it. 

A close up of a colorful stack of books

4. The Price! 

OK, all other reasons aside, you can get at least twice as many used books as new. You also don’t need to invest in another electronic device! Just grab and go. 

The average mass paperback in Canada will run you about $9-13. At a used bookstore, you can bet you’ll be paying at least half of that, depending on how new it is. 

Many savvy readers on a budget (and with a decent local library) are used to waiting in line for the latest novel from their favorite (and popular) writer. You can do the same thing at your local used book store! 

While they obviously can’t guarantee what will come in and when, you can probably put your name on the ‘wishlist’ and get a call as soon as it comes in - for at least half the price. 

Used bookstores operate on a similar pricing model, where they depend on readers trading their books back to restock the shelves. 

The bonus for those of us who trade in is we usually get a credit in return - saving us even more money! 

5. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Did you know that, in 2020, paper products accounted for 25% of all landfill waste in the US alone (And more than ⅓ of Canadian waste.)? 

Certainly, by going digital, we start bringing that number down. But by buying used books, you are reusing what’s already been made, giving it value again.

You’ve probably heard about your carbon footprint, but what does it actually mean? The definition, according to (Who has a cool ‘Carbon Footprint Calculator on their website.), 

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions.”

626,000 tons of paper are used to produce books each year in the United States alone. That’s the equivalent of about 156,500 elephants. Finding used books and textbooks, instead of buying new ones, is an important commitment to make in terms of saving our natural resources. 

Yes, the publishers will keep producing more books, even if you do buy used as much as possible. But by choosing to reuse pre-read books, you are making a more sustainable choice. 

If more of us shop used first, we could make a dent in how many books are printed each year - and how many trees are cut down for more paper to print them on. 

Crazy idea? Maybe, but why not be aggressively aspirational? Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? We vote with our wallets after all, and ultimately, what and where we buy can change the market. 

6. Less Waste

Have you heard the term, ‘disposable society’? 

Driven by the need to have newer, trendier, more exciting things, we have become a society that throws away more trash than ever before. It’s estimated that the average American throws out about 1300 lbs. of trash every year!

Reusing is a terrific way to lower our environmental impact. With the interest and rise in minimalism over the past few years, we are encouraged more than ever to find things that bring us joy, rather than accumulate things that are, well, just things. 

If more of us adopt a method of trading or donating books and then buying used again, we create a flowing system of people recycling new and old editions for everyone else to enjoy. 

Plus, every time you go into your local used bookstore instead of ordering online, you are saving the delivery driving, carbon emissions and often obnoxiously wasteful packing supplies that come with them. (Especially those styrofoam packing peanuts.)

7. Special Editions/Unusual Finds 

People find the strangest things in their basements/attics/Grandma’s house. 

From stacks of National Geographics, special editions, original copies, one-offs or older copies with cool covers - you can find so many surprises. 

Some people collect books and never let them go. Books have sentimental value, after all - it’s like visiting an old friend just to look at the spine of a book. 

Those folks understand the thrill of finding that missing edition in their favorite series, or an out of print book they’ve never been able to locate.

Others like to change things up, making space for something new. With so many people purging closets and storage rooms, you know they are bringing all kinds of treasures to the used bookstores!  

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s up to us where we spend our money. 

Supporting used bookstores has so many benefits; from the price to the unique experience, from reducing waste to finding weird pieces of history. 

But at the end of the day, by shopping at a used bookstore, you are very likely keeping a small business alive and well. 

Even if you’re not a big reader, when it comes to used bookstores (Or used any-kind-of-stores), it’s really a win-win-win. 

  • Lower prices
  • Lower carbon footprint/less waste
  • Supporting your community and getting to know other people who live there

  • What do you have to lose? Do a quick online search for used bookstores near your area, and just pop in one day. We’d love to hear about your experience on our social media. Happy used book shopping!


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