Sustainable Book Buying Guide

Sustainable Book Buying Guide

By Bethan Bates


Alongside books and reading one of my passions is eco-sustainability. This means that I work to improve my part in saving the planet. 


Something we as book readers should be aware of in terms of eco-sustainability is where we are buying our books from and who we are supporting with our money. Remember: consumerism is the sole drive of production. Many people are aware of the ethical failings of Amazon, but often do not know where to go instead to buy books. So here are my top tips for sustainable book buying.


Use Your Library!

– Although during this current pandemic it may be hard to get to your local library, it is always good to keep this in mind.

– The benefits of a library are uncountable. You save money, you’re supporting a great local resource and the librarians are very knowledgeable and really helpful!

– You are also allowing books to be re-used and preventing new books from being printed thus, saving paper.


Local and Independent Shops

– Wherever possible, it is always best to shop locally, from independent stores

– This prevents books being shipped over vast distances (often internationally) and you’re supporting local businesses that need your custom to thrive and continue to exist.

– Again, when shopping with independent bookstores you have the benefit of great customer service and the help of knowledgeable staff – if you ever want a book recommendation, local stores are an excellent place to start!

– Even if your local area doesn’t have any independent booksellers, shopping locally with chain stores such as Waterstones or WHSmiths can still help with your sustainability.

– Another option for local buying are charity shops – places such as Oxfam, The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research and most other charity shops will have a great selection of books. Here, you are supporting a great cause, for a great price, and helping stop new books being printed. If you can’t find what you are looking for online, some charities have online stores with much bigger selections too!


Print or Ebook?

– Some people (like me) are truly print book purists – and that is fine. However, you do have to be aware of the environmental impact of this. Try to look out for books with the FSC logo to ensure that they come from sustainable sources.

– Another sustainable way to buy print books is to get them second hand, this can be from charity shops, online marketplaces, or even second hand online book stores such as World Of Books. This option also saves you a ton of money! 

– If you are buying e-books, you may be tempted by the ease of Amazon and Kindle but there are a number of other, smaller businesses that sell ebooks too.

– Ebooks are a great way to save space when buying books, especially if you are a renter and don’t have much storage. By buying e-books, you’re preventing new print books from being produced as well.


Boycott Amazon

– Although you may already be doing this, you may still be tempted by the low prices and that next day delivery!

– Consider the wider impacts of buying from Amazon and try to, wherever you can, avoid purchasing from them.

– Note that Amazon actually owns AbeBooks and Book Depository. This is something that shocked me as I had been using both of these sites in an attempt to combat buying from Amazon! What a disappointment.

– I am going to share some other online alternatives to Amazon below – but if you want to look into this more, then check out They do a great job of ranking other options and explain the pros and cons!


Where To Go?

High Street Stores: many high street stores also have online sites where you can buy books – this is great especially if you have vouchers or loyalty cards!


Hive: a great new find for me (rates a 10/20 on EC). They sell second hand books and show you local independent stores that you can donate part of the sale to at checkout – this is a great way to support local stores even when buying online.


World of Books: rating a 14/20 on EC, they are one of the most ethical companies out there for online book buying. This is another second hand store selling books from places such as Ziffit and buying bulk orders of unsold books – I have heard there have been some issues with customer service – but I wouldn’t disregard it for this alone (plus, Lucie, our sustainability editor, who swears by World of Books, shops from them regularly and never had a problem with them). rating 13/20 on EC, are a great alternative to Amazon for ebooks. They offer over one million titles so there is plenty of choice. They boast of an expert team with many members having been a part of the company since its beginning.


I hope that you have found this post helpful and that you will consider a more sustainable and ethical path when next buying books. If in doubt, boycott Amazon and go local! 



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