The Art of Book Hunting

I love books, but they can cost a lot. There are days when I resort to ebooks because they are cheaper. Most days I wish we had a library, not just the one in schools, but a public library where I can borrow the latest books or DVDs, hang out for the day and just read.

Wouldn't you want to have this in your neighborhood?

Thankfully, we have the option of buying used books. Metro Manila has tons of secondhand book shops, many conveniently located in shopping malls. I frequent a lot of them and end up buying tons of books that would normally set me back a couple of thousand pesos. It’s a great place to look for out of print titles. Sometimes, you’ll find something totally unexpected in those bins.

My friends believe I have a skill when it comes to scouring secondhand bookstores. I find the books they want to have without much effort, and I’ve completed tons of series through here. I’m sharing lessons I’ve learned over the years of browsing through such stores. Ready?

Secondhand book stores often do not have a fixed arrangement of their selections. Booksale and Books for Less at the most will put them together by genre, and only popular authors will have the privilege of all their works bunched together. It takes a lot of patience to sort through all those books to find something that you’ve been looking for. Personally, the thrill of finding that one book is part of the fun.

Patience also applies to situations when you find a good book that’s part of a series. There are no guarantees that you’ll find the other books. There is the chance you will, but you will have to wait for a long time and keep coming back to look for it. My collection of Philip Pullman books (His Dark Materials and the Sally Lockheart ones) are all Booksale bought. Same goes for my David Eddings, Diana Wynne Jones and Nora Roberts. It took me years to find all the books in the series, but it was worth it.

Know where to buy
My favorite places to get a good bargain book is Booksale and the random Chapters and Pages scattered all over the metro. Books for Less is also a good source, but their prices are a little higher than the other two I mentioned. Another good source is the stretch of Recto, where students often flock to for their book needs, among others. You can also look at Cubao X and UP Shopping Center. The mall stores are open Mondays to Fridays, but the Recto stores are closed mostly on Sundays. I’m not sure about the schedules of the other stores.

I also scour the bargain bins of the big bookstores. Fully Booked sometimes has a pile of sale books in their stores, as with Powerbooks and National Bookstore. If you’re in Cubao, head to the big National Bookstore beside Gateway. On the second floor is a good selection of marked down books, including tons of hard bound titles. Their top floor is one big section of sale books. Powerbooks also has an occasional warehouse sale you should watch out for.

But don’t just take my word for it. While the places I mentioned are the most common stores you can go to, I’m sure there’s a lot more out there, especially outside Metro Manila.

Know the price
As these are used books, the prices are much lower than what you’ll get from regular shops. However, you should also have an idea of the price range of such books. Booksale prices pocketbooks at P130 to P195, depending on the author and when the book was released. Older editions can run up to P80 to P100. Hardcover copies can sell for P150 to P200+. You get the idea. I suggest knowing the different prices so that you’ll know how to budget (even with marked down prices, you still need to you) and where you can get the best bargains.

Be prepared to get dirty
I mean this literally, especially if you’re going to buy in Recto where many of the displays are found along the side of the road and are easily covered in dust. I’m sure you’ll also be working up a sweat.

Other reminders:

  • Consider also the quality of the book you are getting. Just because it’s a used book, doesn’t mean it has to be old and worn out. You can get very good quality books for 1/4 the original price when you look hard enough. If you’re lucky, you might not even have to look at all, if the store arranged their displays.
  • Some of the books I got on bargain prices

  • If you really want it, get it. The thing with these stores is that you take the chance that you’ll find something or you won’t. I’ve lost a lot of books that I want because I was waffling on the price. Of course, you can get lucky and find the book in another branch, or maybe the store has a hidden stock of it, but that’s rare. So if you find what you want and you have the money, grab it.
  • Go over the displays three times. Four or more if you have the time. Trust me. I’ve spotted a lot of good books not in the first and second look, but on the next ones.
  • If you can’t find what you want, ask.
  • List down the books you are looking for. Back when I was still completing the Malloreon series of David Eddings, I ended up with two copies of “Demon Lord of Karanda” because I wasn’t sure if I had it.
  • Remember that books here aren’t the latest releases. If that’s what you want, then the regular bookstores are where you must go, but if you just want a good read and you don’t mind later releases, then this is where you need to go.
  • Update: To get the best bargains, talk to the attendants. Ask them when their new stock comes in, and if they can let you know (usually through SMS). They will also gladly take down the authors and book titles you are looking for and will set them aside such a book arrives.

You can also consider buying secondhand books online. I’ve done that and so far the people I got my books from are just amazing. I’ve tried my hand in selling as well and it’s pretty fun.

Happy book hunting!


  1. One of the perks of living the city hehe. May mga Booksale branches din dito sa amin kaya lang most of the time, wala lagi ‘yung mga hinahanap ko. I can spend days just looking through the shelves and not find anything. *sighs*

    1. Ganyan din ako. Sometimes I go there just to look, but when I find something kulang nalang I dance with happiness. Kagabi nga after hanging out with Drew nag paiwan na ako dun kasi mag hahanap ako haha. Isang oras din ako nag liwaliw dun haha.

    1. Salamat Russ. Miss ko na nga Recto eh. I used to work nearby so I could visit as often as I like. One of these days I’ll drop by din. 🙂

Comments are closed.