Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bargain Bookstores

I must confess that I do a lot of book hunting as I have quite an appetite for reading and I strictly adhere to the confines of my wallet. So it makes sense that I can easily abandon the high price of new books from well-known bookstores and head straight to bargain bookshops. And mind you, I’ve had practice. 8 years of scrounging for second-hand bargain books have taught me a lot of things. 

One thing I discovered was that I am claustrophobic. Going through various books, their covers, short summary and even the author’s bio for 45 minutes in a room stacked with books and enclosed in a small, cramped space inside the mall gives me dizzy spells and suffocation. But I suppose that’s the price of buying cheaper books. I usually leaf through every book in the shop except when I’m looking for something specific. If the subject of the book or magazine catches me, I’m sure to follow it up with what I call my “price glance”. First you look at the front cover of the book, flip it and read the short summary at the back then glance at the price for a second before shifting your eyes back to the top of the book. If the price meets my wallet, that book is not leaving my hands otherwise I casually flip it to the front cover again and return it to the shelf.

Finding treasures in bargain bookshops is the best thing about book hunting. Books that normally cost around 300-400 pesos in bookstores are just sold at bargain bookshops for as low as 90 pesos. That is, if you are fine with a second hand, tattered, dog-eared but complete and readable copy. Magazines and comic books pass as brand new copies except that they are back issues but you can get them for under a hundred pesos. This works especially if you are in it for a good article or story and not for just being trendy. Surprisingly, I found a great magazine for writers called “Writers’ Journal” and " Writer's Digest" and it’s been a great help in polishing my writing technique. I never would have known that such magazines existed had I stopped with just the paperbacks. These are the gems you find when you put in a little effort.

Bargain bookshops don’t hurt the local book industry since their selection consist mostly those of foreign authors. They do carry local magazines at retail price so they’re doing more good than harm. Back issues of local magazines occasionally go on sale for a tenth of its retail price though. Bookstores have their moments too. I’m ecstatic when they have their book sales. This usually occurs when inventory month comes along. Slow-moving books are chosen and prices are slashed to discounts. Back issues of magazines are also sold at discounted rates.

One setback when going to bargain bookshops is that they don’t have a list of their merchandise. These bookshops exist under the principle of “ukay-ukay”. You really have to possess patience and a good eye to find treasures in these small but thriving bargain bookshops.

So if you are looking for books to help you write or just for entertainment, don’t just stop at the big bookstores. Give our local bargain bookshops a try. Who knows? Maybe you might find you own diamond in the heap of rocks.

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