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How to Buy Books Online More Ethically and Sustainably

In this post, we’ve collated a list of online book retailers, each of whom have publicly taken a stance on a variety of ethical, social and sustainability issues.

Beds SU Sustainability Team

By Beds SU Sustainability Team

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

When buying books online, many automatically go for one very obvious online retailer. But, you may be surprised to hear that there are alternatives out there.

Why though would you consider shopping elsewhere when said online retailer is so convenient?

Let’s talk about ethics

Shoppers are becoming increasingly aware that where they shop matters. Heightened awareness of climate change, social issues, animal cruelty and sustainability is having an impact with an increasing number of shoppers wanting retailers to match their own values. In fact, a 2015 study by Nielson revealed that 66% of global shoppers are willing to spend more on sustainable goods.

With some retailers making it much clearer than others on where they stand ethically on big social and environmental issues, making ethical and sustainable shopping choices is now pretty easy and becoming easier still as time goes on.

Buy your books from ethical shops

In this post, we’ve collated a list of online book retailers, each of whom have publicly taken a stance on a variety of ethical, social and sustainability issues.

To help you choose between them, we’ve included some information on why they might be a better choice. At the end of the article, there’s a bonus tip on how you can easily compare them.

World of books (Wob)

With over 7 million second-hand books in stock and free delivery, World of Books (Wob) is a great choice. The condition of each book is clearly marked and is delivered in fully-recyclable packaging. The company is also a certified B Corp, which means it meets the highest standards of social and environmental impact.

Better World Books

Another great place to pick up second-hand (and brand new) books with a particular focus on academic and educational books. The company is involved with multiple charitable projects and promises to provide a book to someone in need whenever a book is purchased. There’s free delivery on everything too!

Another certified B Corp (a corporation dedicated to the public good),’s mission is to financially support local, independent book shops. Whenever you buy a book from them, they share the profits with a local book shop of your choice.


Hive is similar to in that it allows you to choose which local bookshop to receive a share of the profits from anything you purchase. In addition to this, it also provides a marketplace for local book shops where you can check their stock and opening hours and arrange an in-person collection.


This is more of an honourable mention more than anything else. Wordery has some work to do to catch up with the previously mentioned shops in terms of doing good for society and the environment (there is mention of them working with charities to improve literacy among young people). What is good though is that it’s a reliable independently-owned option that also provides free worldwide delivery on everything. (for audiobooks)

If audiobooks are more your thing, is a great alternative. It’s a registered ‘Social Purpose Corporation’, meaning it combines elements of traditional business with that of non-profit organisations. Profits are shared with local book shops.

Can’t choose? Here’s a tip

Choosing where to buy books can be difficult, especially when you’re presented with a list of them as we have done here. There is though a trick that can help you choose.

Shopping ethically doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pay more for stuff, so prioritising price is still something that you can do. By using a service like Google Shopping, you can compare prices all at once from different retailers. Simply type in the name of the book you’re looking for and if you see in your search results one of the retailers in our list and you’re happy with the price, you’re good to go.

We hope you’ve found this article useful. We hope to have more sustainability advice and tips for you very soon.