With the prevalence of Amazon and interlibrary loans being delivered to your doorstep, it may seem that used bookstores have run their lease on their purpose. However, it is important that students get away from the computer and find sources outside the Internet.
The used bookstore is one such spot and the reason may be surprising.
If your goal is to find a specific book or even find a book at the right price, you are likely headed for disappointment. Instead, you should consider visiting a used bookstore as a discovery process. As Forest Gump’s mother told him, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Bookstores are similar.
For the history student researching a period or theme, the options available on the Internet are obvious. You can search Amazon, Google Scholar, Google Books, JSTOR, the Internet Archive, and the typical sources. Even online bibliographies can be helpful. However, all of these sources have limitations. Amazon will only serve up what is readily available or popular. For older books with titles not matching your search query, you will come up short. The other sources remain limited by what people have actually covered.
A bookstore chain such as Barnes & Noble is not a substitute for used bookstores. There you will find only new or popular titles.
A used bookstore gets you past these limitations, allowing you to sift through and touch a snapshot of what’s available in a small room. The bookstore does not care about what is popular or dated, and you only learn about the books what you glean from the titles and flipping through them.
Again, this is a discovery process, which can sometimes come up short, but it can also help you clear your mind and see what sort of books are out there, as opposed to staring at search results.
By Scott Manning
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor