Between their very public fight with Hachette over book pricing and all of their futuristic but also kind of creepy side projects (think delivery drones), there are a number of reasons why you might be looking to buy books from a site that’s not Amazon. If you don’t have a local bookstore or if you need a specific title (like a textbook), the web is your best bet. There are a zillion sites offering cheap books online, and if you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place. We’ve looked all over and found 15 of the best online bookstores where you can find deals on new books, used books, textbooks, and more.
Best for: Independent presses, new authors
Why it’s great: Powells.com is the online arm of the beloved bricks-and-mortar Portland shop, and even though it’s online, it’s still got the feel of what may be the world’s coolest neighborhood bookstore. In addition to a wide range of new and used books, you can find extra goodies on their blog, which offers everything from the staffers’ picks to playlists of the tunes authors listen to while they write.
Bonus: Orders of $50 and up ship for free, everything else ships for a flat $3.99 in the US. Their sales, which are staff-curated by theme, will help you find deals on books that’ll broaden your literary palate.
Best for: eBooks, popular fiction and nonfiction
Why it’s great: “Better World” isn’t just a name — for every purchase made on BetterWorldBooks.com, a book is donated to someone in need (over 13 million to date!). These online booksellers also partner with libraries and college campuses to collect used books, many of which are donated to literacy nonprofits around the world. In addition to all of their reusing and recycling, you can also go paperless — Better World Books is one of the only discount sites that offers eBooks. Need it now? You can opt for eDelivery — any physical book can be scanned and sent to you in a digital format in as little as two hours.
Bonus: Free shipping worldwide — and they pay for carbon offsets to minimize the eco-footprint of all those books traveling around the globe.
Best for: Non-English language books, popular fiction
Why it’s great: BookMooch.com is basically free. Once you sign up, you enter a list of the books you have that you’d like to give away, and make a wish list of the books you’d like to get. When someone requests one of your books, you ship it to them (that’s the only cost involved), earning you one point. You can then use your point to request a book from someone else. BookMooch is an international community, so it’s an especially good resource for tracking down books that aren’t available in the US or that are in a language other than English.
Bonus: Just want to clean out your bookcase? You can also donate the points you earn to various charities that partner with the site.
Best for: Textbooks, digital textbooks
Why it’s great: Based near Coastal Carolina University, Skyo.com is primarily devoted to helping you save money on textbooks. Their rental program lets you choose your rental period, and even extend the due date if you need the text just a little bit longer. In addition to the usual ISBN search, you can also search by school to easily find textbooks that are required for courses at your college or university.
Bonus: Tired of lugging around heavy texts? Skyo also lets you rent digital textbooks with 24/7 tech support.
5. Thrift Books
Best for: Popular books, kids’ books
Why it’s great: Washington-based ThriftBooks.com has a commitment to helping the environment, partnering with libraries and other vendors to ensure that used books wind up in good hands rather than in the trash. Any items they receive that they can’t sell go directly to a recycling plant. Their prices are extremely low, and they also offer three-book deals that let you get extra savings on sets of books from bestselling authors.
Bonus: For every additional book you buy from the same seller, you get an additional 50 cents off. Free shipping on any order in the US!
Best for: Hard-to-find titles, textbooks
Why it’s great: In addition to its own book buying-and-selling operations, Alibris.com also connects a large network of independent sellers. This means that if you simply have to have a particular rare book — whether it’s a signed copy, a first edition, or it’s just been out of print for years, you’re likely to find it here. Alibris has also recently gotten into the textbook rental game. They allow you to return rentals for a full refund within 21 days (convenient for those who have trouble committing to a class schedule), and so long as you keep the book in reasonable condition, they allow written notes and highlighting.
Bonus: Many items ship for free, and if you sign up for their newsletter, you get loads of coupons.
7. The Strand
Best for: New books, rare and out-of-print books
Why it’s great: NYC mainstay The Strand boasts 18 miles of books, all of which you can search on StrandBooks.com. They’re picky about what they buy, so even used books are in good (if not better than good) condition. Even new books aren’t full price, and their staff picks give you the scoop on what New York’s hipster literati recommend. It’s not the same as browsing through their stacks IRL, but it’s close.
Bonus: You can pre-order books that haven’t come out yet (signed copies, in some cases) — and they’re all discounted, too.
Best for: Collectible and unusual books
Why it’s great: AbeBooks.com is another site that combines its own operation with a number of independent sellers. The site is easy to search, but clicking around gives you the feel of a virtual independent bookstore. There’s a page where you can see photos and read the bios of all of the cats who live in the indie shops that sell via AbeBooks. They also have a number of click-worthy curated lists, from the Best New Books to Funniest Books According to the British.
Bonus: The “Weird Book Room” is amazing — it’s like stumbling into an extremely bizarre library. You can check out titles like Jurassic Towel Origami, Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, and many more legitimately out-there titles. And oh yeah — many of the books on the site ship for free.
Best for: Textbooks
Why it’s great: Owned by eBay, Half.com is sort of like an all “buy it now,” media-only version of the popular auction site (no bidding here). They have all kinds of books (as well as music, games, and movies), but textbooks are especially easy to find here. You can choose to rent or buy textbooks. If you buy, when your semester’s over you can sell that Chem 101 textbook and get some cash back.
Bonus: For textbook rentals, you pick how long you need the book (30 to 125 days), and return shipping is free.
Best for: Niche topics, rare books
Why it’s great: Biblio.com styles itself as one-stop shopping for true bibliophiles, with carefully curated collections from independent booksellers. Many are dealers who focus on specific niche interests, antiquarian books, and rare books, and in addition to searching for titles and authors, you can also browse by seller. Check the “Exclusive Specials” section for deals from the different indie shops!
Bonus: Your purchase helps do good! All shipping is offset with carbon credits. The company also has a nonprofit arm, BiblioWorks, which uses the site’s profits to build libraries in rural communities in South America.
11. PaperBack Swap
Best for: Bestsellers, new books
Why it’s great: Trading site PaperBackSwap.com lets you exchange books for free with other members — you list what you’ve got, ship it to someone when it gets requested, and earn a credit. You can use your credit to request a book from someone else, or as a coupon to get a brand new book at a discounted price.
Bonus: You get two credits just for signing up, so your first two books are completely free!
12. Books A Million
Best for: New books, eBooks
Why it’s great: The online arm of this retail chain, BooksAMillion.com boasts discounts on new and bestselling books, as well as pre-orders. If you’re addicted to your eReader, they’ve also got great prices on loads of eBooks — plus pre-orders, too, so you can have that hot read on your device the moment it comes out.
Bonus: This site is generous with the coupon codes, helping you get even more savings.
13. Daedalus Books
Best for: Classic books, last year’s bestsellers
Why it’s great: DaedalusBooks.com brings you a curated collection of books that are remaindered by publishers — new books that went unsold. Sure, some books don’t sell because they’re not that good, but these folks are picky. If you’re looking for that one title you’ve always meant to read, they’ve probably got it.
Bonus: The prices are crazy cheap, and if you sign up for their email list you can take an additional 10% off your order.
Best for: Textbooks
Why it’s great: BookRenter.com does one thing, and it does it well — textbook rentals. It offers loads of options, including plenty of extensions and the opportunity to buy the book (with the cost of your rental going toward the purchase price) if you decide that you really do need it for more than just that one class. If you do return your book, they make it super easy, with printable shipping labels and several drop-off options.
Bonus: With free shipping both ways, all you pay is the cost of your rental.
Best for: Nonfiction, up-and-coming authors
Why it’s great: MagersAndQuinn.com offers deeply discounted new and used titles, with the quirky charm of the actual Twin Cities shop. It’s an especially great resource for readers looking to dig deep into nonfiction, with an extensive selection on topics like science, current events, and urban studies. Their staff picks are a terrific way to discover new books and authors you haven’t heard of yet.
Bonus: Are you a writer? Check out the selection in the “Loft Bookshelf” for a wide range of excellent books on the craft of writing.
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