This morning, I attended my first-ever used book sale at a local library. I’d been eagerly awaiting it. I walked through the door at 9:00 AM. Thirty minutes and twenty-two dollars later, I walked out the happy owner of fifteen new (used) books. I’d highly recommend used book sales to anybody whose reading habits pose a threat to their financial stability—but if you’re a newbie (like I am), here are some things to keep in mind.
Bring a bag.
Lucky for me, the book sale provided recycled shopping bags for us to fill with books as we looked around the room. Unlucky for me, I didn’t notice these bags until I was checking out. First, going to a used book sale isn’t anything like shopping for books at a store. At your local bookstore, you’d rarely walk out with more than maybe two books. At a used book sale where paperbacks go for a mere dollar, you could be walking out with thirty books. Second, walking around a small, crowded, library back room filled with hungry bibliophiles is dangerous enough. You will bump shoulders. You will get elbowed out of the way. People will trip you accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) and think nothing of it. Life becomes very difficult when you’re dealing with the physicality of used book buying with an armful of heavy books. Long story short, you’re gonna wish you’d brought that bag.
If you want a book, cling to it with all your might.
The second you put that book down, whether it’s to look at another one, to tie your shoe, or even just to rearrange your haul, that book becomes one of two things: fair game or in the way. Anybody who shows up to a used book sale at nine in the morning on a Thursday is going to be a fucking vulture. You set that bad-boy down and they’ll either swoop it up or shove it into the mess of other books in the middle of their frenzied search. If you want it, lock it down. Another reason to bring a bag.
Do not be shy.
If you’re going to the used book sale with a title in mind—any title—do not be hesitant to move books and boxes around to find it. Cause a ruckus, get your book. Just because you might think it’s the greatest book to ever exist in print doesn’t mean that the person who laid out the books for the sale agrees with you. They probably didn’t even look at the books at all. They were probably tired, sweaty, and sick of moving around heavy boxes of smelly old books. Rip the place apart! I crawled under a table, almost had my hand stepped on by an aggressive shopper, and knocked over a box of thesauruses just to pluck a cool edition of David Copperfield from a shoebox. Now it’s mine forever. And it only cost me two dollars.
Get there EARLY
My first used book sale started at 9:00 AM. I was in the car by 8:00. I live about ten minutes away. Why leave so early? You’ve got to have a cushion. There could be traffic. There could be a shortage of parking. There could be a police barricade forcing you to take a detour, turning a ten-minute drive into half an hour. By that time, that book you’ve been hoping to find since you heard about the sale could be long, long gone.
Hold your fucking ground.
Chances are you’ll be dealing with some used book-sale regulars. People who live for this shit, who may or may not like newcomers. They'll be geared up with canvas bags, they’ll have scouted out the books the night before, as some book-sales allow. People will recognize each other in the line. If you’re the new guy, the alienation is not fun. You’re gonna feel out of place. You could be separating two friends in line. Do. Not. Move. It’s a battle. You’re jockeying for position. You give up your spot in line; you could be giving up the best book in the damn sale. A certain character dressed like a mix of Indiana Jones and a 19th century aristocrat was “mean-mugging” me from the second I showed up to the second I walked out the door. Pay these types no mind. You’re there to get books, just like they are.
Have fun, be adventurous.
The book sale I attended boasted a stock of 25,000 books. Needless to say, there was some stuff there I never thought I’d see—let alone buy. That’s part of the whole appeal; for a buck you can pick up a copy of a book you otherwise wouldn’t be able to justify purchasing. You may never touch it, but it only cost you a buck, and who knows—maybe someday that faded hardcover on art of the African Diaspora might come in handy. Don’t be afraid to venture out of your preferred genres. Also, there’s no other place in the world where a bunch of book-lovers convene in a room and comb through hundreds, thousands of boxes of books. There’ll be some people who take it way too seriously. There’ll be some people who’re just downright strange. But there will also be some people there just like you. People there to just see what kind of flukes and finds they can discover and buy for a more than reasonable price. Make the most of your first used book-sale. Enjoy.