There are thousands of book stores on the internet that will sell you used books for cheap. If their business is in the same country as yours, you can even avail free shipping, or at least, a reasonable shipping rate. Book lovers from the United States and the United Kingdom are typically at advantage here because a large of number of publishing houses and book stores operate from these countries. But for international addresses, the cost of shipping is usually high enough to prohibit buyers from taking advantage of their services.
Take Powell’s for instance, a bookstore based in Portland, Oregon, the U.S., with literally millions of titles in both books and DVDs. They ship within the United States for $3.99, and for orders above $50, shipping is free. But for international deliveries, the shipping charges are $7 per shipment + $5.99 per item, which amounts to nearly $13 for one book. For each additional book you pay 6 dollars more. It doesn’t make sense to buy used from Powel’s if your total expense exceeds the price of a new copy. It’s the same story with Amazon’s used books marketplace, and Alibris, another U.S. and U.K. based bookstore that charges $15 per book just for shipping.
Bookstores That Offer Free International Shipping
Bookstores that offer free shipping worldwide are rare, but they exist. Also exist are stores that charges a nominal fee for shipping the package to you. If you are looking for a used book, head over to these places.
Better World Books is an US-based bookseller that sells both new and used books, and is one of the only two online bookstores that offer free international shipping. Their inventory comes primarily from regular donation drives conducted at over 2,300 colleges and universities and donations from over 3000 library systems, in addition to donation boxes installed on corners and on college campuses.
Better World Books also donates a percentage of profits earned from each book sale to causes related to literacy and education. Since its founding in 2002, Better World Books has recycled 186 million books, at the time of this writing, amounting to an estimated $20 million in donation.
As for the books, you will find most current best sellers as well as classics and literary books. Textbooks are also available. Better World Books also sells DVDs and audiobooks.
Book Depository is a UK-based online bookseller with a large catalogue and offers free shipping all over the world. The store was originally founded in 2004 and was later acquired by Amazon.
Book Depository has a decent collection but the used books are not always cheap. You can hope to save an average of $2 to $4 per book, but it can even be as low as 50 cents, so it might not be worth all that much.
Update: As of July 2016, Book Depository has stopped offering used titles. Their entire inventory now consist of new books. You can still avail free shipping though
Bookstores That Offer Cheap International Shipping
Thrift Books is the largest of the used book sellers in the US and parent company to a number of subsidiaries. The company salvages books from charity shops, libraries, schools and colleges, bringing in on average 15 semi-trailer trucks full of used books every day to his warehouses. The store has recycled more than 400 million books since its founding ten years ago, and currently stocks 7 million titles ready to sale.
True to its name, Thrift Books offers books at very competitive prices. You can grab most books for $4 or less. There are also book deals where you get two books for $7, three books for $10, four books for $12 and additional books are only $3 each.
Shipping is 99 cents per item within US for orders below $10, and free above. Shipping to Canada and UK is $2.99 per item, and for the rest of the world, it’s $4.99 per item. Expedited shipping rates are higher – $9.99 for international deliveries, but still cheaper than most booksellers.
AwesomeBooks doesn’t have the most exhaustive catalogue but they offer one of the best shipping rates. They charge a flat $4.63 for every order of any size, consisting of as many books as you want. UK deliveries are free. Books are usually priced between $3-$4.
Aside from books, AwesomeBooks also sales music CDs, movie DVDs and console games as well as PC games, all of which are priced at a flat $3.33 per CD or DVD.
World of Books is another UK-based bookstore that offers used books at competitive prices. Their catalogue is not large but they do have a decent collection including really vintage material. Most of their books are priced between £3 and £3.49 (about $4 – $5.4). Shipping within UK is free, and for the rest of the world it’s £2.00 per book or just $3.
AbeBooks is an online marketplace for books where you can search across the inventory of thousands of independent booksellers from more than 50 countries. All the above mentioned bookstores also have their presence on AbeBooks, but it’s better to buy from them directly as their rates may vary on the AbeBooks marketplace. For instance, Better World Books charges $5 for shipping for books sold through AbeBooks, even though they offer free shipping on their own website. But for other small booksellers that don’t have their own shop, AbeBooks is the perfect place to find them.
Needless to say, AbeBooks has a staggering collection with titles ranging from the extremely common, where there might be hundreds of copies listed priced at pennies, to truly unique manuscript material worth thousands of dollars. In addition to books, magazines, audio books, journals, illustration art, vintage photographs and paper ephemera are offered.
Shipping rates vary from bookseller to bookseller. It starts from a minimum of $5 for international addresses and can go all the way to $17-$18 or more. Some booksellers offer free shipping within the US and UK, or charge a nominal rate.
AbeBooks is run by Amazon.
|Bookstore||U.S. Shipping rate||U.K. Shipping rate||International
|Better World Books||Free||Free||Free|
|AwesomeBooks||$4.63 per order||Free||$4.63 per order|
|World of Books||$3||Free||$3|
|AbeBooks||Varies (starts free)||Varies (starts free)||Varies (starts $5)|
wish i saw this post earlier, it has help me so much.
Mixed assortment of used children's books + free shipping
Found this very helpful. Any idea if I have to pay additional custom fees after receiving the shipped item?
No, there are no custom duties for importing books.
I was checking this up and it show 10.3% custom even for used books! I'll be paying extra once I receive the items I guess! 🙁
Anyway, thank you once again for this useful post. I've been ordering books from Amazon.co.uk but it's 7 pounds for every item. Now I'm going to order from World of Books – reasonable prices, flat shipping rate for all items and excellent variety!
Hmm… I have bought quite a number of used books online. Never paid customs. There might be some free limit or something beyond which you have to pay customs.
If you've done it recently, maybe you're right then.
I'd be glad if U don't have to pay customs – and I'm relatively new to this. Just started buying books outside India.
Great post! Well researched & put together.
The sites you've mentioned are exactly the ones which I've found to be most cost effective for the purpose.
I just thought I'd mention bookfinder.com as a good search engine for (mainly) abebooks.com. The advantage to using bookfinder is that you can set the preferences to include the shipping cost to India, unlike abebooks.
Also, infibeam.com used to list used books sourced from abebooks at competitive prices earlier. I've ordered a few such used books through them & was very happy with the service. They seem to have discontinued selling used books though. I just thought I'd mention it in case it's only temporary.
Another site that I've found to be useful on occasions is biblio.com. Here again, you can have the shipping costs included in the search results, which makes it a convenient tool to gauge the actual cost.
I should also mention though that a lot of the sellers on abebooks have different shipping rates for the first & subsequent items within an order. This can often sweeten a deal. Such specifics, however, cannot be gauged from either the bookfinder.com or biblio.com search engines.
So if you are buying art books like me, due diligence is required. (For fiction, I don't think these details matter much).
Again, thanks to the author for this post. Please do update with more such sellers should you stumble across them & find them worthy enough. Cheers!
PS: I had created a small list of sellers on abebooks with the most cost effective rates for India a while back. I'll try and upload it someplace and share a link so it can act as a reference to this site's visitors. Good day & happy shopping!
Hi Debendra Roy,
Thank you for the information!
Actually I thought I'd add a thing or two here, as I've been doing research on buying used books.
Infibeam still does offer used books option but for only certain titles. I've ordered 3 used books and they're yet to arrive.
Right now I'm collecting pop-up books which are quite expensive (ranging from INR 1500 and above). I wanted to see if it's possible to get it at lower prices. You have plenty of options from US and UK-based online stores but the shipping itself is quite high.
I've purchased from these sites:
World of Books
Abebooks is excellent because of the sheer variety, numbers and shippnig options. Some shipping rates are very affordable.
I too have prepared a list of sellers who offer low shipping costs like Better World Books, Brit Books, Reuseabook and Revival Books.
I want to wait and see if there are no hitches in the customs process/delivery before ordering more! Right now I'm anxious that I'm not able to track any of the books that are in transit! If everything goes well, I'll continue shopping from these sites.
Thank you and if you have any other tips, do please share.
Thank you for this very helpful post. Can you please tell me which courier service does Better World Books use for delivering books in India?
Most international deliveries arrive through the Indian Postal Service.
I recently discovered Thrift Books, I wish I had earlier.
Admittedly, there are items that can be found cheaper on Amazon UK Marketplace, and even on some UK sellers- but a lot of the books I like are US published.
To be able to get them for less than £5 in total is great, and they also send you deals and coupons when you sign up. Considering that many online retailers charge £12-18 just for shipping, Thriftbooks are onto a very good thing.
Yes, they might take longer to arrive, but good things come to those who wait as they say.
Book Depository sells NEW books not used!
They sell both.
I just checked, and it appears they have stopped selling used books. That's bad.