Poll Wednesday: On Used Books

...I got you a present!

Is it acceptable to give a used book as a holiday gift (I’m just kidding with the photo, I mean one that’s not ruined, natch)?

Is a used book acceptable to give as a gift?
( polls)


  1. I guess it depends.
    If it’s a rare book, a special edition… then I think it’s a very, very special gift.
    Or if I have a book that’s very, very important to me and I give it to someone… well, that’s nice too.
    But it’s just about cost saving… I don’t like to get a book that’s used and looks like it’s been read by a thousand people. If someone doesn’t have money to give a new book (and, damn, there are some very, very inexpensive new books nowadays), then maybe they should just give something else.

  2. I disagree; a book read by a thousand people could end up being a really great book:) It wouldn’t bother me.

  3. You have to know the recipient, their tastes in reading, and their attitude to reading. If they will appreciate it, then it’s OK.

    First, they have to be a reader, so they will value the contents of the book over its condition. Ideally, it should be an out-of-print that they’ve been longing to read, or that you know they would love, and you were really lucky to snag this copy for them.

    In short, they should be someone who understands that you gave them a used book not because you were cheap, but because this happened to be the copy that you were able to get of the book just right for them. Or else that you gave them a whole pile of books for the price of one new one.

  4. I agree with Margaret, that it depends strongly on the recipient. Some people would think that a used book automatically means “I’m too cheap to spend real money on you,” while others appreciate an older version of a beloved book or simply the environmental aspect of saving the paper.

    In short, “know your audience” and work from there. Personally, I’m delighted to receive books whether they are old, new, or antique. I love marginalia when it’s relevant but can’t stand it when it’s not pertinent to the text. If I’m buying a used book online, then I just look out for books that have highlighting because I do find that very distracting.

  5. Caroline,
    You and I see eye to eye here. I’m totally fine with used books, it’s just going to get beat up as I carry it around anyway and I hate being the guy who causes folds on the book. And who doesn’t want more books for the price of fewer?

    However, the most important thing you touch on is highlighting and, I would add, writing in the margins. Is there anything more loathsome than trying to read and having to read someone else’s views on what is important and their analysis thereof? That is a major no-no for giving.

  6. Jack,

    Glad to hear that someone thinks similarly! I would clarify that when I said I like marginalia, I meant that I do like comments in the margins as long as they are tidy and do not run into the main text. Sometimes, with older books, you can get entire discussions running in margins (so I am told)! As I occasionally jot useful information in the margins of my books, I don’t begrudge others the same right. Still, I would not give a used book as a present unless it was a clean copy.

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