University Lowbrow Astronomers

Booking on the Internet.

by Harry L. Juday
Printed in Reflections: March, 2002.

I am certain that most of you who may have an interest in buying Astronomy related or other types of books on the Internet already know how to do it and where to look.  But, as I have done a bit of it, hopefully I can offer a few new ideas and places to look, especially for Astronomy related book items.

First off, I must state that most of my online book searches and purchases are for USED astronomy books.  Books that I have read or heard about that seem very interesting and that I am unlikely to find in any local used book store.

My personal favorite place to start is with Bookfinder:  < >.  This site searches other sites worldwide.  It will not give you every book available at every site, but does give links to all sites with books.  As typical to most book search sites, you can search by author, title, both type (new, used).  Their somewhat limited advance search option offers more type choices, price ranges & bindings.

If I find no listings here, I know my search will be a difficult one.

Next, I usually visit The Advance Book Exchange:  < >.  This will usually give a fuller listing of what is available, should I find any sources on Bookfinder.

“Why not just go there first, your logical amateur astronomers mind asks?”  Well, ABE does not search all of the sources that Bookfinder does.  In fact, I have found that Bookfinder seems to search more book sources than any other book search engine.  Both of the above sites will give you the dealer & price of the book and a direct link to the bookseller selling the item.  There you can find out more information about each particular book, publisher, date, condition, number of pages (usually) and sometimes a small synopsis of the book ( in case you were not sure what it was really about).

Another interesting site is Powell’s Books of Portland Oregon:  < >.  This is a VERY large company with several book stores in the greater Portland area selling new, used, rare, etc. books.

And should you have the time and energy, and just feel like browsing to see if you can find something interesting, you can always use the “keyword” option for Bookfinder & ABE and the “section” option at Powell’s advanced search and type in astronomy.  On Feb. 13, 2002, (while I was writing this article), I checked all three sites.  Powell’s had over 4,500 astronomy books; Bookfinder did not list the number, but from the listing sidebar they must have had hundreds to thousands and ABE listed over 44,000 astronomy books.

Now many of these are copies of the same book, however, there are enough different titles, authors and subjects in those numbers that there should be something in all of that for anyone looking for some good astronomy related reading or reference on these cloudy winter nights.

A source specializing in used, out of print and rare astronomy books is Myrna R. Bishop of Linwood, Kansas:  < >.  Unfortunately she no longer maintains her on-line book list and inquires must be done by e-mail or telephone (links & number shown on her site).

I have gotten some great bargains in used books by being patient and searching around.  Sometimes you can find identical books, one for 1/2 the price of the other, depending on the dealer (sometimes they are not aware of the value of a particular book, especially an astronomy book).

Also; personally I do not deal with Amazon if I can help it and Albiris not at all.  I find Amazon’s prices a bit higher then private dealers and Albris quite a bit higher, for the same identical book.  One reason is that they serve as a middle-man and add on their fee (Amazon often, Albris always).  “So, what kind of astronomy books do you buy (instead of more equipment) with your not bottomless funds?”  you may ask, (or well may not because you couldn’t care less).  “And, where do you hear about books you are looking for, etc.?”.

Perhaps that can be the subject of another article some time.



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