If you want to buy books online, Amazon is the biggest name in the industry. But it is far from perfect. Other online bookstores are often cheaper and have more expertise in niche genres.
So, to give you more options when you’re looking to buy books, we have compiled a list of the best Amazon alternatives…
1. Powell’s Books
Based in Portland, Oregon, this bookseller has both a physical presence in various locations around the city, and a website that caters 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 pieces of software, CDs, and DVDs. To help you choose wisely, under “Staff Picks” you can find various recommendations to help you decide which books to read next, including some picks of the month, and bucket list books. Powell’s also provides a way for you to sell your own books online and in-store.
Powell’s is especially notable for regularly offering unique editions of books signed by authors. However, be sure to keep an eye on shipping costs. They are more expensive than some of their competitors.
The company’s return policy is also surprisingly strict; you cannot get a refund on orders for books in quantities of 10 or more (of the same title), nor on opened games, DVDs, or books that come with electronic media.
Books-A-Million (BAM) started life way back in 1917 in Alabama. It is now the second-largest book retailer in the United States. It has physical stores, and in recent years, has also become an online bookseller.
BAM offers a diverse inventory that includes new, used, and bargain books—often with attractive price tags. You’ll also find toys, games, and magazines listed on the website, as well as ebooks.
The biggest downside of BAM is the lack of support for selling your own books. If you’re the type of person who likes to trade titles with other readers, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
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 bookstore. This makes the platform perfect for those who are looking for used, rare, or collectible titles such as first editions, antiquarian titles, and signed copies.
The website frequently offers various discounts on books in the form of coupons, student discounts, and even a whole section of $0.99 titles. Alibris also offers free shipping on all items.
In addition to fiction and non-fiction, you will also find textbooks, cookbooks, books about hobbies, and kids’ books.
Unfortunately, you are once again faced with a complicated returns policy. Because you are buying from different independent sellers, the policy differs on a seller-by-seller basis. Make sure you understand the policy for your seller before committing to a purchase.
Peachpit is a Pearson brand that 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 you need to get started with Adobe Photoshop, academic resources for web design and development, and video-making guides.
This bookstore doesn’t just focus on printed books but offers online courses and digital materials for on-the-go learners. The website even hosts a blog where you can find the community members’ insights about using software, gadgets, and embracing a digital lifestyle.
The drawback is the cost. Some titles feel a little pricey. However, Peachpit offers a system of discounts, including deals of the week, and promotional “bundles” to help you save money.
5. Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble is one of the largest online book retailers, with more than five million titles to choose from and hundreds of physical bookstores. It’s also one of the best online bookstores that isn’t Amazon.
You should check out Barnes and Noble if you’re looking to buy a lot of items at once without overpaying for shipping; it’s free once you meet the minimum order threshold of $35. And if you’re not satisfied you have 14 days to return your books.
6. Valore Books
Valore Books is an online bookstore that specializes in textbooks. It presents a great opportunity to save money on textbooks by purchasing used copies and/or older editions.
The website also offers book rentals at an even lower cost, as well as buybacks. The two features simultaneously allow you to save money and for the company to grow its inventory of rentable books for other users.
You won’t find any non-textbooks for sale. If you want to read fiction, give this store a pass.
BetterWorldBooks 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, the company accepts book donations so it can either reuse them in global literacy initiatives or recycle them.
There’s plenty of choice in both new and used book categories, searchable by genre. You’ll find many of the best new books to read as well as the classics. The company also offers free shipping and a flexible return policy (though keep in mind that refunds might take up to 60 days to clear into your account).
ThiftBooks is one of the best online bookstores for cheap and used books; it offers some of the most competitive prices anywhere on the web.
Indeed, the company is the world’s largest independent bookseller. Every used book in the site’s inventory is hand-graded so you’ll have a precise understanding of the quality of the book before you hit the buy button.
The selection of books on ThirftBooks is impressive. In part, that’s down to the large number of users who donate books. However, it is mostly due to the company’s relationship with libraries. They send lots of ex-library books to ThirftBooks which it then passes onto the consumer at rock bottom prices.
AbeBooks is one of the best sites to buy collectible and unusual books that you will not be able to find on Amazon.
At the top of the site, you will also find links to art and other forms of collectibles and used textbooks. As any American student will know, the college textbook market is a massive ripoff, meaning the ability to get your hands on second-hand course material is a big positive.
AbeBooks itself started life in 1996, so you are dealing with a company that has almost 25 years of experience. The independent sellers on the site come from all over the world.
Our final recommendation for where to buy books besides Amazon is Biblio. It specializes in used, rare, and out-of-print books from independent booksellers, meaning the titles you will find on Biblio are very unlikely to pop up on Amazon’s bookstore.
The site offers a 30-day return guarantee and makes sure that all its global shipments are 100% offset from a carbon standpoint.
What Are the Best Online Bookstores?
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 ships internationally, 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. We’re not going to tell you which approach is the right one; just make sure you find an online bookstore that meets your needs.
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About The Author
(1569 Articles Published)
Dan joined MakeUseOf in 2014 and has been Partnerships Director since July 2020. Reach out to him for inquires about sponsored content, affiliate agreements, promotions, and any other forms of partnership. You can also find him roaming the show floor at CES in Las Vegas every year, say hi if you’re going. Prior to his writing career, he was a Financial Consultant.
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