A Guide to Buying Books the Anti-Corporate Way

Here’s where NOT to buy books: Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, or other mega, chain retailer. You know what I’m talking about. They not only have a gigantic eco-foot print, but they also exclude certain types of books and authors, and are often more pricey than many of the other options highlighted below.

Here’s where TO buy books:

  1. Start with your local library! Not only will you be supporting your community, but you’ll also refrain from spending a dime or bringing clutter into your house. Other added benefits: You may also meet some new friends, stumble upon a book club or discover some great local events that you would have otherwise never heard about.
  2. Next: check out your local bookstore. Since I live in Washington, D.C., I have the fortune of being close to some fabulous local spots. My favorite so far being Kramerbooks & Afterwords — helps that they have a cozy bar and an amazing gluten-free chocolate torte! Local book stores also frequently host book signings and author talks, so check them out!
  3. Trade your books on PaperBackSwap.com. Here’s how it works: after you create an account, pull out the gently used books that you want to trade, and list them by their ISBN number. After someone requests one of your books, you ship it to them (and pay for postage; books are sent by media mail, so it’s usually less than $4 a book). After they receive it, you receive one credit in return (books on tape are worth two credits), that you can use to request a book from another user on the site (plus a trading fee of $.50), who then pays to ship the book that you requested to you. I’ve had resounding success on this website, and have sent/received over 140 books.
  4. If you’d like to go the used (and more affordable/green) route, thrift stores are generally chock full of paperbacks and kids books. My sister has found some incredible texts at her go-to store in Portland, Maine, and if you’re on the look out for James Patterson or Sue Grafton novels, thrift stores will feel like winning the jackpot. A word of advice: make sure that your expectations aren’t too high, and definitely go in with an open mind, because there is very little guarantee that you’ll find the exact title you’re looking for. So, be ready to be surprised and to take a chance on a novel that has seen better days.
  5. And then there’s this: Little Free Library! (photo above) Not sure how I got so lucky as to have one of these a block from my house in D.C., but it is just about the cutest, coolest thing ever (nerd alert)! The concept is simple: a Steward (anyone!) picks a legal and high-traffic location for the library, gathers starter books, and then registers it with the website. That’s it! So far, there are over  60,000 of these little guys all over the world! I really love the concept of making books accessible in neighborhoods where they may be far away from a library, or lack the resources to purchase books of their own.

If you don’t have any good, local options near you; or you are looking for a specific book, check out these online options for buying used and new books:

Powell’s Books Independent bookstore based in Portland, Oregon

YourOnlineBookstore.com  Free domestic ground shipping on all books

Thrift Books Free shipping over $10

Discover Books Free shipping in the U.S.

Llewellyn The world’s oldest and largest independent publisher of books for body, mind, and spirit

Did I miss anything? Let me know! What’s been your best thrift store book find?