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Secondhand Books | The value of the imperfection

Image of used books (coffee paint)

I used to be a reader who was obsessed with brand new books – say, novels, magazines, literatures, or textbooks. I fell in love with the smell of newness and the perfect cut of each page. It’s very inspiring for a book lover like me.

The turning point that changed my mind completely was when I enrolled in a certificate program in Seattle. I found out that new textbooks are ridiculously expensive. Many of my friends chose to read from PDF files on their laptop or tablet. But I couldn’t stand that. I needed to take notes, write things down, highlight texts. It’s hard to do all that on screen. After endless assignments on my laptop, I was done with the screen. So, let me take reading manually…like a human way. 

Someone suggested me to look for secondhand books on Amazon. Or ask senior students who already finished the course I was taking. Oh. That’s a good idea. So, I ended up buying the used textbooks on Amazon, and was lucky enough to buy some books from a senior girl. From then on, I started to appreciate the idea of purchasing secondhand books. They are so much cheaper, most of them are in good condition, and there are loads of them available online! I mean, aren’t we all supposed to take advantage of that? They already exist and they still do the job!

Once I learned more about sustainability practices, low waste lifestyle, and problems about overconsumption, I go all in for all things secondhand. It has become my first preference over buying new things, or in this case, new books – that are freshly published from publishers. It doesn’t feel nice or makes me feel proud anymore. 

Why? You ask.

It takes tremendous resources to produce a book. Not just trees that are cut down, but also water, electricity, that are needed in the manufacture. Not including what impacts the production causes: carbon footprints from transportation, harmful bleaching chemicals, etc.

How about books made from recycled paper? Well, that might be a little more eco-friendly than the brand new ones made straight from the trees, however, it still involves complicated processes that can negatively impact people and the environment. I talked more about that in the article: Reused Paper Notebook | The most boring thing that saves the planet from trash

If you ask for my opinion about secondhand books, I’d say that they are my first option that makes me happiest when I decide to buy a book. I totally embrace the imperfection that comes with it: marks, wears, cuts, bends, crushes, water damage, or some highlighting. No matter how the book looks like, as long as I can still read it, that means it does its job.

I’d encourage everyone to do the same if you haven’t done that already. Buying secondhand books helps reduce the need for paper production. That means, less trees are cut down, less resources are used, less carbon footprints are released. On top of it, this approach makes us optimize the products and resources that already exist. It’s the core of sustainability practice that should be normalized. 


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