Buying Games

Do you circulate games from your library?Do you want to? There is a growing body of discussion in the professional literature about this topic, although few writers offer easy answers. For now, I’ll simply say that many libraries are doing so, are having great success with checking games out, and that they are having some issues getting them checked back in (exactly like our DVD problems, and mirroring problems with certain types of our books also). There seems to be some academic evidence and a fair amount of anecdotal evidence for crossover use, with people not typically accustomed to using the library coming for games but leaving with books and more, and returning for non-gaming programs and services.

Whether to circulate games or not is a discussion for another day. Right now, I am going to assume you want games, either to circulate or to have on hand for gaming events. Practical creatures that we are, librarians ask “Okay, but where do we get them?”

We can all be as bewildered as this fellow appears to be, faced with so many choices.

Thomas Vose of the Perris Library system(Perris, CA) posed just such a question to the LibGaming listserv on Google Groups. I heartily recommend it as a great place to connect up with other professionals interested in games in libraries (in and out of the library profession itself). I thought the resulting thread of discussion had solid practical advice that warranted being more widely shared. I asked permission from quoted respondents and share their answers here.

“Which vendors do you use to purchase games for circ?Baker and Taylor has stopped selling games, Ingram is heavily backordered and not likely to get things out in a timely fashion, and while CompuExpert gives good discounts, they have terrible selection. Does anyone have a vendor they can recommend?” This was Thomas’s original question. Alphabetically arranged (because we are librarians, right?) are the answers he received, with annotations.

From John Scalzo (Irondequoit Public Library, NY): “None of the library-specific ones are even close in price or selection” was his observation, along with Walmart.

From Jack Schultz (Westmont Public Library, IL): “You have the ability to pre-order, they do tax exempt, and most of the time you can get free super-saver shipping if your order is over $25.00. Older items tend to come from non-Amazon venders and delivery charge per an item can get expensive.”

From Jessica Frazier (Bloomingdale Public Library, IL): “Amazon also offers store credit (usually $10) for upcoming big pre-releases. You can find their current list of bonus offers here.”

Jessica goes on to add: “Amazon has also been offering a bunch of deals before the holidays. Right now they’re running the 17 Days of Deals promotion, which has pretty good discounts.”

The AV Cafe
From Christina Getrost (Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, OH): “We use the AV Cafe with great success. But then again I’m usually catching up with older games, and those are often nicely discounted.”
From Jack Schultz: “…they [] have an okay selection with about 90% (not a real statistic just a guess) of most new popular games. Their main drawback is they do not offer pre-orders for games.’s major plus is that they will setup invoices for libraries.”
From Jack Schultz: “They are a good company for new and old titles and you can place pre-orders. Another plus is that they do honor tax exemptions but you have to call them directly or fax them after ordering to have them take the tax off. The down side of is that they require a credit card for payment and pre-orders are shipped individually which costs more money for shipping.”

Jessica Frazier had a lot to say, so I’m going to quote her at length here, complete with her list of Pros and Cons. “Kmart has been offering serious deals since at least June of this year, if not earlier. Shopping there can be a hassle though, but I think it’s worth it in terms of savings. If you’re focusing on new releases, you should definitely consider Kmart.”

Cost: After buying certain games (usually big releases, although there are also some family friendly and less popular games offered), you get coupons in various denominations that you can use the following week. Coupons are typically good for 45 days, and they can stack. They range in value from $10-$30.

Availability: Assuming your Kmart gets the games out on release day (which doesn’t happen at all stores), you can get the game on release day and get it to your tech services dept quicker.

Time: These deals are only offered in store, so you’ll have to trek over to Kmart. The checkout process can be long, since you have to fill out 3 things for tax-exempt status every time. You might have to explain to the cashiers that coupons can be stacked, that coupons must be scanned after hitting total, and that they shouldn’t hit the tax-exempt option until after coupons are scanned. Don’t be surprised if a manager is called, since I don’t think Kmart allows stacking of their non-gaming coupons.

Customer Service: Although these deals are offered nationwide, a lot of stores don’t really know about the gaming coupons and their procedures. For example, some don’t allow coupon stacking, sometimes the coupons don’t print out correctly, etc. Also, depending on the quality of the Electronics Dept., there have been issues with getting games out on their release date or even finding the advertised games at all. Some of the deals are also only advertised on the Kmartgamer blog, not in the circular, so store staff may not know about those deals.

“If you do decide to try Kmart, you might want to stop by on a Tuesday or Wednesday and check out the Electronics Dept. first. If you’re not seeing any of the advertised games or it generally looks disorganized, you might have issues. You’ll also want to take a look at the Kmartgamer thread on Cheap Ass Gamer for full info on upcoming deals and the Kmart Coupon Survival Guide (posts 1 and 2).”

From John Scalzo : “None of the library-specific ones are even close in price or selection” was his observation, along with Amazon.

The purchasing of board gameswas a sidebar discussion initiated by Don Dehm of the gaming podcasts at He noted that “…specialty game stores very frequently give large educational discounts – one would think would apply to libraries. I worked to help Mayfair Games put their retail locator online as one reference. Several other publishers also have a retail locator that might have a slight variation in results. This also gives you the ability to buy local.”