Posted by: billpurdue | January 29, 2009

40 Cheaper books by mail

Amid all this glum news about the economic downturn, I think we should look at how to buy books cheaper – and patronising one of the mail order remainder booksellers is one way of doing it. I say “remainder”, but this isn’t perhaps the word these booksellers might choose to describe themselves – they buy overstocks, out of print books and reprints from many major booksellers and sell them on at discounted prices. I’m going to look at two mail order and online booksellers: Postscript and Bibliophile, plus a brand new bookseller called “Bananas“. Bear in mind that I’m not talking about Amazon . Amazon, as well as offering new books at discounted prices, is a handy website to check on publishing details and read reviews about a book you are thinking of buying, but it isn’t a remainder bookseller. I’ll have something to say about The Book People later on.

Postscript has the strapline “Quality books at reduced prices”. As well as their website which  contains the whole  range of titles (currently around 5000 ) they have on offer, they send out a monthly magazine if you buy from them at least occasionally, but there’s no obligation to buy anything. The magazine is a catalogue of the latest titles available, plus some more that have been available for some time, but not the complete list.  Each title is described in about 75 words and sometimes a colour illustration of the book cover might be shown or  there might be a photo or illustration from inside the book. A few years ago the catalogue always had a section at the back with titles of academic interest, but now these are all included in the main body of the magazine with a small symbol to indicate the type of material.

At the front of the magazine is a “Featured titles ” section where a select few, mainly just added, titles are described in more detail with larger illustrations, just to tempt you – and have I been tempted! The rest of the magazine is divided into sections according to subject such as  “British Isles” (history of Great Britain and local history), Food and Drink, Reference, Biography etc.

Bibliophile (strapline “Britain’s best postal book bargains”) also sends out a catalogue about 12 times a year, this time in tabloid newspaper format except that there aren’t any headlines, just titles listed according to categories in a similar way to Postscript, but with slight differences. Again there is no obligation to buy anything.  Bibliophile seems to carry more fiction than Postscript and also includes a section on erotica, whilst Postscript does not! Their website has their full range which is 3400 titles according to the latest postal catalogue. The book descriptions are a little longer than in the Postscript magazine, but we are not usually told the name of the publisher, whereas Postscript does include this information. I find it’s helpful to k now who published a book if I haven’t seen it in a shop – but some may not think it important.

Well, what about the discounts you ask? Here are a few examples: Bibliophile’s current catalogue has the biography of Daniel Craig by Sarah Marshall for £6.50, normally £17.99 or “How to Read a Country House” by Jeremy Musson for £10, normally £25, or McCall Smith’s “No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (paperback) for £3.50 instead of £7.99.

Postscript is currently offering David Bradbury’s “Mansfield, a pictorial history” for £6.99 instead of the normal price of £14.99 or “Impressionist Camera, pictorial photography in Europe 1888-1918”  for £14.99 instead of £40, or “All Gong and No dinner” (mentioned in last week’s posting) for £4.99 instead of £12.99

There are postage costs – a flat charge of £3.50 for Bibliophile or £3 (£1.80 if the order is for one book only) at Postscript. If you order online from Postscript, they deduct £2 from your total bill – see the website for full details.

The other day I found out about another brand new overstocks bookseller, at the moment only online as far as I know. Bananas has been set up by The Book People to provide an outlet for all those ends of lines from its main catalogue – you know, the one that  seems to fall out of many popular magazines as soon as you open them.  The website is arranged in similar categories to The Book People website with a very brief description of the titles, but there is a book cover illustration for most of them. Like the Book People catalogue, there is a lot of children’s fiction and non-fiction and the categories of the adult books are quite wide ranging – “reference ” for example could include  almost anything that you wouldn’t read from beginning to end.

It’s not easy to compare Bananas to Postscript or Bibliophile since Bananas doesn’t , so far, produce a printed monthly catalogue (though you can download the whole current list as .pdf file) and it’s only there to dispose of overstocks from The Book People, but it is worth a mention. If there’s a book you find in their catalogue, it should be very cheap and if you spend over £25 postage is free.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other similar overstocks booksellers like the three I’ve described, but I don’t know of any at the moment. Anyway you pays your money and you takes your choice. I don’t think you can go far wrong with any of these, provided you are sure you know what books you are buying.

Next time: if you like Alexander McCall Smith, you might also like….

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