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Spending just pennies on books

April 6, 2009 |  9:27 am

In our troubled economic times, the compulsion to shop can be dangerous. Even when it comes to books. What if you happened into the Taschen store and found yourself drawn to the mega-gorgeous Muhammad Ali book "GOAT"? What if you were unable to resist drawing out your credit card? You'd leave with a beautiful book -- and a $4,500 dent in your account.

But if we must shop, shop we must. We must simply find ways to rein ourselves in.

A completely informal survey of books on EBay that are selling for less than $1 turns up books by a broad array of authors: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Carl Sagan, Edwidge Danticat, Jack London, Mary Higgins Clark, Flannery O'Connor, Michael Eisner, Elizabeth Gilbert and Chuck Palahniuk. Something there for almost everyone.

I also found vintage Disney children's books and plenty of cookbooks, both old and new.

And you can get ebooks for pennies: by Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Henry James, Daniel Defoe. There are electronic copies of the Bible for sale for less than a buck. And Sudoku books. And lots of copies of "Twilight," which I hope are all legitimate.

Of course, some of these books will have additional shipping costs; some will probably be bid up higher than their current price.

And you may want to filter your search so you don't see the many how-to-make-money-on-EBay and how-to-date-online ebooks. If you don't, the time you'll spend sorting and sifting your cheap EBay prospects may be worth something -- at least you haven't been overspending anywhere else.

But shopping for books still isn't the cheapest option. For that, there's your local library.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo by Caitlinatorvia Flickr