Online booksellers -- A look at where to buy rare first editions, out-of-print tomes, signed copies, and best-selling page turners on the web

By Laura Schiff
Updated November 10, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Online booksellers

Tired of dashing through packed malls every holiday season? Whether the bibliophile on your list is dreaming of a first edition, or you want to spruce up your own ho-ho-hum library, ’tis the season to buy online. From familiar faves like and Barnes &, to mom-and-pop booksellers that are among the best-kept secrets in cyberspace, we’ve scoped out some merry little sites to help you find whatever your favorite bookworm is fa-la-la-longing for.

  • The world’s largest network of independent booksellers has 22 million titles, about 5 percent new, the rest used or out-of-print. Search inventories of over 6,700 vendors, specifying signed or first editions. Buy direct for deep discounts. Browsing can be tough without author name or title. Keep track of what you’ve been reading with MyBookPal. 24-hour help and refunds available. No gift wrapping. B+
  • Search by kids’ ages, audio, or large type at the largest online bookseller. Out-of-print titles must be special-ordered. Purchase Circles show top-sellers by city, corporation, government entity. Gift Wizard recommends titles based on recipients’ interests. E-cards and gift certificates available. Recent negative press regarding privacy and price-testing policies. No eBooks available. A

The highest number of titles available for immediate shipping. Gift Finder recommends based on relationship and hobbies. Gift certificates available. Over 4,000 eBooks, including exclusive one-year deals with Microsoft Reader for books like Patricia Cornwell’s The Last Precinct. Exclusive Harry Potter cover art. Used and out-of-print books are refundable. A-

  • A no-frills meta-search engine that scours over 20,000 online sources for new, out-of-print, first edition, or signed books. Shipping is direct from the seller, so no price markups. No gift services or phone help. Strict privacy policy. B
  • America’s largest all-horror bookstore, with more than 5,500 new and used titles. Specializes in signed editions and hard-to-find Brit imports. Low prices. No secure server. Cards and gift wrap available. Screenwriter/director Frank Darabont is a big fan. B-

A family-owned Burbank, Calif., bookstore for hard-to-find entertainment titles. Eighty percent used or out-of-print inventory. Ridiculously slow, disorganized site is being rebuilt for fast, easy browsing of books, scripts, vintage magazines, autographs, storyboards (Star Wars, Blade Runner), and movie press kits. Secure server. Whoopi Goldberg, Ray Bradbury shop at the actual store. C+

  • Largest independent bookseller, with stores located in Portland, Ore. Rock-bottom prices and all orders over $50 ship free. Caters to kooky reader quirks with sections on Y2K, Role Playing Games, Artificial Intelligence. Limited cookie use restricts site capabilities — don’t expect any personalized gift suggestions. A-

Save all receipts for returns and exchanges.
Call or e-mail independent dealers if you don’t see a title you’re looking for. They often don’t post all inventory online.
Know the author or book title for quickest search results.
Send credit-card info over an unsecured server.

Need to find a gift for your favorite film buff, but don’t have a lot of dough handy? Tap into Drew’s Script-O-Rama ( where you can download thousands of top-name movie and TV scripts for free. Classic and current titles are available here, as well as original drafts and rare, never-been-produced works by well-known screenwriters like David Lynch, Kevin Smith, and the Wachowski brothers.