The Best Places to Buy Books Online

A person looks at books in a New York City bookstore
Emily Geraghty/

It’s a brand-new year, and if you’re like many people, you might have set a New Year’s resolution to read more books. However, sticking to your resolution means you’ll need to have an outstanding selection of books to choose from. And with the help of these websites, you’ll be able to create one hell of a to-read list.

The Best Places to Buy Books Online

We found six supreme bookstores that aren’t Amazon and are itching to be your new one-stop shop for good reads, especially if you don’t have a favorite local bookstore near you. Each shop offers a great selection of books along with a unique perk, like supporting other local bookstores or donating a book with every purchase. Some are all-purpose bookstores with huge inventories of new books, while others focus on rare collections or offer a variety of steeply discounted used titles.

No matter which bookstore ultimately captures your heart, hopefully you can find a huge stack of books to keep you company as you curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea. And should you end up with more books than you could read in a lifetime (hey, it happens to the best of us), you could always learn to speed read, right?

Bookshop: Supports Local Bookstores


Though it’s only a year old, Bookshop has made a huge splash in the book community as it’s on a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. The online bookstore is offering a convenient way to easily and quickly buy books online while simultaneously supporting smaller bookstores. In fact, it gives away more than 75% of its profit margin to bookstores, authors, and publications as a way to help keep the book culture and independent bookselling ecosystem alive and thriving.

Bookshop also has an affiliate program, which pays out a 10% commission for every sale and gives a matching 10% to indie bookstores. You can also look up local bookstores in your area on the site’s map tool, and Bookshop will ensure they receive the full profit from your order. Otherwise, if you don’t look up a local bookstore, earnings from your order will contribute to an earnings pool that’s divvied up evenly among independent bookstores, regardless of whether or not they use Bookshop. So far, Bookshop has raised over $10 million for local bookstores.

The online bookstore has an incredibly large selection of books across all of the standard genres, including categories for other languages and even graphic novels. You can browse Bookshop’s weekly bestsellers list, and other ever-rotating categories like “Making Sense of These Times,� “Books Turned TV Series,� “Afrofuturism,� and “The 1970 Book Club.�

Purchasing books on the site is easy, as pricing, formats, descriptions, and other details are clearly displayed for each one. It’s also easy to contact customer service, initiate a return, or buy a gift card. Bookshop has fairly fast shipping, which is nice to have when you find a book you’ve just got to read right now. Its only downside, however, is its lack of shipping options for those outside the United States, though it hopes to be able to provide them in the future.

ThriftBooks: Inexpensive New and Used Books

ThriftBooks for discounted new and used books

If you’re on a budget, ThriftBooks is your new best friend. The humble site offers a large variety of new and used books at a discount, as well as regular deals and a rewards program through which you can earn points and redeem them for free books. The store has partnered with libraries and other vendors to ensure books end up in a good home, and not in the trash.

Based in Washington, ThriftBooks began in 2003 and has since expanded to a 62,000-foot warehouse capable of holding one million books as well as multiple regional processing centers across the United States. It’s one of the largest online independent used booksellers, but it also sells CDs, vinyls, video games, DVDs, and Blu-rays.

Searching for books on the ThriftBooks is a cinch. You can browse both standard and collectible titles by selecting a specific genre, or you can browse curated choices on the home page, like “Staff Picks,� “New and Trending,� and “Under $5.� Its Collectible Books selection is no less impressive, with first editions, signed copies, and collectible printings. All book conditions are individually rated by a staff member, ranging from New down to Acceptable.

Format, pricing, condition, and other details are listed on each book’s individual page, along with similar title recommendations, related subject suggestions, and customer reviews. For shipping, ThriftBooks charges $0.99 per book for orders under $10, but no additional charge for orders over $10. Multiple shipping options are offered, too, but new books are not eligible to be shipped outside the United States.

Powell’s Books: The World’s Largest Indie Bookstore


Based in Portland, Powell’s Books is the world’s largest independent bookstore, and if you’ve ever been to its extremely spacious (like, entire city block spacious) brick-and-mortar, you understand why it’s every book lover’s paradise. Well, that, and it has over a million books on its shelves just waiting to be plucked by an adoring reader like you.

Powell’s is a great place for finding both new books and well-loved (a.k.a. used) titles, but its huge selection makes it a wondrous choice for when you want to do a deep dive on a subject. In fact, it’s got “subject� covered, with picks for everything from artist biographies and parapsychology to LGBTQ anthologies and almanacs. There’s also a solid variety of audiobooks, signed books, and stuff like notebooks and calendars. Powell’s even has book club subscriptions, if that’s more your style.

If you’ve got a stack of books you’ve already read and are looking to get rid of, you can sell your books to Powell’s. You can get immediate offers online, receive payment via PayPal or in-store credit, and Powell’s will even cover the shipping. But be warned, Powell’s is particular about what book conditions it accepts (like no Book Club Editions), and you’ll need to submit either a minimum of seven books or $9 of in-store credit before the bid will be accepted.

Powell’s also has regular in-store (and now virtual) events, featuring global authors like Roxane Gay, Michio Kaku, and André Aciman with discussions about their books and related topics. When you’re ready to shop, just click on a book to see its pricing and other options and information. Powell’s offers free shipping on orders over $50, easy returns, and backs all of their books in at least a Good condition with a guarantee. It also offers international shipping, but may currently be unable to ship to some countries due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Better World Books: Books Donated with Every Purchase

Better World Books makes a book donated with each purchase
Better World Books

With every purchase made at Better World Books, a book is donated to someone in need, with over 13 million donations made to date. What’s not to love about that? If you’re a bibliophile and a philanthropist, Better World Books is your perfect bookstore. It also partners with colleges and libraries to collect used books and donate them to nonprofit literacy projects worldwide.

The site has a quality selection of new and used books, in addition to audiobooks and textbooks. Pricing, format, condition, and other pertinent details for books are all clearly listed on individual title pages. Better World Books even offers free standard shipping worldwide (though there are currently some countries with restrictions or delays due to COVID-19). And if you’re an avid reader? BWB has a rewards program that gives you points for each dollar you spend, which you can use for discounts on future book purchases.

As a continuation of Better World Book’s goodwill, the bookstore also gives you the option to choose for your book order to be shipped carbon balanced for only a few extra cents. So far it has offset 87,000 tons of carbon. It also has grants that fund educational and literacy nonprofits as well as libraries for specific projects aimed at reducing poverty through education. It even encourages its employees to volunteer and provides them with paid time off to do so.

Alibris: Great for Hard-to-Read Books

Alibris is a great bookstore for shopping for hard-to-find books

If you’re a book collector, always on the lookout for rare and hard-to-find books, you won’t want to miss Alibris. The site has access to over 270 million books, movies, and music albums from independent sellers around the world. It’s also a great resource for finding antique books along with collectibles.

Alibris makes shopping for books easy as its collection spans all manner of categories, like horror, erotica, drama, recreation, and comics. It even sells eBooks and textbooks, and has a great Bargain bin offering up to 80% off new releases and classics alike. Some books (including select rare and out-of-print titles) are even eligible for free shipping, but only within the United States, though it does offer paid shipping for international customers.

The online bookstore supports thousands of independent sellers worldwide. Clicking on a book (or other product) shows you your seller options, including their name, location, and customer rating. You’ll be able to view pricing and format options, as well, allowing you to choose the exact product you want to purchase and the store you want to purchase it from.

Got old stuff? You can sell your used items—like DVDs, music, and books—to Alibris. While the site does charge a fee for selling your stuff, it offers real-time competitive estimates for any seller across the globe. Alibris also has a forum where users can talk about all things books, and the amazing Book Fetch feature, which locates specific titles (especially those that are hard to find) and notifies you when one is added to its inventory.

The Strand: Great for Pre-Orders and Rarities

The Strand, a huge bookstore with a penchant for signed pre-orders and rare titles
The Strand

With 18 miles of books under its roof, The Strand has a selection that’s drool-worthy for even the most seasoned bookworms. The bookshop is based in the heart of New York City, and its staff always has the latest and greatest recommendations. It also offers good discounts on books, and is a great store for pre-ordering books and finding rare book titles on topics like Ancient Art and Philosophy.

The Strand goes beyond just having lots of books to sell. It offers monthly book picks, gifts and apparel, vinyl, subscription boxes, rare and collectible items, and hosts live events with authors and communities about a variety of topics. It even sells books by the foot based on color, style, or subject, plus there’s an option to rent books for an occasion (think: set dressing, photoshoots, and other events).

Those that really love books, you can even enjoy a 30-minute private guided tour of The Strand’s Rare Book Room (when you buy a $250 gift card). The tour is led by a veteran staff member who has worked at the shop for over 30 years, and you’ll be able to see stunning gems like James Joyce’s Ulysses as illustrated by Henri Matisse (which, by the way, has an equally stunning price tag of $45,000) and a commentary on the Psalms printed in 1480.

The Strand breaks its massive collection of books down both by location within its store and by collection, with super specific categories like “Cigars and Smoking,� “Espionage,� “Wildlife,� and “Labor/Union Studies,� along with more standardized categories. Clicking on a book shows you its price and other details. The Strand ships within the United States as well as internationally.

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