Though I’m far from considering myself an avid reader, I do love to read and always have a book on my nightstand! In the past I’ve merely bought books (NEW) at big chains and online, but now I’m buying most books second-hand and from smaller retailers. Don’t fret that the only way to be sustainable is ebooks and don’t fret that buying is the only option. In truth there are a myriad of sustainable book reading options!
It probably started with my mom (yes, we might need to start a drinking game for how often I say that). She’s found a number of our favorite series in the aisles of her local Goodwill. She’d take home what they had (usually 50¢ to $1 each) and then we’d piece together the series however.
Then on our trip to New England two years ago, we met up with my cousin and his family. On the subject of books, one of his daughters asked if I’d ever heard of ThriftBooks – an online (mostly) used book store with great prices and low minimums for free shipping. And so the second-hand, more eco-friendly book reading saga began.
Obviously the frustrating thing about buying books second-hand at local thrift stores is that you have no control over what you’ll pick up. Some people love that kind of excitement and unpredictability, but I’m not there yet!
And with monthly book reviews to enjoy, sometimes you just want what you want! Now I feel fairly versed in the plethora of eco-friendly book reading options. I haven’t committed to any one of these and usually just go with what’s available, so take them all in and slowly start making your way.
Sustainable Book Reading: The Borrow Method
Remember the library? You might not believe it, but it still exists (and your tax dollars are keeping it afloat). I hadn’t had a library card since junior high probably, but when we moved to Sacramento, I took 3-month old baby C into the library with me to get my library card. And let me tell you, he thought that quiet space was a perfect place to test out those vocal chords he was just discovering!
So I have a library card. And I use it! But I rarely check out actual books! So, obviously you can check out physical books. You might have to request a hold and wait, but they’ll have it.
eBooks from the Library
What I do more so with it, however, is to check out eBooks! Most libraries buy copies of ebooks for their patrons to borrow. These work just like physical books. They only have a certain number of copies (because they have to pay for them) and you only get access to them for the standard loan (3 weeks at at our library).
The great part about these ebooks is that you can read them on your phone, on your computer, or on an Amazon Kindle.
Library Access on Your Phone
Once you have your library card, there is 1 app you should download – Libby. It’s basically an app to organize your library account and read ebooks (on your phone or computer).
You can search/borrow/request/read books – all from a simple, easy to use interface. You can see how your holds are doing, when things are due, and how many things you have borrowed.
It’s pretty fantastic. I do know that if you download a book to your phone/computer, you can’t then switch it to your Kindle and vice versa. Just a fair warning!
If you’re into ebooks (and if we’re talking about eco-friendly book reading, this is certainly a huge part of the conversation), then having everything on your phone or Kindle is great.
While I’m not one to overly push an Amazon product, we have been happy with the experience of our Kindle Paperwhite. It is a great option for reading both purchased and borrowed books.
Sustainable Book Buying
If you’re one of those people who just has to have the book though – and I get it – there are tons of options for you too.
The local, eco, all the things option is to search the shelves of thrift stores nearby. It’s a local business and there aren’t shipping (pollution) costs. But the options can be limiting.
So the next best option is to buy used online and/or to buy new from local bookshops. There are a few options on this front and they are all so, so good!
I mentioned ThriftBooks above. It’s an online store that just sells books (used and new). It’s really so much more than that, however. The company buys books from local charities to support their local efforts. They send unsellable books to be recycled properly. And they donate reading materials to Title 1 Schools (predominantly students from low-income families), prison libraries, and international literacy programs.
And they sell used books in good to great condition for low prices, offer inexpensive (often free) shipping, and make my world go round!
I’ve bought series for myself and gifts on ThriftBooks as well as a number of books (yes, baby board books) for C and friends. In case you’re worried about buying used as a gift, don’t be. The books all come in very good condition. Pages are never missing or any madness like that!
They also have an easy to use app as well as a rewards program that’ll get you free books fairly easily.
eBay + Facebook Marketplace
I seriously avoided anything related to eBay until about 2 months ago. I always associated it with Brian, the guy in my 7th grade class who bid on pogs and slammers (remember those?!). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what a great online storefront it was for buying useful things (sorry, Brian!).
I’ve since bought a few pieces of outerwear for C and now can add books to the list! eBay is basically just an online storefront for new and used books. The prices are straightforward.
The only things I can think to mention here is that you’ll want to look out for shipping costs. Many offer free shipping, but others overcharge. Also, there are a lot of new items on there, which defeats the purpose of eco-friendly book reading in most cases.
Facebook Marketplace is also another great platform to find books. The great part about this is that you can search in your own city for a book first, which is practically borrowing from a friend (or buying them a coffee in return). Similarly, watch out for shipping costs and new items.
Buying New Books – Locally
One of the things that I struggle with in trying to use what I have or buy used to avoid buying new is that it doesn’t help local business owners, who I LOVE!
So while new books may not be the most sustainable option, supporting local businesses is!
Local businesses might have to charge more for a book. They aren’t price gauging you or any such nonsense. Small businesses don’t have access to all the bulk-games (and, yes, there are crazy games involved here) big box companies do. They buy what they can and then need to make a profit to pay their employees, their rent, and their taxes. Just know that those few extra dollars really are worth it!
And local bookstores can order whatever book you want, so if they don’t have it, just ask. Their employees are also usually well-versed in books, so they can help you find just the thing!
There is also an online marketplace for local bookstores to sell their books. It’s called AbeBooks. They have international sites as well, which is interesting! I urge you to find a local shop first, but then you can always use this as a backup!