Buying used paperback books - a warning

I recently bought some used paperback books through Amazon; of course, fulfillment is through any of a large number of their re-seller partners (or whatever they call them).

Some of the books came from the state of Washington. I now wish that I had not bought any of these books from any of those Washington outlets.

It seems there are a large number of these re-sellers, or at least they have a lot of different names, that share offices and warehouse space. Among these are Sierra Pacific Books, Thrift Books, DailyDeal USA, Green Earth Books, Yankee Clipper Books, and several others. The problem with these sellers is that as part of their inventory process they put large barcode stickers over the spines of the books. Sometimes, if the book is relatively new and the spine is not cracked and the cover is still glossy, these can be removed without damage. But on several of the books the stickers took off some of the color from the cover.

To be fair, when I complained they offered me a partial refund on the damaged books, but some of these books only cost a few cents (plus $3.99 shipping, which is where they make their money) and in any case I wasn’t worried about the value of the books but the hassle of the process. They are not interested in changing their process.

So I have resolved, and I recommend to you, if you are shopping for used paperback books on Amazon, avoid any book that says “shipped from WA” because it will almost certainly have one of these stickers on it.

So what technique did you use to remove the stickers? You need to use a solvent. I use naphtha (most conveniently available as cigarette lighter fluid–Ronsonol is a standard brand).

Thanks for the warning. Shall avoid purchases from Washington state.

I didn’t use any solvent. On the newer books I could just peel them off without damage, as I mentioned.

The seller recommended “being careful” or else using something like Goo Gone. I was careful and the books got damaged anyway (because there were cracks in the spines and the stickum tended to pull from there).

If you want to use naphtha (I’ve never heard of using it for that purpose, and I don’t have any anyway) and otherwise don’t mind the hassle, feel free to ignore my advice. None of the other booksellers used stickers, and I’ve never seen anyone use them on the spines before, which is the most vulnerable place on the outside of a paperback book.

So my post was just a warning, if you don’t want to have the hassle and/or the possible damage, avoid those books that say “Shipped from WA.”

I hate those stickers, too, and don’t get me started on discarded library hardcovers where the stickers are on the book cover instead of the overwrap. But I guess if I wanted pristine books, I should buy new ones.

By the way, many of the same sellers are on, and there you can combine shipping costs when buying multiple books from the same seller. Reduces the cost a bit. Same stickers, though.

Goo-Gone works too.

What works even better when shopping is to look for books with a specific, individual description. If I see the generic “may contain highlighting, average used condition” etc., I look for another seller. That eliminates most of the high-volume sellers, but it means I’m getting a clean copy.

Hair-dryer can also work–the heat warms up the glue and makes it easier to peel off.
But just be careful of the dry paper.

Why not just get some tape or something and tape over the bar codes and write the book name on the spine?

They are used paperbacks after all, it’s not like they’re worth much of anything.

I can see how that would be annoying.

It seems odd to avoid the whole state, though. It’s certainly not some kind of state law, and I know sellers here in WA who sell through Amazon Marketplace and do not put stickers on their books.

How is having a sticker on the spine a problem? Does it stop the book from being opened fully, or what? I simply don’t see how this could affect your reading enjoyment.

Ooh, I wish I’d known that. Amazon makes you pay separate shipping for each book no matter how many are coming from the same seller. Of course, I have never had more than two books in one package, probably partly for that reason.

Dracoi, the problem is you can’t tell from the description before you buy which ones do and which ones don’t. For example, I bought some books from DailyDeal USA, and they aren’t mentioned in the list of associated sellers that do this, but some of their books (the ones that say “Shipped from WA”) are coming from this same warehouse, with the stickers. Others that don’t say that are coming from other dealers and don’t have the stickers. So I am erring on the side of caution and ruling out WA altogether.

Colophon: it doesn’t, and if you don’t mind them, feel free to ignore my warning. This is intended for those who don’t want the hassle of having these stickers on the books they buy, or at least so that people can make an informed buying decision. It’s a small thing, hence this forum.

I have an Amazon “store” and I don’t put bar codes on the books or other items I sell. But then again, I sell enough items per month to count on one hand, so it’s not really necessary.

BTW, I don’t ship from WA.

You might want to look into as an alternative.
You post the books you no longer want and choose books from others. You pay postage on outgoing and get 1 credit for each book sent. Incoming books "cost " 1 credit postage is paid by the sender.
You can specify conditions on books you order like no former library books, no books from smokers, or no stickers on the spine.

Some people collect books, and I can see how barcodes on the spines could be really annoying, especially in the case of a wraparound picture.

It is not just on-line. Some brick and mortar used book stores use easy to remove price labels, but some use labels with the same issues. (And I haven’t tried the many useful solutions mentioned here - thanks.) But worse is when the sticker covers important information. I collect DAW books, but only first editions with a number starting from 1 versus the more standard number. And my want list is by number. It is annoying when the store covers up this important information in order to cover up the original price, as if that were important.

Check the ratings before you buy. If you’re not happy, post a rating of your own. It might be useful to look on other sites as well, like abebooks, alibris, or even etsy. (Note that the companies you don’t like may advertise on those as well on Amazon. Please feel free to rate them anywhere to help us all out.)

ETA: Don’t forget!