We all know Amazon is The. Worst. There are reports and lots of articles detailing how the multi-billion dollar corporation has put small, independent retailers out of business, as well as the terrible ethics with which they treat their employees, both warehouse workers and delivery drivers.
(Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is a billionaire a hundred times over. Literally. Also, in my day job I work with people who have been injured on the job, and a shockingly high number of them are Amazon employees.)
All of this is far more than enough reason to boycott Amazon, and thousands of people do. I am trying to be one of them. I really am.
For me, what has kept me an Amazon customer for so long was the convenience and cost-value. Amazon sells new release books at a deep discount, and Prime shipping can be a life-saver when you have to buy a last-minute present.
And there are arguments that for people living in rural communities with limited resources and services, Amazon Prime can be one of the only ways that people even have access to books, or the myriad of other products available through Amazon, at all.
BUT ultimately, for those of us who live in areas where we *do* have access to lots of other resources, we have to ask ourselves if the convenience and economy of being an Amazon customer justify the support of everything they do and stand for. The answer is no, of course.
While I would argue that the ethics are at least slightly different when buying a digital product, like a Kindle book or audiobook, because that doesn’t directly represent nearly as much labor as ordering a physical product that has to be pulled from a gigantic warehouse and be delivered to your doorstep within an inhuman amount of time. But, by buying digital products from Amazon, or Amazon-owned companies like Audible, we are still indirectly supporting and enabling their unethical practices.
So what do we do?
Because, independent book stores are amazing. I love them, and I support them whenever I can. But it is a little rough paying full price for a new book sometimes, even though I know I’m supporting a small business, and not Amazon.
So if you’re like me, and you’re just starting to look for alternatives to Amazon, but balk slightly at paying full retail price for books, here are a few options to consider:
Half Price Books
The juggernaut of used books, Half Price has been around forever, and there are a lot of them. This is a great option if you love browsing in a physical bookstore, but you can also order through their website. And as their name claims, they sell used books for half the retail price.
Half Price is also a great place to sell your used books. They pay the most for recent bestsellers and collectibles, but most gently-used books, especially hardcovers, will get you at least a dollar or two. Anything they can’t buy from you they’ll donate for you. It’s a win-win!
I’m just starting to explore IndieBound, a sort of online directory of local, independent bookstores. If you search a book on the site, you can put in your zip code and it will tell you at what local indie stores that book is available. Or, you can also buy directly from them.
Of course, many independent bookstores sell used books, and I haven’t quite figured out if IndieBound has taken used books into account in their algorithm, but it’s a great tool nonetheless. If you order directly from IndieBound, you do pay the retail price. But sometimes that’s OK if it means my dollars are supporting independent booksellers!
(Side note, I’m now an IndieBound Affiliate, so if you buy a book through any of my links, I’ll receive a small commission!)
Like Amazon, Thrift Books started in Seattle and is a big online retailer. They specialize in used books and are, in fact, the largest online seller of used books. They are not in every state, but they are growing. They also take social responsibility seriously.
Yes, we save millions of books every year from being destroyed, but our mission goes beyond the environment. We save these books and make them accessible to readers for the chance to shape another mind, share another story, and teach a bit of wisdom.
I just bought the first four Felicity American Girl books from Thrift Books, because I couldn’t find them anywhere else, and I was so excited.
Costco surprisingly is a great option if you are looking for a book that is a recent bestseller or from a popular author. They’re usually priced pretty low, as well, usually about $10 for a new paperback. They also have some great gift book and collectible items from time to time.
The selection they have in the store is pretty limited, so you kind of get what you get. But if you are looking for that #3 bestseller from six months ago, or you’re open to just browsing the selection and letting Costco tell you what you want, it’s a great option. And they seem to treat their employees really well.
Your Local Public Library
You guys, the library is FREE! You can sign up for a free library card and get access to thousands of books, movies, periodicals, and tons of other materials! You usually just need proof of your address to get a card, and then you’re good to go!
Lots of public libraries also have digital materials like e-books and audiobooks available, as well. Plus many participate in Interlibrary Loan, a sort of network of libraries all across the country who loan books to each other if something really specific isn’t available at your library. One time I got a book from a library in Texas through ILL.
Libraries also have tons of other programs that serve communities. I know mine offers free tax help, job search assistance, classes for English language learners, and kids’ storytimes. Find your local public library here.
Start a Book Exchange!
Combine forces with fellow book lovers and swap!
There are a lot of ways you can go about this, either through get-togethers with friends or co-workers, community events, online exchanges through Facebook groups, or even Little Free Libraries. These are all great ways to recycle your old books and get new ones at no cost.
I’d also like to point out that buying used books, swapping or borrowing books, and using your local library are all environmentally friendly and are great ways to reduce conspicuous consumption!
What about you? Do you have thoughts on Amazon? What are your favorite ways to acquire new books?