This article is a part of our ongoing series on Amazon Alternatives
Jeff Bezos initially founded Amazon as a bookselling empire, ultimately putting many physical bookstores out of business.
Amazon is able to leverage its massive scale to sell books for incredibly cheap. They’re able to slash prices (sometimes to a point of losing money) to ensure they have the lowest price — in the hopes of making the money back from other purchases and means. (RIP Barnes & Noble or your favorite local book shop.)
It’s a radical act to choose to buy books from a more ethical marketplace, knowing that you may be paying more than you’d pay with Amazon.
However, many smaller booksellers offer incredible exclusive products (signed copies, merch, and more), or even intimate events with your favorite authors. It’s worth it to know that a writer or indie publishing house you love can keep doing the work they love because you chose to spend a few extra dollars.
Choosing ethical and sustainable alternatives is a choice that thousands of people are intentionally making, in an effort to support other booksellers.
By the way, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Here are a few thoughtful alternatives to Amazon for buying books:
Alternatives To Amazon For Books:
You don’t have to spend money to read books. Local libraries are absolutely amazing — and, of course, have a huge selection of books and resources.
And thanks to apps like OverDrive's Libby, you can actually check out your favorite digital ebooks, audiobooks, and more without ever leaving your home.
Download Libby, enter your library card details, and start checking out digital books for free!
(Fun fact: Our monthly good news newspaper, The Goodnewspaper, is available for free via Libby and OverDrive (thanks to our subscribers who make it possible). Just search for ‘goodnewspaper’ in your app to check it out through your local library.)
Bookshop.org is an independent bookseller that partners with local bookstores to allow you to support a local bookstore with every purchase.
When we make book recommendations at Good Good Good (here on our website or in our weekly Goodnewsletter), we usually link to Amazon (for convenience) as well as Bookshop.org and other non-Amazon platforms. On the occasions that we’ve tracked the clicks on these links, we’ve actually seen a significant increase in the number of clicks through to Bookshop.org and a decrease in clicks to Amazon.
Within our community, we’re definitely seeing a cultural change in people being willing to spend a little bit more money to make a meaningful difference with each book purchase.
Plus, Bookshop.org is 100% carbon neutral, as certified by Climate Neutral — just like Good Good Good.
It’s absolutely our favorite place to shop for books.
You can also check out ThriftBooks, an online bookstore that sells a wide selection of affordable used books. In addition to simply not supporting Amazon — buying second-hand books has the added benefit of decreasing the number of new books that need to be printed.
Count on ThriftBooks to be the best way to save money on books (as long as you’re not looking for popular new releases until they’re a few months old).
Shipping is the only thing that will get you, so just make sure you’re ordering several books at once to maximize your savings.
Most iconically known as the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, this Portland, Oregon-based bookstore knows a thing or two about helping people find books.
They describe their mission as an independent bookseller as “promoting diverse perspectives, upholding the free exchange of ideas, championing the enduring power of books, and bolstering the great community of readers and authors we’re lucky to be a part of.”
For those who don’t live in Portland, their website is a fantastic way to get great service and prices on books. In fact, they launched their website in 1994, before Amazon launched theirs. Take that, Bezos.
Local Independent Bookstores
There are still countless local independent bookstores in communities all over the United States — and they would be thrilled by your support.
When you visit a small bookstore in person, you get access to world-class customer service, great recommendations on their favorite books, plus you're making a positive impact by keeping money in your local economy.
Most independent bookstores also have online stores — or you can even call them and ask them to order a book for you. Local bookstores are all about customer service.
IndieBound has compiled a searchable map of every single independent bookstore currently in business.
Hive is really similar to Bookshop.org — it’s an online bookstore that supports an independent bookstore of your choice with every purchase.
The main difference is that Hive is mostly geared towards a UK-based audience. They’re British-founded, offer free shipping to the U.K., and even give local independent bookstores a higher percent of the total sale when you opt to pick up the book in person at your chosen bookshop.
They also offer senior and student discounts.
Founded in the year 2000, Biblio has long strived to focus on a triple bottom line, serving people and preserving the environment while they achieve a profit.
They originally focused on rare and used books but have since expanded to a broad collection of books. Still, if you’re looking for a first edition or an out-of-print favorite, Biblio almost certainly will have it.
Biblio claims to have been the first bookseller to offer carbon-neutral shipping to all customers for free, through their “ecosend” program, in partnership with Indigenous-led energy company, Native.
Biblio has also reportedly built at least 12 libraries in rural South America, as a part of a nonprofit founded by the sister of Biblio founder Brendan Sherar, Megan Padilla, who was previously a Peace Corps volunteer.
Better World Books
In 2001, a few college friends saw an opportunity to turn unwanted books on their Notre Dame campus into an opportunity to make a difference.
They requested book donations from students who had extra books or textbooks that they didn’t want or couldn’t sell at the end of the term. After six months they had collected 2,000 books, and resold them for $10,000. They turned around and donated the profits.
Since then, Better World Books has operated as a social benefit business, accepting donated books from individuals, libraries, and campuses and reinvesting its profits to fund literacy and education initiatives — all while keeping books from ending up in landfills.
According to their website, they’ve raised more than $28,430,000. Better World Books is a certified (and founding) B Corp and offers carbon-balanced shipping.
While most of these Amazon alternatives are focused on print books, Libro.fm specializes exclusively in audiobooks.
After realizing that independent bookstores didn’t have a way to participate in the growing market of audiobooks, the founders of Libro.fm set out to fix that.
Libro.fm offers all of the same core benefits as their Amazon-owned competitor, Audible — at the same price. But instead of your money going to a billion-dollar company, your money goes to support the local independent bookstores of your choosing.
They’re also a Social Purpose Corporation, are great about curating and highlighting fantastic books from underrepresented authors, and have a great app that makes it easy to listen to all your audiobooks.
→ Looking for more Audible alternatives for audiobooks? Explore our guide.
- While Abe Books is included in many ‘Amazon alternatives’ lists — it’s actually owned by Amazon. Go ahead and skip it.
- Oh — and it turns out that Amazon also owns Book Depository, ComiXology, Brilliance Audio, Booksurge, and Shelfari.
- Books-A-Million is often included as a good place to buy books, but after being named one of America’s worst companies to work for (and only marginally improving since then), we do not feel comfortable recommending them.
- While Barnes & Noble and similar big box stores have long been seen as bad guys (thanks, in part, to You’ve Got Mail) — this article lays out a compelling and complicated argument in favor of Barnes & Noble. While choosing an independent bookstore over a big box store is always better, you shouldn’t feel guilty about browsing their shelves.
- We’ve reviewed Rakuten’s Kobo devices, which are another good way to read books without Amazon.
- And we have a complete guide to all Kindle alternatives for ethical e-reading.
- If you’re into book-tracking, we curated a list of the best Goodreads alternatives on the market.
- As mentioned earlier, your local indie bookstore likely has a website that will allow you to order directly from them. Find yours and add it to your bookmarks.
No matter where you choose to buy your next book, know that your choice to support a bookshop that aligns with your values matters.
Not sure what your next read should be? Every month Good Good Good is reviewing our favorite new releases focused on building empathy, making the world a better place, positive mental health, and more. Check out the guide.