5 Alternatives to Amazon for Your Books From A Librarian

PC Sweeney
Published in
5 min readApr 30, 2021


There are plenty of options when it comes to trying out a new book.

Many people depend on Amazon Marketplace for fast and easy book purchases.

But, many more people are trying to find alternatives to this book giant.

That’s because this tech giant is not always the best option for those who want to be conscious about where they’re spending their money. Amazon not only dominates the market to the extent of causing small, local business owners to close shop, but they have also exercised their monopoly by withholding copies of books from public libraries or charging exorbitant prices for ebooks.

For those who are interested in finding other ways to indulge in their reading passions, there are alternative sites, stores, and organizations to support. It’s completely possible to get access to books without contributing to large companies like Amazon.

Amazon’s Restrictions On Library Purchases

Amazon has been facing criticism lately for the actions they’ve taken to restrict access to their books released through Amazon Publishing. Amazon Publishing has been releasing books since 2009 and its own brands include Lake Union, Thomas & Mercer, and Audible. Books are usually released in print, audiobook, and ebook formats which are then usable for institutions like public libraries to purchase and loan out to the community. However, Amazon has put a halt to some of this by banning library access to ebooks and audiobooks published by Amazon. This means libraries are no longer able to purchase ebooks and audiobooks from many authors that the public is interested in like with Mindy Kaling’s new story collection.

Libraries have agreements in place with publishers in order to access digital copies of popular titles. Oftentimes, libraries are paying more than what a regular consumer would pay for a copy of the ebook- anywhere from 40 to 60 dollars per title and up to 100 dollars for really popular books. In addition to the increased price that libraries end up paying, there are also restrictions in the form of digital locks and set time periods. With these in place, libraries end up having to re-purchase digital copies multiple times.

Most libraries also have a middle man to help them with these negotiations. Overdrive is the company who created the Libby app which is how many libraries buy and distribute their ebooks. This online platform is widely used by library patrons and even Amazon Kindle users. Those with a library card are able to use it to access Libby and check out ebooks through their devices. However, even the executives at Overdrive have had difficulty when it comes to negotiating ebook book usage through Amazon Publishing.

The reasoning behind Amazon withholding its digital copies stem from the unfavorable position it puts the company in. The executives at Amazon also mention the ambiguity of how digital library lending models balance the interests of authors and patrons. While the effects of this Amazon restriction is not completely known, one thing that is for certain is that many library patrons will not have digital loan access to some of their favorite authors and new books.

Alternative Book Shopping

The good news is that there are plenty of other options out there to support if you’re willing to look past the titles that Amazon has restricted. Many independent bookstores, used book shops, and small businesses are happy to welcome you to browse their collections. Plus, local independents are often great partners with their neighborhood libraries. But if you want to shop online, here are five alternatives for books:

Better World Books

Better World Books is another online book retailer that is committed to making positive change in the world. It was created by two college students that saw a need and a market for old books, specifically those on campus that students no longer needed but couldn’t sell for much back to their campus bookstore. Eventually this venture grew into partnerships with local libraries to rescue unused books and use the revenue generated to fund libraries.

So far they have raised millions of dollars while also saving millions of books and creating jobs. They have a huge collection of used and new books as well as a fun “bargain bin” to explore. As a tribute to the website’s history, Better World Books also has a textbook section that is up to 90 percent off for students or anyone else looking to pick up some new knowledge.

Thrift Books

Thrift Books is the place to go if you’re looking for secondhand books. Not only does it carry bestsellers, you can also use the site to find new releases that you are interested in reading. The site carries large collections of books encompassing different genres and topics as well as a section for movies and TV, music, and video games.

It keeps a running blog written by different people that cover trending topics in new releases, reading related topics, and current events. The cool thing about Thrift Books is that supporting this site not only supports books (they save millions of books from being destroyed every year) it also helps support social causes. Thrift Books donates titles to prisons, schools, and literacy programs which means one way or another, these books are getting a second life at bringing joy and knowledge to someone out there.


Those looking to move their spending from big corporations to independent bookstores can check out Bookshop.org. This site is dedicated to supporting local bookstores by creating a one-stop shop for book buyers to browse and purchase books to support a specific bookstore or contribute to a community pool that gets distributed to independent bookstores.

The site makes it easy to search for bookstores near you and they’ve raised $13,572,940.64 so far for local shops. There’s endless titles to choose from on the site but for those who need some guidance, there are a variety of created reading lists from “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” to “Moms Don’t Have Time To Read Books in 2021” created by Bookshop.org.


Libro.fm is another site dedicated to supporting the independent bookstore but through audiobooks. It offers monthly memberships that equate to one audiobook credit, making it easy for listeners to chip away at their reading list. For those that aren’t daily listeners of books, there is also an “a la carte” option where you can buy as you go.

This small business is committed to supporting other small businesses. Not only does it function as a business, it has goals to enact social change by increasing access to books using technology. Their equity, diversity, and inclusion practices show up throughout their site through AAPI audiobook recommendations and their blog which covers topics such as AAPI-owned bookstores and author interviews featuring authors from diverse backgrounds.

Libraries have always tackled a critical problem that many members of the community face through lending of their digital collections. It is not always feasible for someone to make a physical trip to a library or even afford a book which means ebooks and audiobooks are the way to go. While Amazon’s restrictions may not affect everyone or have much of an effect at all, it does make a statement when it comes to the type of knowledge sharing the company supports. Rather than dropping book titles into your Amazon cart, use socially conscious sites that support local businesses and libraries when you shop.



PC Sweeney

Libraries, Politics, Sailing! EveryLibrary Political director, award winning political consultant, USCG MMC Captain