Book collecting is an enjoyable hobby, but it can quickly become an expensive one. Finding where to buy books for cheap can help you grow your personal library on a budget.
Amazon is often held up as a source for quick and low-cost access to books. However, its negative impact on the publishing and bookselling industries have led many bibliophiles to boycott Amazon.
I personally haven’t purchased books from Amazon for many years now, and in the meantime I’ve found several resources where I can acquire books without blowing my budget. In this post, I’ll explain the drawbacks of buying books on Amazon and where I would suggest purchasing books instead.
Why Should You Not Buy Books on Amazon?
Amazon gained its infamy as a source of low-cost books. While it was both enjoyable and beneficial for readers and students to be able to purchase books on a budget, the long term impact of Amazon’s bookselling strategy has proven it isn’t worth the savings.
In order to gain its gigantic foothold in the book industry, Amazon purposefully sold books at a loss. This enabled the site to gain popularity and sell other products and Prime subscriptions to cover the loss of the books and still turn a profit.
Because Amazon continues to sell books at a loss, other bookstores—including chains like Barnes & Noble and independent local bookstores—struggle to compete. They’re not able to lower their prices enough to make them more alluring than Amazon.
This problem has backed up into the publishing industry as well. Typically when a book sells, the store gets a cut, and the rest goes to the publisher to be distributed between the company, the author, and the author’s agent, if they have one.
Books are priced in part based on how much the publisher needs to make to cover the cost of creating them. When books are sold at a loss, the publisher (and therefore the author) don’t make as much as they had planned to, which affects the bottom line of the publishing company.
Many of the people who initially loved Amazon because it provided them with the ability to grow their book collections on a budget now realize that if they want the publishing industry to be able to continue putting out the books they love, supporting Amazon isn’t the way to go.
Purchasing books from independent stores and even chains like Barnes & Noble instead of from Amazon supports publishers and authors so that they can continue to create more books.
Where to Buy Books for Cheap (7 Amazon Alternatives)
Of course, buying books at full price all the time isn’t affordable for most people. Fortunately, there are other options for acquiring books without supporting Amazon. Here are my favorite Amazon alternatives for buying books for cheap:
ThriftBooks is my favorite online used bookstore. It offers a huge selection of books across all genres. Although it’s primarily for pre-owned books, you can also purchase new books and even preorder upcoming releases on ThriftBooks.
Shipping is free as long as you spend at least $15, which is a pretty low minimum to access this benefit.
The real savings with ThriftBooks come in when you sign up for a rewards account. With each purchase you’ll earn points—the amount varies depending on which tier you’re in, which is determined by how much you spend at Thriftbooks annually.
Points can be redeemed for free books. At the lowest tier, 500 points will get you a $5 book for free, while at the highest tier, 500 points allows you to choose a free book of up to $7 value.
Better World Books is an online platform for purchasing used and new books. It’s best known for its charitable contributions and sustainable practices. For each book you buy, Better World Books donates a book to someone in need. It’s also a Certified B Corporation and recycles books than can’t be sold so that they don’t end up in dumpsters.
If you’re looking to declutter some of your books, you can also donate them to Better World Books using one of its dropboxes.
Half Price Books is a popular used bookstore chain with over 100 locations in 19 states. The available selection varies significantly by location, so you aren’t guaranteed to always find what you’re looking for. However, these stores tend to be decently sized, and it’s worth checking out if there’s a location near you.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live within easy driving distance of a Half Price Books, you can still browse its online selection. However, shipping costs tend to make this option less affordable than the other online bookstores on this list.
In addition to books, Half Price Books sells movies, music, board games, puzzles, and bookish items such as mugs, pins, bookmarks, and stationary.
BookOutlet is an excellent online marketplace for used books, but it’s also a great place to find new books for cheap. It sells overstock copies, store returns, and other new condition books that couldn’t be sold in traditional book stores for some reason. This lets BookOutlet price these books at up to 90% off their original price.
In addition to books, you’ll find games, puzzles, and stationary available. There’s an under $5 section of the site called “Frugal Finds” for bargain hunters so you can easily find the best deals. You can also enjoy free shipping on orders over $35.
Most importantly, BookOutlet offers a rewards program that’s similar to ThriftBooks’. You can earn points but making purchases and taking quizzes, and redeem your points for cash off whenever you choose.
5. Local Used Bookstores
Depending on where you live, you may have local used bookstores in your area that offer great deals on books. When it comes to Amazon alternatives, shopping local is the antithesis of supporting mega-corporations and a much more sustainable way to grow your book collection.
A simple online search should be able to point you in the direction of your closest used bookstore.
6. Library Sales
Your local library may be able to provide you with access to low-cost books for your home. Libraries often hold periodic sales to clear out books they no longer need.
If you already have a library card and are signed up for your library’s email newsletter, you can keep you eyes peeled for any upcoming sales. And if you aren’t yet connected with your local library, you can check its website for upcoming events, or call and ask if they ever hold sales.
Facebook Marketplace has become a hub for resale of all kinds, including books. Availability and selection will vary widely depending on your location, but the prices you can find on Facebook are often some of the lowest anywhere, especially for children’s books.
Always follow best practices for purchasing products on Facebook Marketplace, including choosing a public meeting place to pick up your items.
Other Ways to Save Money on Books
If you’re an avid reader and already know where to buy books for cheap, there are a couple of other methods you might want to consider to continue saving money on you favorite hobby.
Firstly, take advantage of your local library. Book collecting is fun, but you don’t necessarily need to own every book you read, especially if you know you’ll never pick it up again once you’ve finished it.
That said, if you’re set on purchasing books and building your personal library some more, there are a few more ways to save. For instance, make sure to sign up for any rewards programs that are available to you. Barnes & Noble has a rewards program that provides free shipping, exclusive coupons, and points that can be redeemed for money off your purchases. Your local bookstore may also offer a rewards program to provide similar benefits.
Finally, make sure to keep your eye out for sales or coupons that are available to you. Whether it’s a chain store like Barnes & Noble or your favorite local shop, sign up for email newsletters or find other ways to stay up to date on the latest offers.
Making conscious shopping decisions when you’re buying books helps the industry continue to thrive and produce more of the stories you love. Fortunately, with these Amazon alternatives, you don’t have to break the bank to get books at a low price:
- Better World Books
- Half Price Books
- Local Used Bookstores
- Library Sales
- Facebook Marketplace
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.