[info]aldiara wrote
on August 17th, 2013 at 04:30 pm

A quick bookshop pimp!

Book prices in Kiwi bookshops are pretty much atrocious, even in second-hand places (no, I will not pay you $15 for a yellowed, back-broken, hard-worn, stained paperback, tyvm!), so I've pretty much had to order books from online for years. Since I order a LOT of books, I've tried a lot of online booksellers, especially this year when [info]alsha and I more or less stumbled into collecting rare-edition hardcovers of some of our favourite hardcovers, which, btw, let me take this opportunity to brag that I FINALLY HAVE ALL OF ROBIN HOBB'S FARSEER/LIVESHIPS/TAWNY MAN/RAIN WILDS BOOKS IN SHINY HARDCOVERS, OMG! BEHOLD:

Ahem. Sorry about that. Back to topic! I haven't been using Amazon in years, partly because ugh, big corporate moloch, but mostly because their international shipping is utterly atrocious. Frequently seeing that taunting "this order qualifies for free shipping!" button and knowing it will never, never, never apply to me has made me pretty cranky! There are only so many times you can excitedly click on "checkout," then stare at the shipping rate in shock, realise the shipping is more than your entire order, and cancel the whole thing in disgust, before you go looking for your book-buying needs elsewhere.

There's AbeBooks, of course, and I do use them for rare books and editions I can't find anywhere else, but in general the various sellers' shipping rates are pretty hefty too, so usually even if I get a used book for $0.50, I still end up paying like $16 with shipping, which is a bit ridic.

So I thought I'd share my three top favourite places to order books from - cheaply, hassle-free, and either with free or very cheap shipping!

1. The Book Depository
This UK-based site has been my standard go-to place for books for several years. If you're keen on new rather than used books, I cannot recommend these guys highly enough.

Basic features: They have worldwide free shipping, a huge selection (I've only very rarely not found something I wanted there), and they ship super-fast (I usually receive my order within 10 days, which to New Zealand is just amazing). Plus their prices are really really good and they always have heaps of sales on.

Extra goodies: They also do regular fun super-sale campaigns, like the "24 books in 24 hours" campaign, where a different book goes on a ridiculously cheap sale every hour and you can get some awesome bargains for presents and such (if you're fast! Part of the fun is keeping up with the selling madness for 24 hours :D). It's well worth signing up for the newsletter.

Customer service: Rocks. In the unlikely event that your order gets lost (happened to me once in several years) or arrives damaged, they will replace it immediately with no fuss. My copy of Code Name Verity arrived with a small tear in the back cover, not at all affecting the reading experience, but when I asked them about a discount, they promptly refunded me the full amount so I essentially got a brandnew book with a small flaw for free! Basically they are fabulous.

2. AwesomeBooks:
Also UK-based. I've been using them for a year or so and am loving their large used-books selection for very reasonable prices.

Basic features: They ship for free in the UK, for free if you order more than one item to Europe/US/Canada/Aus/NZ, and for a £2.99 flat rate to anywhere else. They have three sections, new books (reasonably priced), used books (cheap) and bargain bin (extra-cheap). Even the cheapest of their books is in good condition, you won't get anything grotty-looking. Shipping time seems to vary between really fast and quite slow, so that's not super-predictable but oh well.

Extra goodies: They regularly send out coupon codes via newsletter, Twitter and FB so you can often knock an extra 10% or so off an already cheap rate. They're also great for grabbing up cheap used hardcovers without having to worry about the weight for shipping! The only thing I don't recommend them for is if you're after a specific edition - if it's used books, they'll usually send you whatever edition they have on hand.

Customer service: Lovely. They respond quickly and are very helpful. Had an incident once where one book didn't arrive for ages so I contacted them and they promptly sent me a replacement, only then the original finally trundled in a few weeks later, lol. Oops.

3. Better World Books:
I started using this US-based site a few months ago when they turned out to be the only place on the internet that had a hardcover we really really wanted (Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn, so out of print it's not even funny!) for less than $1000, lol. And now I love them because reasons.

Basic features: Worldwide free shipping. New books and used books, a sliding price scale depending on the book's condition, but again, all the conditions seem pretty good.

Extra goodies: They support several literacy and book donation programs like Books for Africa and Feed the Children, and for each book you buy, they donate a book to one of those programs, which I LOVE. (and yes, yes, there are many people all over the world who probably need food more than they need books but I don't know, there's something beautiful to me about feeding the mind and soul as well. Books are totally an essential need).

Customer service: MADE OF WIN. They answer questions immediately, are helpful with looking for specific editions if you need them, and are just on the ball. Also, their various communication templates are freaking hilarious.

Behold a basic shipping confirmation (you may have to right-click and View Image because my IJ layout screws it up):

[blah blah, shipping info etc. But I don't think I've ever cackled so much at a shipping notice!]

That's pretty much it. I wanted to pimp these because I love the way they make books affordable and accessible worldwide, because you can tell they care about what they do, and because I want smaller places like this to stay in business despite the overwhelming presence of Amazon & Co. So next time you're looking to order a book, maybe consider one of these guys instead :)

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