Sporadic Sequential
Friday, March 27, 2009
Feeling Frugal: Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy of The Good Bargain

Here's another shopping tip if you're looking for great bargains on graphic novels: Buy used or worn copies. Sounds obvious, but it requires a mindset that's OK with imperfection, something comic fans traditionally have a hard time with. ("What do you mean it's not in mint condition???") It also requires even more patience than regular tradewaiting, as you now have to wait for books to show up used somewhere.

One of my favorite places to find not-quite-new bargains is TFAW's Nick & Dent section, which I've written about several times before. I've found some great deals there, and the prices are always at least half-off. And even though TFAW describes their nick-and-dent books as being in "less-than-mint-condition" all the items I've ordered have been virtually indistinguishable from new books. TFAW is also great about offering coupons to cover shipping costs every month. Check out DealTaker for the most current coupon codes.

For the truly adventurous among you, TFAW has also recently added graphic novel "grab bags" to compliment their comic book grab bags. For three bucks apiece, you can get random volumes of Dark Horse manga, Dark Horse graphic novels, or Marvel graphic novels. You're gambling that you'll get something good, but no matter what you end up with, you'll only be out the cost of a single floppy pamphlet periodical comic.

One of my other first stops when looking for cheap graphic novels is Google Product Search (hereafter abbreviated 'GPS'). GPS does a good job of aggregating a variety of sites that are selling the item you're looking for, including aftermarket resellers such as Alibris and A1Books. When buying from used book sites, it's important to keep in mind that those sites generally aren't selling you the books directly; they're connecting you with other sellers who have the items you're looking for. So it's important to look at the seller's rating before buying from them. The lowest price won't mean much if they never ship the item to you or if it arrives in much worse condition than you expected.

One reseller that I've ended up buying from several times is B-Logistics. The name sounds like a site specializing in speakers and other electronics, but it's actually a clearinghouse for libraries and other organizations. All of the books I've purchased from them have been library copies and at first they looked pretty beat up, but once I removed the protective coverings taped over the covers, the books have all been in great shape. My most recent bargain through B-Logistics was the first volume of Heartbroken Angels, something that was recommended to me as an offbeat humor manga in a vein similar to Short Cuts. The book is still available new through several sites for the full price of $15.95, but I got it for 99 cents plus $2.99 shipping, making the total cost a very reasonable $3.98. (A GPS search this afternoon revealed that B-Logistics is offering the book through A1Books for $0.89, but shipping is $3.95, bumping the total cost up to $4.84. I couldn't find the book searching directly on B-Logistics' own site.)

One limitation of GPS is that it doesn't show the prices from affiliated resellers on Amazon Marketplace or Barnes & Noble's authorized sellers, so it's a good idea to check those sites out as well to see what their prices are. Keep in mind that shipping costs for used books can be higher due to the per-item charges.

So how about you? Any other favorite sites to track down used book bargains? (I just realized I didn't mention eBay, which is because the times I've bothered to look there I haven't found any good deals and I don't want to deal with the hassles of auctions. Have others had better luck finding deals there?)

* image nicked from this thread where posters discuss their most beat-up comics

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