When it comes to books, I’m always on the lookout for websites with great selections and even greater deals. Although I haven’t been buying books for myself lately and have been borrowing from the library much more, I’ve decided that for the holidays this year, I’ll be buying everyone on my list books. Books are my wheelhouse, and it simplifies the shopping process.
But wait–the holidays?! Already?! Unfortunately, yes. With the global supply chain shortage, this holiday season consumer forecast is looking a bit tight, as companies struggle to keep up with demand and the postal systems become even more congested. (Moreover, an impending book shortage likely to be felt in 2022 with surprise hit new releases; read Vox’s article here.) For this reason, I’ve begun my shopping early this year (and I recommend the same to you) to hopefully alleviate this bottleneck hysteria. In early November, I’ll be posting my holiday book shopping guide, so keep an eye out!
Even if you’re just buying books for yourself, it’s good to know your options–plus, if you can make your dollar stretch a little more, that just means you can buy even more books!
In addition to those I’m about to list, Barnes & Noble is a well-known option. You can also buy books directly from publishers, like Penguin Random House or Simon & Schuster, or from independent publishers like Coffee House Press, but sometimes publishers redirect you to other sites to purchase books.
As a bonus pro-tip: keep your eye open for those annoying ads websites throw at you, and read them carefully. Sometimes companies prompt you to sign up for their newsletter, but other times they offer you $5 or 15% off your first purchase, which will come in handy if you’re looking to check out. Then, once you get the promotional code from the email, you can immediately click “Unsubscribe” so that they don’t clutter your inbox with more ads.
The Appeal: Alibris sells new and used books for incredible prices. Each book listing shows the specific sellers of the book and the different prices, as well as details about that individual book’s condition. What I like about this site is that the company writes unique descriptions for each condition, so instead of knowing it’s “Used–Good,” a vendor might write, “Wear around the edges and pen marks on the inner flap, otherwise like new.” As I mentioned, this site boasts some of the best prices for new and used books and has a pretty strong collection. Moreover, you can create shareable wishlists! They also have some coupon codes available, but are generally small discounts for high thresholds. Make sure you sign up with your email for $5 off your first order over $50!
The Drawback: Shipping can sneak up on you; because each book is shipping from an independent facility, the roughly $3.50 shipping cost adds up.
The Appeal: Blackwell’s is a UK-based bookseller that delivers to the US for free. They usually have competitive prices for brand new books, and they have a huge selection. I’ve ordered from Blackwell’s several times and I’m always pleased with the condition of the books. Moreover, they always send a little Blackwell’s bookmark with it.
The Drawback: Shipping isn’t tracked and sometimes it can take a couple weeks to arrive. Sometimes the books come from different locations and are sent in separate packages. And, this could be a pro or a con, but intuitively, Blackwell’s dispatches UK editions of books, so if you’re particular about covers and prefer the US edition, you may not find precisely what you’re looking for.
The Appeal: I love Bookshop.org! They sprang up at the beginning of 2020 and have been a miraculous source of books for me the past year. They donate 10% of all sales to local bookstores and showcase their running contribution at the top of their page. Bookshop also offers affiliations, so local bookstores can partner with the site and “sell” books through them so that they receive a larger portion of the sales. Their selection is great, the books are all new condition, the prices are fair and often discounted a couple dollars, and I even had an issue with a missing package last year and the Bookshop customer service was timely and friendly, and they re-sent a new package. At checkout, there’s also an option to gift wrap the item for a few extra dollars. Highly recommend!
Bookshop only delivers to the US, but they’ve also created Bookshop UK and Bookshop Spain with hopes to expand to other regions in the future.
The Drawback: The only way this site could be better is if it offered free shipping, but because it’s a good cause and profit margins are small, it’s fair. Shipping is roughly $3.50 for a single book and does increase the more books in the cart, but only by about $1 a book.
Half Price Books
The Appeal: Discounted new and used books! I’ve been shopping at Half Price Books most of my life, and they have stores all across the country.
The Drawback: Because items ship from independent locations, shipping is $3.99 per item and can add up quickly.
The Appeal: Powell’s is an independent Oregon-based bookstore. If you’re ever in Portland, visiting Powell’s is a must! They often have sections dedicated to independent publications and a medley of book-related merchandise. They sell new books at typical retail prices and used books at some discount. Currently, they have a fall sale of 20% off these featured titles. They offer free shipping for orders of $50 or more, but if you spend less than that, shipping is $3.99 flat rate no matter how many you buy! They also have a wishlist feature.
Although they previously shipped internationally, they are currently unable to do to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Drawback: New book prices are not very competitive, but you’re supporting an independent bookseller, so what can I say?
The Appeal: Second Sale specializes in selling secondhand books, and their prices are phenomenal. A few months ago, I bought a 400+ paged hardback graphic novel with glossy, colored pages for under $4 and it arrived in near mint condition! They offer free shipping in the US for orders over $10, and right now they’re having a Buy 3, Get 1 Free sale on books under $5. Second Sale also has a shareable wishlist feature!
The Drawback: The selection is not always the strongest, as books will go out of stock.
The Appeal: Strand is a New York City-based independent bookseller. If you ever go to NYC, you have to stop at a Strand store or pop-up shop! You can order new books at typical retail price or discounted used books from their website. Shipping depends on location, but within the US it’s generally between $3 and $5 an item. Strand merchandise is available.
Strand ships internationally, but the cost is quite steep.
The Drawback: If you’re buying a new book, the prices are not very competitive, and for a retailer, there aren’t many sales or coupons offered.
The Appeal: Thriftbooks sells new and used books at discounted prices! Make sure to create a free account because they offer points and rewards for various activities, such as downloading the app or purchasing books. I like that they have a Thriftbooks Deals page so you can easily browse books that are on sale. For orders over $10, shipping is free, and for orders less than that, shipping is only $1.29 an item.
They do ship internationally but are experiencing some restrictions; view this page for more information.
The Drawback: The selection varies depending on availability, so you may end up striking out for a particular book. They do offer a wishlist feature, but it is not shareable.
Also, a few more bonus options: Little Free Libraries are a fantastic resource for stumbling upon books. Little Free Libraries look like oversized bird houses and typically have latched doors, and they operate under the “Take a book, leave a book” mentality, where anyone can walk up and swap out a book for a different one. Although anyone can set up a Little Free Library without registering it, to locate registered Little Free Libraries, you can check out this map. Often, these little libraries can be hit or miss, and I don’t always find books in them that I’m interested in. However, sometimes you can find some gems in them, and if not for you, then for a loved one! I don’t recommend Little Free Libraries as a last-minute resource, but if you routinely check them in the months leading up to the holidays, sometimes they yield fortuitous results.
Local public libraries sometimes have book sales, so keep an eye out for postings or subscribe to public library e-newsletters. The library I work at has an ongoing book sale, but others host them quarterly or annually. These are usually a great way to support your library and find some discounted books for yourself or others; but, as with Little Free Libraries, these are best utilized as a more preemptive approach to gift-buying rather than a last resort.
Hope this all has helped! Happy book-buying!
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