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Books on a Budget - Chapel Hill, NC

Books are like drugs—they are addictive, mind-altering, and expensive. Any serious bibliophile knows there are always more good books to read than money to buy them. If you're strapped for cash, supporting a book habit can be difficult. Like most bookish college students, I’m familiar with this problem. Fortunately, I’m a Chapel Hill native, so I know all sorts of places to find books on the cheap, and I’m willing to share my secrets with the rest of you.

A lot of people in Chapel Hill are readers. Though this can make it hard to find parking at the library, living in a bookish community certainly has its benefits. For instance, these readers occasionally cull their book shelves, and their cast-off books end up in used bookstores and thrift shops. Many of these readers also have pretty good taste, so our secondhand book outlets usually have better selections than average.

Back in the day, there used to be more bookstores in Chapel Hill, but the two that are left both sell used books. The Bookshop is located on Franklin Street and sells used and rare books. They have the most thorough and well-curated selection of any used bookstore I’ve ever visited (and I visit plenty). If you visit, make sure you say “hi” to the bookstore cats who wander through the stacks. Flyleaf Books isn’t far away – it’s on Hillsborough Street near downtown. Flyleaf is an independent bookstore that sells both new and used titles. The used books are in the back of the store, where Flyleaf hosts its frequent book signings and open-mike nights. Both stores are definitely worth a look around.

Used bookstores are great, but face it – Seven dollars for a hardback is a bargain, but even these purchases add up. To get more books for your bucks, try the local thrift stores. Once you wade through the obligatory copies of The Da Vinci Code, you can find some great deals here. I’m always surprised by how much literary fiction washes up in the Goodwill Donation Center, but this genre is popular in Chapel Hill. The Goodwill is located in Timberlyne Shopping Center, and there are two PTA thrift stores, one near Whole Foods in the Village Plaza, the other in Carborro on Jones Ferry Road. At one dollar a paperback, all three are worth the occasional browse.

Some of my favorite places to get books are local library sales. The Chapel Hill Public Library has several annual sales, and they're hosting one this weekend! Be sure to clear your schedule, because the sale lasts from Friday to Sunday. The first-pick sale on Friday is for Friends of the Library only, but the Saturday and Sunday sales are open to commoners like me. The Saturday sale is pay-per-book, with a dollar or two per title depending on whether a book is paperback or hardback. Some sections, like Fiction, get picked over quickly, so arrive early if you like more popular genres. Sunday is for hardcore bargain-hunters – the Bag Sale. Trust me when I say you should clear space on your bookshelves at home before this one, because you’ll need it!

UNC’s Davis Library has a week-long book sale every year in the Spring. It’s not well-advertised, so you’ll have to check with the librarians to find out when it is. The selection here is not usually as good. The stock consists of campus-wide donations, so students use the sale as an opportunity to ditch unwanted textbooks. After you sift through these, you can usually find a few good books to take home. The tables are constantly restocked, so if you don’t find a book right away, you can come back later.

These are just some of my favorite places to look for books, but there are plenty more. Since I don’t want this post to go on forever, I will leave you with this last bit of advice: keep your eyes open. In a community as bookish as Chapel Hill, you can always find more books, no matter your budget. I wish you the best of luck with your book-hunting!

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