One of the first steps I took in my sustainability journey was patronizing my local library. I’m lucky enough to live in Boston, home of the iconic Boston Public Library. In addition to the central location, the library also has 23 satellite locations throughout Boston’s various neighborhoods. This accessibility made the transition from buying to renting absolutely seamless. I’d simply reserve my book online, walk five minutes down the street to pick it up, and drop it off two weeks later in the same location. That’s the beauty of a great library system—the simplicity & financial benefits make it easy to adopt.
But then COVID hit. Not only have I had the same book out for the past five months (I’m not able to make returns at my local branch), I also can only take out books from the central location—a 40 minute T ride away. As much as I love my library and know my longterm support is critical, right now the lack of regular entertainment and the added risk of actually getting to the library has driven me to seek alternatives.
In keeping with my sustainability goals, I didn’t want to just go running to the first Amazon banner or buy a completely new addition of every book on my wishlist. Thankfully, it turns out there are a lot of online used booksellers that don’t raise money for Jeff Bezos. Better yet, many also contribute to literacy charities or donate books to causes you can feel good supporting.
Alibris is my go-to for cheap used books. My favorite thing about this online marketplace is that it partners with smaller charity shops and booksellers to help them reach wider audiences. Knowing where the book is actually being shipped from helps me to be more environmentally conscious when choosing where I buy and gives me as the consumer a huge range of price options.
Better World Books is a great resource for buying used books that give back. Although their prices are not as competitive as Alibris, Better World Books is committed to providing grants for libraries, closing literacy gaps, and cutting back on the number of books that end up in landfills.
Good Books is an Atlanta-based book shop selling vintage & new books. The shop is Black-owned and founded by a mother-daughter team. Their selection celebrates Black authors and boasts titles you’d be hardpressed to find at generic commercial booksellers.
Bookshop makes it easy to shop by specific booksellers. The website offers small storefronts a digital platform, helping them reach broader audiences, but also enables you as the buyer to support bookstores in your area from the safety of your home. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a feature to narrow the selection down to only used books but you can narrow down the type of bookstore you’re looking for to “used”. If you’re hoping to support Brown & Black-owned businesses, check out Estelita’s Library and Bookish and Black, amongst other members.
Unfortunately, Audible is owned by Amazon. The good news? Other audiobook companies have popped up in the past few years—some pretty comparable to Audible’s mammoth selection.
One alternative I found is Audiobooks Now. After your 30-day trial, it’s $4.99 a month. This price gives you access to popular & relevant titles, like Where the Crawdads Sing and The Color of Law. But keep in mind you will have to pay for each audiobook individually; the monthly subscription just gets you a discount on each book.
The other option out there is Scribd. After your 30-day free trial, you’ll pay $9.99 a month for unlimited digital books and audiobooks. If you’re someone who likes to listen to books and prefers reading from a Kindle or tablet, this is a pretty economical option for you. Scribd has many popular names and makes it easy to discover new titles to add to your summer reading list.
Speaking of which, here is the list of books I’m sitting down with this summer:
MY SUMMER BOOKUT LIST
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Wildsam Field Guides: Desert Southwest by Taylor Bruce & Caroline Tomlinson
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Have a favorite online bookseller? Want to share your summer reads? Post them in the comments below.