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9 Great Places To Get Affordable And Free Books Online

From audiobooks at Libro.fm to print books from Bookshop.org to e-books from Kobo, you have more options than you might realize.

Posted on June 22, 2021, at 3:43 p.m. ET

Getty / saulgranda

Getty / saulgranda

Who they are: Bookshop has been positioned as the key competitor of Amazon in book e-commerce, allowing independent bookstores to sell and fulfill through an account on Bookshop as opposed to managing their own online orders. Customers can search for independent bookstore partners to support, so that the full profits from any purchases they make will go directly to that bookstore. Proceeds from purchases made independent of any specific bookstore are divided among independent bookstores, regardless of if they're partnered with the site. (BuzzFeed is currently an affiliate partner of Bookshop.)

Perks:

  • User-friendly site
  • Extensive inventory
  • Competitive pricing
  • Countless curated lists from bookstores, book media, and influencers
  • Gives over 75% of profits to bookstores, authors, and affiliate partners

Check it out.

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Who they are: Biblio has been online marketplace for booksellers since 2003. In 2005, they also launched their nonprofit foundation, Biblioworks, which assists in international book drives and distributes to hospitals, prisons, schools, and underfunded communities around the world.

Perks:

  • Great user experience — extensive advanced search system allows you to limit to your most specific preferences while searching bookstores by location allows you to browse inventories as if you were in the shop
  • Massive inventory
  • Paid rewards program
  • Supports independent bookstores around the world
  • Committed to global social responsibility through donations to literacy and environmental initiatives

Check it out.

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Who they are: Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Portland, Oregon–based institution is one of the world's largest independent bookstores. For my money, its online arm rivals any of the e-commerce giants — and beats many.

Perks:

  • Extensive secondhand book collection — you can even sign up to find out when specific titles are available used
  • Regular sales — check out their current 20% off sale on a curated list of must-read Japanese fiction
  • Staff expertise, great blog
  • Flat-rate $3.99 shipping, free shipping over $50
  • Buys books remotely

Check it out.

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Who they are: Libro.fm is an audiobook subscription service that splits profits with independent bookstores; currently, they're partnered with over 9,000 sellers. You can choose a local bookstore to support either through a $14.99/month subscription (which gives you one audiobook credit per month plus 30% off additional purchases) or through a la carte purchases. I joined over a year ago and have been shouting about it ever since.

Perks:

Check it out.

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Who they are: ThriftBooks describes itself as "the world's largest online independent used book seller" but despite their size (over 13 million titles!) they manage to maintain the general vibe of a local shop, and their staff recommendations and used book descriptions suggest a team of true book lovers. Plus, they have a proven history of giving back: They profit-share with libraries; partner with nonprofits to donate books to underfunded schools, prison libraries, and more; and they're committed to eco-friendly practices.

Perks:

  • Massive secondhand inventory
  • Low prices
  • Rewards program
  • Hand-graded (i.e., accurately described) books
  • Free shipping over $10
  • User-friendly app
  • Solid staff picks

Check it out.

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Who they are: Alibris has been selling used books online since 1998 and now boasts an inventory of over 170 million items that customers can buy directly from independent sellers around the world.

Perks:

  • Extensive selection, especially in used textbooks
  • International sellers
  • Thorough search and rating systems
  • Select free-shipping collections
  • Also sells music and movies

Check it out.

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Who they are: Kobo is *the* e-book alternative to Kindle. Users rave about Kobo e-readers and their audiobook and e-book libraries, as well as the fact that you can use them to rent and read library e-books.

Perks:

  • Excellent site, app, and user experience
  • Extensive library
  • Collection of highly rated e-reader models
  • Built-in OverDrive feature in select models, which allows you to rent e-books directly from libraries
  • Cheap audiobook subscription ($9.99/month)
  • Select free and DRM-free titles
  • Rewards program
  • Frequent deep-discount sales and deals
  • Student discount program

Check it out.

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Who they are: Scribd launched in 2007 as a publishing platform but has since expanded into a reading and listening subscription platform, though its library is limited (but growing). Where it excels is in its collection of niche user-uploaded documents, especially academic papers and sheet music.

Perks:

  • Unlimited downloads, albeit from a limited library — be sure to browse (or test out their free trial) before committing
  • Intuitive app and user experience
  • Cheap ($9.99/month) subscription fee

Check it out.

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Find: Ebooks, audiobooks, textbooks, journals, and magazines

Who they are: OverDrive and Libby are apps that allow readers to borrow e-books, audiobooks, and more from participating libraries for free. Libby is the recommended and most current app, though OverDrive has better accessibility, multimedia streaming, and multi-language features. (OverDrive's Sora app is specifically for students.)

Perks:

  • Free books!
  • Intuitive app and user experience
  • Allows you to support your public library
  • Available to library members around the world
  • Available across multiple devices
  • Strong social media and user community

Check it out.

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IndieBound doesn't sell online, but it can help you find and connect with an independent bookstore in your community — many of which sell online and offer shipping, local delivery, or curbside pickup. Buying new books from a small business will almost certainly be pricier than using the sites above, but if you can swing it, it's a worthwhile investment.

"Independent bookstores are heavily invested in important community-building work, in addition to providing expert curation, free literary programming, and local jobs," says Danny Caine, author of How to Resist Amazon and Why and owner of Raven Bookstore. "Plus, most of every dollar spent at an independent bookstore stays in your community."

Find your community bookstore.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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