Ask a Book Question: The Thirteenth in a Series (Cheap Books From Overseas)

March 8, 2004 | 2 min read

Leo writes in looking to find a good way to get English language books from overseas:

question: I’d like to ask about where to get cheaper book buying at Amazon.. There
are several engines that compare prices.. I’ve found a new one that just compares amazon sites.. ..
do you recommend to get books at usa amazon for the non americans? where do u get books? do you compare them with other stores (uk,ca?) for english books?

In my travels across the book and literature sites on the internet, I occasionally come across people — Americans overseas and non-Americans looking to get their hands on American titles — who are in this dilemma. At one time, it was very difficult to find books published in another part of the world. The only options were a limited number of specialty book stores and mail order outfits. Now, if I want a British edition of a book all I need to do is click over to Finding the book is easy. Getting it to the States is hard. Using the cheapest shipping method available (which gets the book to me in “5-7 working days”) costs approximately 7 pounds (almost $13.00). Adding additional books gives you a little more bang for your buck, but no matter how hard you try, it’s pretty much impossible to get international titles cheaply using Amazon. The same holds true for someone, like Leo, in Continental Europe trying to get books from the US or Canada. And so Leo has resorted to comparing prices between the three English language Amazons in order to shave a few pennies (or Eurocents) off his purchases. Still, there are resources for finding international books more cheaply than through Amazon. There are number of “book exchange” websites out there. These are places where individual booksellers put their inventories online in such a way that book buyers can search for titles they want. Some of the more well known book exchanges, broadly speaking, include Amazon Marketplace, eBay and, Alibris, and Advanced Book Exchange. There are many dozens of similar smaller exchanges as well. So now we know that the book we are looking for, international or not, might be out there, but how do we find out where the cheapest copies are? Luckily there is a website that specializes in just this sort of price comparison. has proven to be an invaluable tool in my arsenal of book shopping resources. Basically, when you type in the title of the book that you’re looking for, it aggregates the results of all of the book exchanges out there, so you can find out who has the cheapest copy available. In Leo’s case, he might happen to find a bookstore on the Continent or perhaps in the UK that has the book and is willing to ship it affordably, or he may be able to find a store in the States that has the book at a price so low that it far outweighs the increased shipping charge. At the very least, he knows he is getting the book about as cheaply as he possibly can. And this, of course, holds true for any of you book lovers, no matter where you are in the world. Happy bookfinding!

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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