Buying books online offers a much wider range of choices, and it frequently seems that buying from overseas sites gets you a better price than from local stores. But is that really always the case?
My own practice in recent years has generally been to order books from overseas sites -- partly because there are titles I want that I know will never get published locally, and partly because the price difference often seems to be much greater, even after paying for extra costs to ship the books in from overseas. That experience seems to get confirmed by previously-mentioned comparison site Booko, which provides prices for popular titles from a range of local and overseas suppliers. On a sample of recent global titles, I couldn't find many that weren't cheaper to order from overseas.
There is, of course, one notable exception: books which originate in Australia, which almost invariably end up cheaper from local suppliers than from Amazon and their ilk. Industry figures suggest than 60% of books sold in Australia are local titles, so this potentially represents a large possible pool of savings.
Publishers, of course, would argue that they need the funding from selling global titles in order to ensure that there is funding to commission new local titles. While that might sound worthy, I suspect that in a market where people are happy to download copyrighted material for free by the gigabyte that most consumers are not going to feel very compelled to do something for ethical rather than financial reasons.
If you're serious about saving money (and reducing clutter), then cutting down on the number of books you buy is a sensible strategy. We've discussed tactics to cut down on book hoarding before, and there are useful online applications like BookCrossing to share your books around.
If you do plan to continue buying books online, the verdict seems mixed on which approach will save the most money -- and you'll probably still need to research on a title-by-title basis. With that said, going for second-hand titles will always be cheaper than new purchases -- assuming you have the patience to wait.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.