alternative (and ethical) ways to buy books

If you’re a book person, you probably have been in a bookstore before, seen a book that looked interesting, and then, while still in the store, bought it on your phone on The Very Large Ethically Dubious Webiste That Shall Not Be Named because it was cheaper there. Guilty as charged. Despite all the problems (and oh there are many), they remain a juggernaut of book culture and especially Bookstagram. We all should be supporting local bookstores–but it’s hard when so many bookstores are getting bought out by huge chains, and even those chains get edged out by Amazon. What’s an ethically-minded book lover to do?

Despite Amazon’s dominance, there are lots of other ways to find books, whether used or new, online. Here are some of my favourite sites for finding your next read!


This is one of my favourite book websites. At the moment it’s only available in the UK, but there are plans to expand. It does what it says on the tin–you list the book(s) you have available, other swappers pay a modest flat rate for shipping, and for each book you “swap” you get a point to use towards ordering another book on the site. Shipping is handled by Hermes, so you just need to bring it to your local Parcel Shop. You can make some great discoveries just by browsing what’s available. If you join Bookswap using my referral link, you’ll get 1 free ordering point!

Charity shops

I think I am physically incapable of walking past a charity shop without popping into just “see what books they have”. And maybe walking out with a big stack of paperbacks I couldn’t resist because they were only 60p each. Charity shops do lots of important work, supporting great causes and providing a place of community for their volunteers, so supporting them especially now is the least you can do as a book lover. Not all shops have an online presence, but Oxfam is one in particular that has a book focus and a huge online shop. You can even earn Nectar points by shopping on their online bookstore!

World of Books

World of Books is basically a charity shop on steroids. They sell ‘surplus’ books–books that aren’t selling well in bookstores or were over-ordered or charity shops don’t want to take. Rather than these books going to waste, World of Books swoops in to sell these onto you. Most are pre-loved but everything I’ve bought from them has been in mint condition (I don’t mind a book that’s well-loved anyway). The selection is massive, with fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, and children’s books all available–they even sell vinyl records. They are a Certified B Corp, have made serious commitments to diverse hiring, a fair minimum wage, and closing the gender pay gap. Books that don’t meet their resale standards are donated to schools, or responsibly recycled. Currently they are shipping to the UK, the US, and some parts of Europe.

Hive is a collective bookseller that allows you to purchase books at competitive prices (often cheaper than you-know-who!) and support local bookstores in the process. Your order is shipped directly to you, and you choose which local independent bookstore receives a percentage of the purchase price. They also sell e-books that can be downloaded onto any device, DVDs, vinyl, and lots of book-related gifts.

Powell’s Books

A long-standing independent powerhouse, Powell’s Books of Portland, OR has made quite the name for itself in the book marketplace. While some of their international shipping has been disrupted due to COVID, for the most part they are still chugging along, and even online you can get the experience of visiting and talking to staff who really love books–while Amazon makes recommendations based on algorithms, Powell’s has an amazing Staff Picks section to find your next favourite read.

The good ol’ fashioned library!

Be a responsible human and visit your local library from home! With Overdrive and Borrow Box, you can use your library card to check out e-books and audiobooks, and the online resources your library offers might surprise you–my local library doesn’t just have e-books and audiobooks, but also comics and magazines, virtual English lessons, and even access to Libraries are often one of the first government services to face cuts in economic downturns, so supporting your library demonstrates to your local officials all the good it provides!

And if you still want to use Amazon…

Amazon Smile is identical to the regular site, but instead a portion of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice. Right now my donations are going to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, an organisation close to my heart as they do lots of important work advocating for immigrants and refugees in the UK. You can go big or small, supporting a big charity or just a local org that needs your help.

Any others I missed? Let me know!

Like my work? My virtual tip jar is open on Ko-fi! For the price of a coffee, you can support my work and let me know what you think. Check it out!

Also new to Deirdre Reads are my editing and transcription services – no matter where you are in the world, I want to help your writing become the best it can be. My rates are comeptitive and I’m currently offering a £3 COVID special to edit a CV and cover letter.

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