Second hand versus new books

books, second hand, new, culture, Laura Noakes, Kettle Mag
Written by Laura Noakes

There’s always been a bit of discussion in the book community about whether readers prefer shiny new books, or second hand books. Being a book’s first and only owner does have its advantages—but buying books new, and especially buying hardback books new, can get expensive.

And it’s so easy to find a great selection of second hand books these days. Libraries have regular sales, and there’s always books in charity shops and at car boot sales. There’s also used books for sale online, where you can find almost every book imaginable.

There’s one ma-hoosive advantage to second hand books: how cheap they are. I’ve brought second hand books for as little as 20p, and I’ve picked up books in library sales and at charity shops that I would never have thought of reading, and absolutely loved them. 

Also, and I apologise in advance if you are a book purist, but I love my books dog-eared. If they have notes in, even better. Obviously, when you buy second hand, this happens more often than not. I love seeing the scrawls of previous owners in the margins of pages, dedications written from one person to another, interpretations of scenes. It lets me catch a glimpse of that books history. This may be a huge negative though to some people, who do like their books pristine—although if you search hard enough, you are sure to find second hand books in great condition.

And although I like my books used, sometimes second hand books come too used. Once, I received a book with the first nine pages missing, which was VERY frustrating.

The final thing I LOVE about buying second hand books is the smell. I can’t get enough of that old book smell—the mustiness that conures up happy memories spent in the library. 

But there are some downsides to second hand books. First of all, if I find a good deal on books, I become a bit of a book hoarder. I want to read them all, and if they’re twenty pence a piece, I can’t resist tottering out of the shop with a massive stack of books, books that I might never read. After all, my To Be Read list is already huge, and my book shelves are heaving. Sometimes it’s better to spend that little bit more on a few books I know I want to read, rather than spending not that much on hundreds of books I might never get to. 

Second hand books are also, much more likely to be old books. For new releases, new books are often the only way to go. There are SO many good new books coming out AND buying them new shows support for the authors and publishers.

There’s also the point of prettiness. I know the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all DO judge books by covers. One of my recent favs has got to be the fabulous Wing Jones by Katharine Webber, and its gorgeous purple ombre pages, or Beetle Queen by M. G. Leonard and its leopard print edges. This books are so darn pretty, and I’m really glad I brought them new.

In conclusion, I think a mix of new and second hand books is the way to go. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages, but at the end of the day, books are books—they all have the same story inside.

So old or new, happy reading!