Wednesday 17 June 2020

Where to Access Books and Avoid Funding Amazon

I love books. We know that, it is a fact anyone who has even glanced at my blog will know. With lockdown combined with a summer holiday from uni, I recently got an urge for book-buying, and I have bought a few, adding to the forever growing pile of books on my shelf I haven’t yet read. However, with the pandemic we have also seen horrific companies such as Amazon prospering as people are looking for more online delivery options. While I recognise how much Amazon can help and be the only option for some people, I believe that anyone who is in the position to boycott them should. There are so many reasons why Amazon and Jeff Bezos are horrendous (I won’t go into full detail here, but maybe another time), but I think, as much as possible, we should avoid funding a billionaire who doesn’t pay his taxes and treats his workers badly. 

So when I saw Eleanor Claudie’s post a few weeks ago talking about places to get books that weren’t Amazon, I was excited because people are talking about this issue. I also thought I could add to what Eleanor had said, and suggest further of points of access for books which aren’t connected to Amazon, and can support writers, independent bookshops and publishing houses across the country and the world (and also some ways which help the environment). A couple of the places I have mentioned were mentioned by Eleanor, but I think they deserve mentioning again. Some places I’ve mentioned aren’t suitable for use at the moment (e.g. charity shops, physical libraries, etc.), but they’re still important to keep in mind pandemic or no pandemic. I’ve split these into different categories – New, Subscriptions, Secondhand, Borrow, and Online – so hopefully you can find somewhere which is useful and accessible to you. Please let me know other places to find books (I will never say no to accessing more books) in the comments or tweet me!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links marked *



Hive are amazing. They’re just incredible. I’m seriously going to try and make an effort to buy more books from them rather than from bigger chains (even if they’re not corporations like Amazon). Hive are a book-selling site dedicated to supporting independent bookshops – something which is so so important at any time, but particularly with the economic effects of the pandemic leaving many independent bookshops in danger of closing. After you have completed a purchase, you have the option to choose a specific bookshop to support, with suggested stores provided to you based on your postcode. This is a great way to support independent bookshops in lockdown, particularly if the shop you want to support doesn’t do deliveries or have an online shop. Similarly, lockdown or not it provides a means of supporting a bookshop you love which may be far away from where you live. I think you can purchase without nominating a specific shop, and in that case I think the profits get split up to different shops, but it’s nice knowing you’re funding somewhere in particular. 

I made a recent purchase from Hive and nominated October Books in Southampton to receive the money I spent. These books have been on my to-read for a while and I can’t wait to read them all!

These are the books from my recent Hive order. I also ordered
Afropean by Johnny Pitts but that's not arrived yet

Buy directly from your local independent store

Whilst Hive helps you buy from any UK independent shop you want (as long as it’s in their network), it is still online and sometimes you just want to get in an actual small bookshop. And we all know how magical small bookshops are. Or you may simply want to directly support the shop directly, as not all of the money you spend on sites like Hive go to the store you’ve chosen to support. You may have a great store near you you’re already aware of, or you could use sites like Hive to find independent bookshops to find new shops to discover and explore. Either way, go for it! Here are some examples of independent bookshops doing great things, but please look for ones local to you: 

The Vagina Museum

The Vagina Museum are incredible, and I was hoping to visit them during April but obviously with the pandemic that couldn’t happen. In lieu of visiting them, I’ve had to make do with scrolling through their website, resources, and of course, their online shop. If, like me, you’re a massive nerd for books about sex, bodies, sexuality, periods and feminism, this is the place for you. Honestly I just want to read all the books they have. Buying from the Vagina Museum is also a great way to help keep information about vulvas in the public eye, supporting activists doing great work and breaking down taboos. Plus, who doesn’t want to learn more about vulvas?? 

Waterstones* and Foyles

These are potentially the most obvious places to go when looking for books somewhere that’s not Amazon. I’ve included them together because Foyles was recently taken over my Waterstones and they both had similar purposes before the merger.

Foyles is my happy place, my heaven, and I try to make an effort to visit their Charing Cross Road shop whenever I got to London. There is something comforting about a Waterstones store and I do always feel at home in them. I think my favourite one is the one on Blackett Street in Newcastle, right outside Grey’s Monument. I love the spot on the second floor in the corner, which has a stool and a small table and looks out onto the area outside Monument. I’m going to stop thinking about it otherwise I’ll cry. Wow I miss Newcastle. 

Guardian Books

That’s right, newspapers sell books too. Guardian Books sells many books at a discount to their retail price, along with some snazzy prints! Many of the books have been reviewed in the paper and are pretty new to the market, so you may find a book you love before the hype hits.

Order directly from the publishers 

Yes, you can do this. It’s not very common but it’s possible. If you want to reduced how much your books are shipped (saving on emissions etc.), or want to support small independent publishers, this could be something you’d be interested in. For example, Pluto Press is a radical publisher and bookseller based in the UK.


If you’ve ever been somewhere in the UK that has a university, you will have probably seen a Blackwell’s. They are known for providing students the texts they need for their courses (whether fictional, political texts, science textbooks or whatever you need. You can really tell that I have no idea what equipment STEM students need) and sell a mixture of new and secondhand books. These can often be bought in course bundles at reduced prices. I try not to buy from them where possible as the owner was revealed to be a significant donor to UKIP a few years ago, so I feel kind of uncomfortable buying from them. Sometimes however, they are the only ones who have the books I need for my course (sadly not everything is available in even a university library) and I end up buying from Blackwell’s. But they’re my last resort and I will try everywhere else before giving in an buying from them.


Unbound is a crowdfunding publisher which funds the publishing of books and the advances of writers through pledges from potential readers. Readers pledge a certain amount of money, often coming with different rewards (e.g. ebook, paperback, hardback, signed, etc.) and then prints the book once the required funds are met. I recently bought Hazel Hayes’ debut novel Out of Love from Unbound, and there are lots of other books on there which look super interesting. 


I love the idea of book subscription services, even if they’re something I’ve never participated in before myself, I can see why people do and would like to join a couple at some point in the future (even if only for a few months). They are often quite expensive, but the beauty of them is that you don’t need to always join for a set amount of time and often get other perks alongside the book itself (for example, access to online events, gifts, etc.). 

Books That Matter

Books That Matter is a feminist book subscription service, aiming to empower, educate and enlighten. I always keep a note of the books they send out and feature on their Instagram, and adding them to my to-read list. Their subscription costs £17 a month for one book and 3 themed gifts by independent female creatives. I think a one off box would make a great gift, even if you can’t subscribe for much longer.


Whilst also selling literary gifts (bags, jumpers, bookmarks, etc.), Bookishly also deliver a bi-monthly ‘book crate’ based around a classic text. These include the Wizard of Oz, The Little Prince, and the book for July is based around the plays of Oscar Wilde. Their crates cost £35 a month and include a paperback and seven other items themed around the included text (apparently it would have a retail price of £55 so overall is a big discount if this is something you’d be interested in). They also sell any remaining stock from previously months if you’ve missed a book you’d love to read. 

Women’s Writes

Women’s Writes is an online subscription service and book club which features books by and about women. They hold a variety of events, from zoom discussions, author events and more. Some of the events are only for members, but lots are free to take part in. There is a cost to membership, covering books, delivery and helping to pay authors to partake in their events, with some of the membership fee being donated to women’s charities. They have different membership packages, ranging from £6.99 to £30 a month. 

A Box of Stories

In comparison to the other subscription services I’ve mentioned, A Box of Stories are a lot cheaper, with 4 books for £14.99 (they also do 20% student discount!). It is A Box of Stories’ mission to save good books from being thrown away, so each of the books you receive are well reviewed yet overall unknown books which otherwise wouldn’t get sold. Each box is different, which I think is pretty cool. 


World of Books

World of Books has a wide range and delivers globally. I recently ordered some books I want to re-read but first read from a library, as well as some books I haven’t yet read but was able to find for slightly cheaper than if I were to buy them new. They arrived super quickly and I can’t wait to read them. World of Books have fiction books, children’s books, non-fiction books as well as some old/rare books and music and DVDs. 


Not just for clothes, Depop has a whole load of other items available secondhand, including books. They may not be in such big supply, but it’s worth checking to see what you can find near you!


Again, like Depop, stocks will vary depending on your location, what people are selling, how many people are selling etc. but it’s definitely worth having a look at, especially if you’re trying to find academics books/textbooks as people often sell them on through sites like eBay once they’ve finished with them. 

Charity Shops

So many charity shops sell books, and I love looking to see what people no longer want and at the random things you can find. These are another place I always look when trying to source materials for my uni reading. Some charities have their own dedicated bookstores in some areas, including Amnesty International and Oxfam, and some are still selling books online.


Local Secondhand Bookshops

All over the place there are secondhand bookshops – buying from and selling to the local community. My favourite is Troutmark Books in Cardiff. I absolutely adore it there and always try to visit whenever I’m in the city.

The Second Shelf

I have visited The Second Shelf once and I think they’re amazing. I was debating about whether or not to include them as part of the ‘local independent store’ section but decided against it in the end as the vast majority of the books they sell are secondhand. They’re a small shop in Soho, London, and focus on selling books by women, and have so many first editions of well-known books and super obscure ones. It was great to simply look through the shelves in awe. However, as you would expect these first editions are very expensive (it’s my aim in life to won just one first edition of an author I love. Yes it’s materialistic but do I care?!). They do have some cheaper products as well though, for example during my visit I bought What Not by Rose Macaulay, which had been brought back into print literally that month. As it was brand new (the text wasn’t, the book itself was) it was the price of a book you would find in places such as Waterstones etc., so it depends what you’re looking for. I think they also sell bookmarks and postcards.

AbeBooks [edit: I have since found out that AbeBooks was acquired by Amazon in 2008, and have removed the link on this post]

AbeBooks has been running since 1996 and is an online marketplace for secondhand books, art and collectables. They also have old comics, old magazine editions (including the New Yorker), sheet music and photographs. Prices obviously vary a lot depend on what you’re buying, but they offer the potential of finding some true gems for quite cheap.


Swap with/borrow from friends and family

I love giving book recommendations to friends and family, and what better way is there to recommend a book than to give it to someone else to read? Swap with friends and family or borrow without giving another one in return if they don’t want a recommendation. If you’re a part of any online social media groups put up pictures of books you no longer need/want to offer to send out to people in return for another book. I’ve seen books being given away on Leena Norms’ Gumption Club Facebook group and always keep an eye out for any books I’ve been recently wanting to read! You could also start a small swap circle with friends to either send through the post or swap in person then maybe compare notes afterwards! There are so many ways to swap and share books you love; you just have to be a little creative. 

Read those books you’ve had on your shelf for ages

You probably have at least one, if not a whole pile, of books you haven’t read yet that you already own. READ THEM! 

Your Local Library

I absolutely love libraries. They’re my safe space. They have so much to offer to the community and deserve to be loved, cherished and celebrated (and funded!). Libraries are so important to so many people and they need to be kept. Many have had to diversify in order to justify their spending by the government as they are under significant threat of closure otherwise (thank you austerity). I used to work in a library, and I think that’s what made me realise just how important they are, and it also made me completely fall in love with them. I have read so many books I otherwise wouldn’t have because they’ve been part of the library catalogue, whether I’ve sought them out deliberately, found them randomly on a shelf, or been recommended them by a staff member, volunteer or customer. I have also saved so much money by making the most of my local library.  Honestly, we’re probably talking hundreds of pounds here. This becomes especially significant in terms of books I need as part of my degree. For my English course I have to read a lot of books that are very specific, sometimes quite niche and which I may not want/need to read again, so I always check to see if my library has them as soon as I get my reading list through. 

As I mentioned, libraries also offer a whole range of other services, bookish or otherwise. These include Borrowbox, an app you can download to your phone which allows you to access free ebooks and audiobooks through your local library membership. Pretty cool if you ask me, and a great way to continue to support libraries whilst they’re closed due to lockdown! 

These are the books I currently have on loan from my local library


Now that we’re all spending a lot more time at home, with physical bookshops and libraries closed, online libraries, archives and online stores have become crucial to keeping books and knowledgeable accessible. Granted, not everything is available online, but a surprising amount is. 

Open Library/

Open Library is amazing. There are so many books here which are available for free which aren’t yet out of copyright, so can’t be found many other places. It acts kind of like an online library, as you check books out and then return them after a maximum of 2 weeks. You can read the books in various forms, but you can also view them in a way that’s more like an actual book, with images of an original book and digital pages that will flip over like paper ones. It’s easy to maneuvre and has a wide range. You do have to make an account, but is free, and I’ve not had any problems with it.

If you’re in the position to still pay for your books, has lots on offer, often cheaper than the usual sale prices of physical books, including new releases. 


In my opinion, Scribd is pretty cool. I’ve heard such great things and plan to start a 30-day free trial with them soon (30 days free for anyone who hasn’t been able to find some books for free elsewhere). After the free trial, it’s £9.99 a month for accessing their materials. Considering that’s for unlimited books, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers and other documents, I don’t think that’s too bad, and cheaper than some other services (* cough * Amazon * cough*).

Project Gutenberg as over over 60,000 ebooks available for free. That’s surely enough to keep you occupied for a while! Many of these are out of copyright, and there are several in different languages (Dutch, French, Italian and Portugese). You can search for something specific, browse alphabetically or by topic.

I use a lot for uni work, as it holds lots of, as the name would suggest, Marxist theoretical texts, as well as other left wing writings. There are so many writers included here, well-known and more obscure. As well as theoretical texts, some fictional texts are available here (for example, Alexandra Kollontai’s Great Love). 

Another free one! There are so many books here and although you do have to make an account, I think it’s worth it. You have the option of downloading books in various different format, including ePub, PDF and more, so you can read in a way which suits you.

New Yorker

The New Yorker have actually got a lot of literary material available for free. I’d never really thought of them as a fictional reading surce before, but I found the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on there a couple of weeks ago and have been working my way through the various other short works they have. This is also a great way to read pieces by some well-known writers for free. For example, several of Zadie Smith’s works are accessible there. 

The Paris Review

The Paris Review has always seemed quite intimidating to me as such a famous, and historic literary magazine. Recently I’ve been looking through some of the pieces they have for free, although a lot of works they have are only available for subscribers. They have short stories, letters and essays, poetry, interviews and more from a range of both obscure and established writers and is well worth a peruse. 

YouTube (and other social media)

It may seem a bit out there, but YouTube actually has some books accessible, particularly in the form of audiobooks. Lots of children’s stories are available, being read by authors (you can also find various celebrities reading children’s stories on social media platforms such as Instagram), but also some adult stories are available. For example, Jen Campbell has been gradually reading Pride and Prejudice in videos, Leena Norms read the first chapter of Little Women, and Hazel Hayes has read the first few chapters of her upcoming book Out of Love (which I mentioned earlier). It’s worth searching on YouTube to see what other books have been put into audio form. Similarly, in recent weeks, lots of poems, children’s stories etc. have been put on Instagram, so have a look and see what you find (I like the poetry series Emilia Clarke has put together). 


Have a look and see what you find. If there’s a specific book you want to find, you could look online and potentially find it for free on somewhere I haven’t mentioned (there’s a lot of free book websites out there), depending on copyright status.

I hope you’re enjoyed this post and this has been useful. Books and sharing knowledge are so important and I’ve really missed being able to go into bookshops and libraries in the past few months. Here’s to independent bookshops and the free sharing of knowledge! I’ll drink to that.

If you liked this post you might like: 5 Women-Led Shows You Need to Watch


  1. Love this! I'm avoiding Amazon like the plague and most of my recent book buys were either second-hand from eBay, AbeBooks, or Oxfam, or purchased directly from independent bookshops! There are so many alternatives out there! x

    Evie x |

    1. Thank you! It can seem overwhelming at first, but there's definitely ways around it. I recently found out that AbeBooks are actually owned by Amazon! They get everywhere!

      Jemima x

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