How to Shop More Ethically for Books (And Why You Should)

How and why to support your local bookstore.

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Ethical shopping for books: Here's the ethical way to buy your books

We need to talk about how we buy our books.

Almost all of the time, I find myself buying or downloading from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or other large chains — because what else is a poor college student to do? I can find the books I need for cheap, especially compared to the hundreds of dollars that a textbook can be.

But what about the books I read for pleasure? The ones that find a special place in my library (and my heart) or that have me obsessively turning pages for weeks on end?

The ones that I could buy for a few dollars more if I had a reason to?

As college students, I know we’re price-conscious and busy. However, I encourage you to make your next for-pleasure book purchase from a more ethical place. Below, I’ll explain the most ethical way to buy books, and why you should care about this.

Why Should You Care About Where You Buy Books?

  1. You Help the Environment.
    When you buy from a local retailer instead of a giant chain, you won’t be needing the book shipped to you from far away, so you’ll cut down on packaging and transportation waste.
  2. You Help the Community.
    When you buy local, your money stays in your town, supporting you and the people you care about in a way that buying from Barnes & Noble or other stores doesn’t. Your careful spending can keep businesses in your area afloat.
  3. You Help Yourself.
    There are very few experiences as great as randomly stumbling across a book that you never would have read otherwise but fell in love with anyway—and that’s not an experience you get from buying a book off of Amazon’s Recommended For You list. Additionally, in-person bookshops provide opportunities for a laugh, intellectual growth, and fun outings, and that’s something to be protected.  

3 Ways to Shop Ethically For Your Books:

  1. Indiebound: the most well known on this list, Indiebound can match you to your nearest independent bookstore and is constantly updated with new interviews, reviews, and recommendations for bestsellers.
  2. Kobo: Kobo is the eBook alternative! If your tastes lean towards digital books, Kobo partners with a large amount of independent bookstores to provide you with the eBooks you want and need. Click this link to learn more on how to take advantage of it. 
  3. Check out this list of the best independent bookstores around the nation, and book it to your nearest location! The Huffington Post put together a compilation of the prettiest, coolest indie bookshops around.  

Options For Book Lovers in the UK:

  1. Hive: Hive supports hundreds of independent bookstores across the UK, connects you to your nearest store, and allows you the option to decide which bookstore you want a percentage of the cost to go to if you purchase online from their website.But wait, there’s more!  If you purchase online, not only do you support an indie bookstore of your choosing, you also get free shipping to all UK locations!
  2. Check out this list of the best independent bookstores in the UK, full of shops full of personality and cute picture opportunities.

It’s always important to think about how our actions affect others, and that’s still true when we talk about our spending habits. No one expects us to buy local all the time, but it matters that we’re aware of how we could change to make the world a better place.

In this case, that means spending just a few dollars more here and there to support your local bookstores. Even just a single purchase can make a difference!

Share Your Thoughts!

Where do you land on the big chains vs. indie bookstores debate? Where do you shop? What other book related articles would you like to see from us? Tell us in the comments!

3 thoughts on “How to Shop More Ethically for Books (And Why You Should)”

    • Honestly, yes. I can’t believe that slipped my mind, since it’s a great option for book lovers. Though “free” doesn’t always benefit the community. Something we should all think about!

  1. Thanks for this article. I’ve never bought a book on Amazon (or anything really), and the sole idea disgusts me. I understand well the need to save money, but there are way more ways to do it than just click ‘buy’ on a random website; for example, if you really take the time to check your local second-hand bookstores you’ll find a MUCH cheaper price than on any other e-store, with the added convenience of no shipping costs, no waiting time, and, as you said, helping the community.


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