I placed my yearly order with Amazon yesterday - a costly process, especially with the depressed value of the Australian currency at the moment. We are blessed with so many good bookshops that I try not to order too much from overseas, but no matter how many second-hand book shops I haunt, there are always still a few books on the AO booklist outstanding, and Amazon's second-hand book service is fantastic!!
I think the secret of keeping Ambleside Online as an economical curriculum for those in the Antipodes is to set up a regular second-hand book crawl. The first time you visit a good bookshop is always best, of course- unless the selection has already been picked through by another AO mum, that is!!
I always keep two booklists in the car - one is the AO list that I adapted slightly from one put together by the wonderful Judy Elliot. The original is available here. This list contains all the AO books for years 1-7 (our Primary years).
The other is a work in progress, but is basically the list on the CMand Friends - ANZ website. It contains a widely varying collection of Australian books - most of them excellent living books.
I own the asterisked entries and can vouch for them.
Both of these lists go wherever we do and whenever we see a second-hand bookshop we stop! We rarely pay more that a few dollars for even the best of books - that is the beauty of buying second hand. The books are much more beautiful that modern books too, I think!! I love the look of them on our study bookshelves.
Abebooks is also a wonderful resource for buying books second hand further afield. My book shop forays are, by necessity, confined to Victoria, but with my mate Abe the whole world is available on my computer...dangerous, dangerous...
Always remember to check whether the book you need is available in a book shop in Australia before you start looking further afield with Abe too!
Once I have exhausted the local second hand market, I give the book chains a go. They're great for the classics - both international as well as Australian classic books are widely available, although the general caveat of watching for abridged versions is worth remembering especially with modern books.
Borders is the best, in my experience. This large American chain holds many more American books than our Australian stores. Readings is pretty good too.
Finally for American books I trawl the fantastic catalogue of books made available to us by the wonderful Mary Collis in her online business, Home School Favourites. There's not much she doesn't have or is not willing to source!
For newly reprinted Australian books we are blessed to have the wonderful Michelle Morrow, whose business, Downunder Literature has made available for another generation of homeschoolers such classics as Nuri Mass's Wonderland of Nature and Our Sunburnt Country by Arthur Baillie.
Finally once all of these are exhausted there is Fishpond, the Australian version of Amazon - with higher prices than Amazon but free postage on orders over $50.00. They guarantee that their prices are cheaper than Amazon's once you include the postage too!
In the end I always order a few books from Amazon, but only a few. I just don't seem to be able to keep myself away...