Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Buying Books at SBL? Bargain or Rip-Off?

Posted by NT Wrong on November 15, 2008

cult_of_cartmanDaniel and Tonya (of the Hebrew and Greek Reader biblioblog) have made it their mission to investigate the issue. To this end, they have made a list of books which are either on their university’s required/recommended reading lists or are in their own wish lists. What a good idea!

“Is SBL’s yearly book exhibit really the best deal around? To find out, we’ll be comparing Boston exhibit prices to used book prices found on Amazon.”

They will be making the comparisons when the book stalls open in a few days time, looking for the lowest Amazon price, including secondhand copies. Be sure to check back then. (They rightly note that the comparison may change when you consider Amazon postage costs. The comparison can change again when you have excess baggage charges.)

But have they factored in the alluring fragrance of freshly printed books, which send their enticing olfactory seductions towards us, begging us to hold them, to caress them, to devour them from beginning to end, inscribing our tender yet forceful marginalia into their innermost parts? Ahhhhhhh… new books…. what rational analysis can negate your sweet seductions?

8 Responses to “Buying Books at SBL? Bargain or Rip-Off?”

  1. Mike said

    I’ll take an old book any day.

    I’d never trade my 1820 Greek grammar or 1856 commentary on Ephesians by Hodge for any brand new book.

  2. Jim said

    mike must be insane… there’s nothing like yanking off that new volume’s shrink wrap.

  3. Jim said

    besides that, believe it or not, we’ve actually learned a few more things since 1820.


  4. I have done this each year I’ve gone (all two of them). Usually with required books for classes coming up or that I know I will need soon. Even if you remove the used books from Amazon Marketplace from the equation, Amazon *new* books were often less than the books at SBL. There were a few here and there that ended up being less at SBL.

  5. ntwrong said

    Really? Even with new Amazon books! I didn’t know. It will be interesting to see Daniel and Tonya’s comparisons, then.

  6. Yeah, Amazon often gives a 30% discount and then free shipping over $25. SBL doesn’t usually give you much more than that, often less. At least that’s what I’ve found. It’s still worth checking though. When I went these past two times, I would group my books by publisher and list them with Amazon prices, then bring it to the book exhibition going from publisher to publisher.

    But Amazon doesn’t let you touch the books! That’s a big downside.

  7. jimgetz said

    Amazon is often fortified with powerful discount goodness. However, they don’t give discounts on the publishers I buy from most (Eisenbraun, Ugarit-Verlag, Brill, etc.).

    But if you’re buying most of your books from Fortress, Westminster/John Knox, and the like, Amazon is probably your best bet.

  8. Nick Altman said

    You should also check out alibris.com for cheap used and new books. They have obscure titles for cheap…

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