In an earlier post, I talked about why it was important for the seminarian to start building a good library (you can read the post here). In this post, I want to talk about how to build up a library when you don’t have much cash.
The first tip I can give you is to know your favorite scholars and writers. When you know that you like commentaries by writer A, and you see a commentary written by them, you can have a better idea that it will be worth the money. I can’t stress how important it is to keep a running list of books that you want. I keep mine in a section of my pocket moleskine I keep with me all the time. That way, when I go to a booksale or shop, I know what I am looking for.
So here are some tips to find cheaper books.
1. Get a job at a bookstore. If you can work at your schools bookshop or a local book-seller, you can get an employee’s discount and access to other programs. I once worked at a Christian Bookstore and got over 2000 dollars of credit from a major Christian publisher just by completing various incentive programs.
2. When you travel, look for any used book stores. Cities with larger seminaries often have one or more stores around the campus. Especially if you have a different theological viewpoint, you can get great deals. Since I have more a Wesleyan perspective theologically, I can find some books alot cheaper than I can around my school because there isn’t a market for them in other places.
3. Look for any bookshelves selling/swapping used books around campus. At Asbury we have a bookshelf that is full of books for sale, often for dirt cheap. One of our professors always has a small collection outside of his office that he sells for 25 cents. I have found some great stuff here.
4. Check out moving sales around campus. Many people get rid of books just because they don’t want to move them.
5. If you are in an academic path, go to conferences and society meetings. Often books are heavily discounted at these events.
6. Sign up for the Emerging Scholars Network. You get a serious discount on Eerdmans and IVP.
7. Learn how to find the “odd” books. I have a commentary series that I paid around 50 cents a volume for because it was from a different perspective and from the 70’s. The authors were up and coming phd students then and now are some of the top New Testament scholars.
More than anything, building an affordable library is about keeping your eyes open and knowing what you are looking for. Book sales go on all the time around my school, but since I know what I am looking for, I am able to take better advantage of them. Also, let people know if you have an interest that is specialized. I have had teachers give me books before that they have found and thought I would enjoy.