Tips from the Pros: Buying Used Books, from Juliana Smith

It’s inevitable. When you become interested in family history, whether you were a book lover before or not, you become one. In addition to family history reference and how-to books, you suddenly have a need for atlases, old dictionaries, local histories, social histories, ethnic histories, or anything that will give you a better understanding about what an ancestor’s life was like.

Book collecting can be expensive, but with online used-book sellers you can get some great deals on even recently released titles. One book I recently bought is still in print and usually runs $16.00, but I was able to get a copy through a used bookseller on for about $7 (with shipping). and are other good places to check for reduced prices on books. Although the cheapest books have typically been used, most that I have purchased have arrived in remarkably good condition. Compare several sites to get the best deal on the books you need for your family history.

9 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Buying Used Books, from Juliana Smith

  1. Keep an eye out at garage sales and thrift shops, too. Just a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a book related to my family’s “Billy the Kid” connection in a thrift shop. I just had to have it, even though it set me back the princely sum of 27 cents!

  2. My local library’s book sales are a great source of inexpensive books. I also use for secondhand books and for new books.

  3. I highly recommend Better World Books at
    New & used books at good prices and you also support literacy world-wide AND they have carbon-neutral shipping. No financial interest in them, other than being a very satisfied customer!

  4. For history and biography books, check out the website You list the books you are interested in swapping, and you get credits as they are “ordered” and you can “order” someone else’s books with the credits you earn. The only cost is the media mail postage required to mail the books others order from you. If you choose, the club has a system where you pay them for the postage and they print it out on the wrapper already addressed to the requestor. Or you can print the wrapper and put your own postage on it. It is a really neat system.

  5. For the past three years, I have been collecting books written by and about my relatives and the times they lived in. I was delighted to realize recently that my small collection had grown large enough to warrant an entire section on the bookshelf next to my desk. I’m especially fond of a small tattered book of excellent sermons written by an ancestor in 1854. If I remember correctly, it cost (with shipping)around $5.00. My Edmondsons, Rayfords, Gurganuses, Allens, Jinkses, Seversons, Shunnessons, Thompsons, and Tanbergs have come alive for me and my family in a way that might not have otherwise been possible.

  6. Always be sure to check Google Books for an online electronic copy of the book you might be interested.

    If you do find one, be sure to download the PDF copy of the entire book, as rights to it may change over time.

  7. I found a resource a couple of years ago that I have used several times. . . Books We Own. By accessing the information in the books other people own you can save the cost of buying a book yourself. I have entered all of the genealogical books I own and receive a request about every month or two for a lookup from the book. It takes me very little time and I save the person I’m helping both time (finding the book, etc.) and money. I would suggest that anyone with genealogy books in their library join at

  8. I would also look on Google books as many books (out of copyright) are now online and check out WorldCat for libraries around you where you could find this book!

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