It goes without saying that when it comes to choosing between Amazon and your local bookseller, Amazon wins on so many levels. For instance, it helps you choose better books, as the recommendations are based on what you’ve already read rather than on what the store’s employees like. Some would argue that buying books on Amazon is also better for authors and the economy, but that’s another debate for another day.
At the same time, Amazon is far from perfect. Even putting aside the alleged less-than-ideal working conditions, other online bookstores are cheaper, offer more expertise in niche genres, and more besides. We found seven different online bookstore alternatives that will make you consider switching away from Amazon occasionally.
Based in Portland, Oregon, this bookstore has both physical presences in various locations around the city, as well as its website catering to those of us who don’t live in Portland.
The website is easy to use and well-organized. You can find both new and used books there, as well as various software, CDs, and DVDs. To help you choose wisely, under “Staff Picks” you can find various recommendations for best reads, including some picks of the month, and 25 “books to read before you die”. The option of selling your own books online and in-store also comes in handy.
Recommended to you if: You are searching of unique editions signed by the authors.
Best feature: Thorough customer support: in-store, phone, and email, as well as an extensive FAQ and customer support materials that can be found on the website.
Where it falls short: The website doesn’t offer free shipping. Return conditions are quite strict and you only have 30 days from purchase to complete the return for a full refund.
BAM offers a diverse inventory that includes new, used, and bargain books which come with attractive price tags. You’ll also find toys, games, and magazines listed on the website.
The website is clean and comes with useful perks. A store locator will help you find the nearest shop if you prefer buying books in person. There’s also a convenient live chat support for any queries you might have while shopping online.
Recommended to you if: You’re looking for a wide variety of titles.
Best feature: The bookstore has sale or “bargain” books available.
Where it falls short: There is no option to sell your own books through BAM.
This online bookstore operates only through third-party booksellers. That means that when you buy a book from Alibris, you’re buying it from an independent online bookseller. This makes the platform perfect for those who are looking for used, rare, or collectible titles.
The website offers various discounts on books, like coupons, student discounts, and even a whole section of $0.99 titles. Alibris also offers free shipping for all items.
Recommended to you if: You are looking to buy used or rare books (first edition, antiquarian, and signed).
Best feature: Bargain prices on all items, as well as the option to rent books.
Where it falls short: Alibris operates through third-party booksellers that have different return policies, which can make returning your books a little complex.
Peachpit specializes in selling books, ebooks, and other educational materials to those in creative professions. You’ll find a wide range of photography-related titles, everything to start you on Adobe Photoshop, academic resources for web design & development, and video-making.
This bookstore doesn’t just focus on print books but offers online courses and digital materials for on-the-go learners. The website also hosts a blog where you can find the community members’ insights about using software, gadgets, and embracing a digital lifestyle.
Recommended to you if: You’re looking for high quality creative and technology-related content.
Best feature: With the platform’s clear focus on technology it’s easy to find niche products specific to your field.
Where it falls short: Some of the titles might seem a little pricey. However, Peachpit offers a system of discounts, including deals of the week, and promotional “bundles”.
Barnes & Noble is one of the largest book retailers with hundreds of bricks-and-mortar bookstores and a considerable online presence.
Aside from books of all type, the store sells ebooks for the company’s reading device, Nook, CDs, DVDs, games, toys, electronics, and more. Choose this bookstore if you’re looking to buy a lot of items at once without overpaying for shipping.
Recommended to you if: You aren’t searching for something specific, and want a big selection to choose from instead.
Best feature: Free shipping once you meet the minimum purchase requirement, simple return process.
Where it falls short: A rather short time frame to return your items at 14 days.
6. Valore Books
Our next pick is Valore Books, an online bookstore that specializes in textbooks. This source presents to you an opportunity to save money on textbooks by getting used, or older editions that are inevitably cheaper.
The website also offers book rentals at an even lower cost, as well as buybacks — another great way for you to save money and for the company to grow its inventory.
Recommended to you if: You’re looking for textbooks and academic materials.
Best feature: After use, you can sell the books you bought from Valore Books back to the company.
Where it falls short: Book selection is limited to textbooks only.
Better World Books isn’t just a bookstore, but also a charity with a mission to change the world by improving literacy worldwide. Aside from buying and selling books, they accept book donations, reuse them in literacy initiatives, or recycle them.
There’s plenty of choice in both new and used books categories, searchable by genre. The company also offers free shipping and a flexible return policy.
Recommended to you if: You want to contribute to promoting literacy by buying your next book from the website.
Best feature: Cheap prices with a number of discount options available.
Where it falls short: When returning a book, it might take up to 60 days for you to receive a full refund.
Did We Manage to Convince You?
Although all of the online bookstores mentioned above have their advantages, Amazon is still one of the best-known names in the industry. Its website is extremely user-friendly, it has an extensive selection of books of all types, and it makes it easy to find a particular book in no time.
At the same time, more and more people are trying to avoid using Amazon, switching to using smaller, potentially more ethical companies.
Where do you stand on this issue? Are you a devoted Amazon user? Or are you looking to switch to using a different bookstore? How do you choose where to buy your books? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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