Discount books -- new and gently used -- are stocked in unusual places.
Last week at my neighborhood library, I stumbled upon a book sale, where new and slightly worn books started at 50 cents, far less than my family usually pays for library late fees. In recent weeks, my husband and I have discovered great book sales at a tropical garden, a hospital and standard bookstores.
The publishing world is filled with overstocked books and complimentary review copies. These texts are donated to libraries or sold at steep discounts as fundraisers for community groups and charities. For consumers, overstocked book sales translate into big savings.
My visit to a neighborhood branch yielded quite a find. Under the title ''Friends of the Library,'' I found a rack of sale books with a diverse selection of popular fiction, romance, nonfiction bestsellers and classic texts in new or almost new condition. Hardbacks were $2 each; paperbacks, between 50 cents and $1.
BESTSELLERS FOR LESS!!
For $3.50, my purchases included the bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran for $1 (list price: $13.95) and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume for 50 cents (list price: $7.50) and The Chin Kiss King by Miami Herald columnist Ana Veciana-Suarez for $1 (list price $12.95).
Inside of one of the books, I found a bookmark from Books & Books, a South Florida independent book chain owned by Mitchell Kaplan. Vivienne Evans, manager of the Books & Books store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, says that she frequently receives inquiries from customers seeking homes for their books or overstocks. She encourages them to donate portions of their personal library to public libraries, which often sell donated books as a fundraiser.
NEW BOOKS FOR NON-PROFITS
For its part, Books & Books receives ''tons'' of complimentary review copies of books from major publishers and distributes those texts to staff members, school libraries and community groups. For example, the store donates books to a low-priced book sale rack run by a group of women at Mount Sinai Hospital, where books are sold for under $1.
''I'm always looking for outlets,'' Evans said. ``I try to do as much as possible, with Mitchell's blessings.''
Likewise, at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, my husband recently found a great book sale, where he purchased new hardback books for $2 a copy. And this summer at college campuses in Utah and New York, I found terrific book sales in the university book stores.
CHAIN STORE SALE RACKS
And don't overlook the discount racks at various stores. We recently shopped at a red-ticket sale at Barnes & Noble, where new books sold for $2 each. For example, the Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paul Huntley was originally priced at $21, marked down to $4.98, and finally priced at $1.99 in a post-holiday sale last week. Borders and Books & Books also have great deals on their sale rack.
''We have regular customers who walk straight to the sale rack,'' Evans said.
That sale rack is typically stocked with an oversupply of once-hot sellers or hard copies of books that will soon be coming out in paperback. In that sales aisle, I have purchased new books as low as $1 and hard copies that would sell for $24.95 may be marked down to $6.99.