Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good Cause: Where Do You Buy Your Books?

Once I week, I am going to start highlighting people and organizations that are doing important work in the realm of reading, books, literacy, education, writing, publishing, etc. I've already shared about a few of my favorite organizations, and I will likely be highlighting them again, but today I want to talk about making decisions about where you buy your books.

First, (I'm not going to link; you know where to find them.). Much has been written in the past year about Amazon's unethical business practices and some readers and book bloggers are boycotting the online superstore. Hey Lady!...Whatcha Readin'? wrote an passionate post about why she decided to shun Amazon. My dear Katie wrote a wonderful post as well. You can read more about the issue here and here. Basically, they tend to act like a big bully to impose their will on small-ish publishers, etc and can be quite effective at it because they are so ubiquitous.

Over the past two or three months, I've only made two purchases from Amazon, and both were from marketplace sellers. One book I couldn't find elsewhere online. The other I could find on another website, but it was listed as $100, and I found it from an Amazon seller for like $4 (plus $4 shipping). I wasn't willing to pay the extra $90+ to avoid Amazon. I haven't been able to abandon my meticulously crafted wishlists, so I still check back often, but I've been buying my books primarily with other sellers. So, I can't say that I am fully boycotting Amazon, but I am drastically reducing my business with them.

My reasoning is this. Amazon may or may not be an evil entity. I haven't made up my mind. It's clear that their primary goal is to make money, not promote the needs of readers, writers, and others involved in the books industry. But they're a business, so that's not really that surprising or sinister.

But their clever marketing and shipping policies ensured that I usually spent more with them than I originally intended. I would go to Amazon because of the lower prices, and options for free shipping. I always fell prey to the free shipping for orders over $25. Even if I only wanted one $15 book, I'd search for something for $10 to round out my order and get the free shipping. (I would literally scan my wishlists only looking at the prices.) But I'd always find something for $12, or two books for $7 each. So my quick $15 purchase turned into at least twice that for "free" shipping that would have only cost me a few dollars to pay for outright. The shipping policy is great for when I'm buying a more expensive book, or doing Christmas shopping, but not when I'm just out to buy one little book. I knew I was deceiving myself into thinking I was saving, but I fell for nearly every time. And Amazon got more of my money.

So, to the point of this wordy post: where do I buy my books now? Primarily at two websites: and Both offer FREE shipping on ANY order in the US, and quite low shipping to other countries. This alone is awesome. I buy one little $6 book, and that's all I get and all I pay for. Both sites sell primarily used books, but they're usually in pretty good condition.

So what's the difference between them? Why both sites? Well, Thrift Books usually has better prices, but Better World Books tends to have a better selection. Sometime BWB has better prices though because they have this awesome bargain bin where you can buy 3 books for $10, 4 for $12 or 5 for $15. (Yes, I realize this is another trap to get me to buy books that I didn't show up to purchase, but I'm trying to use restraint, and the prices are really good!) Sometimes their prices are a bit more than the same book at Amazon, but it's usually not too drastic.

Also, Better World Books raises money for literacy programs all over the world (BONUS!). So you're doing a good deed while buying your books!

I still buy some books in person at Half-Price, Borders, and Barnes and Noble. But if I'm buying online, I usually check Thrift Books and Better World Books and compare. I've been thrilled with both websites so far, and am delighted to have a viable Amazon alternative.

So I ask you: where do you buy your books? Do you give it much thought? Soon, I plan to write a post about new vs. used books, so we'll have another element to add to the mix.

Happy Reading!


Katie said...

I've been buying a lot more books at Borders lately because they have some pretty good coupons. I would buy at the local, independent store if I could afford it, but normally with Borders I can get a good-enough discount and still support the brick-and-mortar store.

As far as the relationship with Amazon and publishers, there's two sides to the story and well...this is why I'm not political, I just can't take sides. But I buy at Borders to show support for brick stores, because they are suffering and I love them so very much.

Caitlin said...

McB-Yes, I try to support the brick stores too, but often they don't have the book I want. I really want to support independent ones, but you're right-Borders does give excellent coupons.