We know it’s tempting: Amazon is inexpensive and incredibly convenient. You can score a copy of the bestseller on The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, a garden hose, and even that nifty Hutzler Banana Slicer you’ve had your eye on, all with just a few clicks of your mouse.
But if you are irked that the books you see on Amazon’s website are being filtered for you based on how their publishers do business with the merchandising giant, there are alternatives to doing business there.
We’re not going to include the obvious places, like your public library or your local indie book store — both of which we hope you patronize regularly — but here are nine awesome online places to buy or swap your books.
1. Oyster: Advertised as a kind of “Netflix for books,” Oyster is a newish startup that charges $9.95 per month for unlimited access to more than 500,000 ebooks from big-name publishers like HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Melville House, Rodale, Smashwords, Perseus, and more. You can sync your books across all your devices, and also read offline. It’s recently added a children’s section that includes books from Disney Publishing, which is incredibly convenient if your kid turns to you at bedtime and says, “Just one more story! What else do we have to read?” One downside to Oyster Books: The app is currently for iOS only. The website does have a sign-up list for those who use Android, although there is currently no information on when it will be publishing on that platform.
2. Scribd: For $8.99 per month, Scribd reminds me of an all-you-can-eat buffet where the items are an eclectic array of dishes cooked by both famous chefs and home cooks. While Scribd carries books from major publishers like HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, it also allows self-published books and documents to be uploaded, so let the buyer beware what she is downloading. Available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.
3. Kobo: Kobo sells a line of e-reader devices, but you don’t have to buy one to read its books and magazines. In fact, Kobo’s library is available on an array of platforms: iOS, Android, desktop for Mac and PC, BlackBerry, and Windows 8, with a mobile Windows 8 version “coming soon.”
4. Nook: Barnes & Noble just announced a partnership with Samsung to create a co-branded tablet called the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook that would enhance the experience of e-reading. Passing on the hardware design to Samsung will hopefully allow Barnes & Noble to focus on what it does best: selling books. Like Kobo, Nook is available on diverse platforms.
5. iBooks: Yes, we know; it’s Apple. But it’s not Amazon, there are more than 2 million titles, and you can store your books in the cloud. Also, if there’s a particular passage that you think your friend will love, there’s a sharing function that enables you to highlight and share passages via email, text, or through social media. Available on Apple devices only.
Online hard-copy book sellers
6. Alibris: Kind of like eBay, in that you are buying from a number of different sellers, not Alibris itself. If you fear you are about to be buried in the books you have hoarded –– sorry, collected –– you can sell your books to Alibris for resale. Some say that the amount you need to spend to qualify for free shipping ($49.00) is a tad high.
7. Powell’s Books: Has an actual brick-and-mortar shop located in Portland, Oregon, but has received good reviews for a range of titles and service. The policy on returns could be a bit better: It’s currently only 14 days.
8. PaperBackSwap: A website that will cure you of your book hoarding, but in a good way: You earn credits by sending your finished paperback books to other readers who want to read them, and you can use those credits to receive other books. Build up your credits and, with the exception of paying postage, you can read for free.
Online book search engine
9. BookFinder: A search engine that can help you locate that bestseller, a rare, out-of-print tome, or even a textbook. You can see which booksellers BookFinder.com partners with here.
This story has been updated to reflect the current number of titles offered by Oyster.