The uber used book store? What am I talking about? It’s the store probably responsible for at least a third of the books in our house, and for passing along our book-buying habits to our son, (which his wife may or may not think is a good thing!). What am I talking about? Half Price Books of course.
Half Price Books has five stores in the Columbus area, three of which we visit fairly regularly (Carriage Place, Lane Ave., and Graceland, in that order). The chain, like so many used book stores, had its start as a single store in Dallas, TX in 1972, taking over a converted laundromat (information is from their website). Also like many used book stores, this one began when Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson stocked the store with books from their own libraries. They started with the simple idea of selling books (and eventually movies, music, and games) at 50% or less of retail. This idea, and I’m certain a lot of entrepreneurial work, has propelled them to a chain of stores numbering 115 in 16 states.
Half Price books says it gets about half of its stock from its customers. They also say they will buy anything printed or recorded except for yesterday’s newspaper. We’ve found that to be true and they have been a great place for us to recycle books and other media we no longer want and can’t find others to give it to. That said, the one caveat is that you may sometimes get a better price for particular books at other stores, if it is something they want. But I haven’t found any other place that will take whatever you bring and re-sell or recycle it and give you something, usually store credit, for your stuff.
In part, this post is inspired by the fact that Half Price Books is currently having one of its regular coupon sales. You can sign up to receive emails about these and other events at their website. A couple years ago I found Raymond Brown’s box two volume work The Death of Jesus the Messiah, and with a 50 percent off coupon picked it up for $15 (it retails at $60). Recently, they have also begun holding massive clearance sales at a central location (our state fairgrounds hosted one recently). We’ve not been to one of these, but everything is $3 and under. Another used book store owner I talked to recently admitted to going to one of these to pick up stock.
What I’ve liked about Half Price Books is the range and depth of material you can find. It isn’t just the most popular stuff. This past week, I picked up a hardbound copy of Sigmund Mowinckel’s The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, a landmark work on the Psalms published in 1962, for a mere $5. Sometimes I find the most amazing stuff in their bargain shelves where nothing costs more than $2. I found a copy of Mark Schwehn’s Exiles from Eden, a book I’d wanted on religion and higher education, on one of these shelves.
I have to say, we’ve had a nearly twenty year history with Half Price Books in our area, and I really can’t find anything bad to say about them, other than the fact that they’ve tempted me to buy more books than I probably should have. These days, I mostly limit visits there to the sales and try to sell them more books than I buy. If you don’t live in a location that has one of their stores, you should check their locations and make sure to visit one when you travel, unless you are seriously resisting the temptation to buy books!