Amazon is a very big site, so these alternatives will cover just books & eBooks.
Amazon is very convenient to use, but the convenience comes at a terrible price both for the workers in their warehouses and for the communities that Amazon deprives of taxes. Amazon also has a history of tracking its users. Kindle and Goodreads are both owned by Amazon, and contribute to these problems.
The most ethical way of buying books is from your nearest bookshop. Local bookshops tend to have better working conditions, pay their fair share of taxes and don’t track their users. They also have a human being who can give you free one-to-one advice on books, and a hand-curated selection of titles. If they don’t have what you want, they can order it from their suppliers.
The most ethical way of borrowing books is from your local public library. It saves you lots of money, it’s best for the environment (one book is used by lots of people) and libraries are pretty nice places to be as you can sit, read and relax for as long as you want without buying anything. Modern libraries also lend eBooks, audiobooks, DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs and sometimes even video games. They usually cost nothing to join, your local council’s website will tell you where your nearest library is.
However, not everyone can get to a bookshop or library, so here are some online alternatives too:
Hive is a wholesaler-run site which lets you order books online and have them delivered to your door, or pick them up from independent bookshops in the Hive network (who receive a percentage of the sale). You can also “adopt” a favourite bookshop which will receive a percentage of everything you spend on Hive.
As well as physical books, Hive also sell eBooks, audiobooks, DVDs, blu-rays and stationery. Delivery is free within the UK, and a bit extra overseas.
IMPORTANT NOTE: For maximum ethical points, get in touch with your local bookshop and order from them directly, your book will cost the same but the indie will get a bigger cut of the sale than they do through Hive.
WEBSITE – Hive.co.uk
Non-DRM Books, Libreture and The Epubizer
The eBooks sold by Amazon through its Kindle service have a severe restriction: Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM means Amazon can edit or even remove your Kindle eBooks at any time, even if you have already bought them (and they have done this to George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm”). One Kindle user had her entire library deliberately wiped by Amazon, but they refused to tell her why. In effect, you never really own a DRM book, it belongs to Amazon forever.
But there are alternatives! Many publishers and online shops sell eBooks without DRM restrictions (click here for a long list of non-DRM publishers and bookshops). You can buy and own non-DRM eBooks just like physical books: once you buy it, it’s yours forever and no one can take it away from you.
The idea of Libreture and its sister site The Epubizer is to help people use eBooks without DRM.
The Epubizer explains all the basics of non-DRM eBooks: what they are, how to read them and where to buy them.
Libreture is a Goodreads-style site which lets you store and organise your non-DRM eBooks online, browse non-DRM bookshops, discover new titles and share reading lists. It’s a paid service (to cover the costs of storing the eBooks) but you can try it for free without a credit card.
WEBSITE – The Epubizer
WEBSITE – Libreture
WEBSITE – List of non-DRM bookshops on Libreture
Public Domain eBooks and Audiobooks
Many classic books are old enough to be in the public domain, so they are totally legal to download and distribute free of charge.
There are several major sites which distribute free public domain eBooks and audiobooks:
Better World Books
Online bookshop which tries to take a more ethical approach, donating one book to charity for every book it sells.
Delivery is free worldwide.
WEBSITE – Better World Books
The Canadian firm Kobo makes Kindle-style eReaders that let you read non-DRM eBooks, and can be used to borrow eBooks from public libraries.
(n.b. Kobo eReaders come with a built-in eBook store which has a mixture of DRM and non-DRM eBooks. However, you don’t have to use this store, you can buy non-DRM eBooks elsewhere and they will work on the Kobo.)
Calibre is a well-established and popular open source app which lets you organise your eBook collection on your computer, edit eBooks and convert eBook files from one format to another.
It’s free and available to download for Windows, Mac and Linux from the website below.
WEBSITE – Calibre eBook Management