How to Search for Rare Books

Antique Books

New book collectors often wonder how to search for rare books. Where should you go to find the best deals, and how can you know what you're getting is really a rare book?

How to Search for Rare Books Online

Searching for rare books can be overwhelming to the inexperienced bibliophile. With a few, simple steps anyone can search for these old books successfully.

Gather Information

The first thing you need to know is what you are searching for. A search engine like Google or Yahoo is your most important tool. It is easiest if you have a title but there other ways to find what you are looking for.

  • If you know who the author is you can easily find lists of the books he wrote.
  • If you know the plot you can do a search by writing a short, two sentence summary in the search engine.
  • Maybe the only thing you can remember about the book is the name of the main character. Try typing that in the search and see what you come up with.
  • Descriptions, settings, and other bits and pieces of information can help you find the book you are looking for.

Narrow It Down

Once you have the book's title, you will want to find out as much as you can about the different editions if this is something that matters to you. First editions will usually be more valuable than subsequent editions of the book. You will also want to decide if you want to try to find a copy signed by the author or some other unique detail.

Different editions of your book may have different illustrators as well. This can make a difference in the value. If you are just looking for the book, not a specific copy then the details such as dust jacket, edition, and illustrator won't matter as much. If, however, you are willing to pay for a rare or unique version of the book you will want to read the details and descriptions carefully.

Use a Book Search

Once you have gathered all of the information you need to find your book you can begin using a book search service. These are sites that are associated with hundreds of used book stores and have the inventories online. To use the book search follow these steps:

  1. Type in the title, author, or ISBN number.
  2. Add any important information about the book you want such as edition, signed copy, etc.
  3. You can also add how much you are willing to pay for the book to narrow it down further.
  4. Read the descriptions that come up carefully until you find a book that meets your criteria.

Book Searches to Try

As with most things, a good place to start searching for rare books is with the Internet. There are a variety of search sites that specialize in rare and antique books.

  • Alibris is a popular book search site that allows you to search in a variety of ways.
  • Book Finder allows you to search thousands of books and compare prices on similar copies.
  • Abe Books is a one of the largest book searches on the Internet.
  • Biblio specializes in out of print books and is affiliated with more than 5,500 bookstores.

Protect Yourself

When buying rare books online, it can be difficult to trust the person who is selling the book. After all, rare books can be a huge investment, and if you can't see the condition of the book before you buy, you are taking a risk. Always try to compare several copies of the book to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money.

Ensure your success by buying online from a reputable source. Ask plenty of questions and make sure that you understand the seller's guarantees and return policies. Remember rule number one should always be: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to Search for Rare Books