With the current lockdown measures set to continue for some months in the UK and many other parts of the world, we’re all having to get used to the fact that we’re going to be stuck inside for a good chunk of 2021.
That means finding inventive ways to get enjoy ourselves. For book lovers, that means finding ways to buy new reads that aren’t browsing bookstores and charity shops.
Internet shopping is the ideal solution; currently there aren’t any QVC-style shopping channels for books that I’m aware of, and most book catalogues are for fancy volumes, not normal novels for the everyday buyer.
When shopping online for books, it’s easy to get burned, as I’ve learned myself to my cost. You could wind up receiving a book that’s not the one you wanted, or that’s in really bad condition and not fit for a place in your collection or precious tomes. It’s different to shopping for books in stores, as you can flick through them and actually see them, before you commit to paying for them.
In some rare cases, I’ve even ended up receiving books that I bought online in the wrong language! So, without further ado, here’s some top tips on making sure you get the best books possible when you buy online.
Check Out Independent Bookstores
Not just a tip for getting the best possible products, but also a point for anyone who wants to support local businesses. While major corporations get richer, small businesses struggle to get the funding and support they need to survive the pandemic. So, where possible, check out independent bookstores that have gone online when you’re buying books. Often, you’ll find that you get a better level of service and higher-quality products.
Ex-Library Books Are Usually The Best Quality
While it is a shame that so many libraries are closing down and getting shot of their stock of books, ex-library books are usually great quality and make a great second-hand book buy. So, if a listing for a used book states that it’s an ex-library book, then the chances are that, provided this is true, then it’ll be in good nick. Most library books are well taken care of, and if they become too worn or get damaged then the library usually throws or gives them away and replaces them.
Look Out For Listings With Pictures Of The Actual Book That’s For Sale
Many listings for second hand books will show a generic image of the cover, so you don’t know the actual condition of the book you’re buying. If possible, try to find a site or platform that shows pictures of the book you’ll be buying, so that you can see what it looks like before you pay for it.
Read Customer Reviews Carefully
Reviews from past customers can be a great indication of what a seller is like, but you should always read the content of the reviews, rather than just checking out the star or number rating. Some reviewers don’t understand the numbering system, so they’ll put someone down low when they actually like their service (happens a surprising amount). Alternatively, some reviewers will mark a seller down for something that isn’t even their fault, like the courier being late or the parcel being damaged in transit. Other buyers will be angry for an issue and might make bold claims that sound too outlandish to be true. When reading reviews of anything, my tip is to always look for consistencies. Often, if several reviewers are saying the same thing, then it’s likely to be true. If one person is saying it, then it’s just their word against the seller’s.
Consider Online Security
It’s not just the selection of books and products that you need to be wary of; when buying anything online, you need to think about website security. After all, you’re going to be giving the site not only your payment details, but also a lot of highly valuable data. If your antivirus software flags a site, then be wary and avoid using it, unless you’re sure that it’s just your software being overzealous. Check the site’s Terms and Conditions and make sure that they align with what you expect. If possible, you should also try to pay using a payment service like PayPal or Stripe, so that you don’t have to hand over your payment info to a third party.
Watch Your Bank Account Or Credit Card After The Transaction
Once you’ve purchased your lovely new books, you need to watch your credit card or bank account to make sure that no money is taken. In many cases, fraudsters tend to target certain sites because of weak security, so if other users of the same website report in reviews that they’ve been hacked, then don’t use it. If you notice that you get hacked after using the site, then mention it online, but don’t blame the site; it might be a coincidence. Just make others aware that it happened, so that if others notice an issue then the company can take steps to improve its online security. Also, be proactive and deal with the fraud promptly to reduce your chances of losing too much money and getting into financial difficulties. Some banks and credit card firms will reimburse you if you can prove that it was fraud, so contact them as soon as possible to have them deal with it.
Keep A List Of Your Favourite Book Buying Sites
If you’ve used an online book buying site a few times and like it, then bookmark it on your browser, or if you’re old school, then keep a handwritten list of your favourite sites for replenishing your bookshelves via the internet. Then you can keep going back to them and finding the amazing books that you love to read! You can also recommend them to your friends who want to find books they love online. You might find some niche stores that sell the books you like, such as used natural history books or manga novels.
With a little bit of time and research, you can usually find online booksellers that will give you the service, selection and support that you expect. Whether you’re buying new or second hand books, you want to make sure that you get what you want and don’t waste your hard-earned cash, so be selective and if in doubt, look elsewhere. Happy book buying!