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The TOP 10 Ethical Online Book Sellers

Jump to the Individual Ratings Breakdown

The TOP 10 ethical book sellers for consumer satisfaction

The TOP 10 Ethical Online Book Sellers Who Don't Avoid Tax1. Wordery
Total rating: 37/50 = 74%
2. Books Etc.
Total rating: 36/50 = 72%
3. Hive
Total rating: 35.5/50 = 71%
4. Guardian Bookshop
Total rating: 34/50 – 68%
5= Foyles
Total rating: 30/45 = 66%
5= Better World Books
Total rating: 33/50 = 66%
7. Near St.
Total rating: 27/45 = 60%
8= Blackwells
Total rating: 28/50 = 56%
8= Oxfam Books
Total rating: 28/50 = 56%
10. The Book People
Total rating: 27/50 = 54%

The Method

Having identified the ten most ethical, non-tax avoiding online booksellers* using Ethical Consumer magazine’s Ethiscore system, I made purchases from each of them in order to rate the consumer experience.

I issued stars (0-5 for each of 6 categories) and then added the total stars (out of 30) to the Ethicscore given by Ethical Consumer Magazine (out of 20) to give a total score out of 50. Doubling that gives the overall percentage and from it I created my definitive TOP 10 list of the best places to buy books online without using Amazon and other tax avoiders.

*I’ve not included any book sellers who got an Ethiscore of lower than 8 out of 20 in Ethical Consumer Magazine’s rankings. I’ve also omitted Alibris, Waterstones and WHSmith as they all have likely involvement in tax avoidance strategies according to Ethical Consumer Magazine. So, the 10 in my list all have an Ethiscore of 8 or higher and are not likely to be involved in tax avoidance.

The 6 categories chosen for consumer experience

The 6 categories I have chosen to rate the book sellers for are as follows:

1. Website usability
1 star given for each of the following attributes:
– Website speed
– Modern site (mobile-optimised) with easy navigation (inc Quick add to cart option)
– Search bar available on all pages
– FAQs & delivery easily accessible with delivery options easily available on purchase
– Detailed & Accurate product description and user reviews

2. Delivery Charge
Free = *****
Under 50p = ****
Under £1.50 = ***
Under £2.50 = **
Under £3.50 = *
Over £3.50 = 0 stars

3. Delivery Time
Next day = *****
2 working days = ****
3 working days = ***
4 working days = **
5 working days = *
6+ working days = 0 stars
NB: Most of the book sellers offer guaranteed next day delivery for an extra charge, but I’ve focussed on the speed of their standard delivery rate.

4. Price Compared with Amazon
Cheaper than Amazon = *****
Same as Amazon = ****
Up to £1 more = ***
Up to £2 more = **
Up to £3 more = *
Over £3 more = 0 stars

5. Use of Packaging
Fully recyclable, recycled, protective & minimal = *****
As above but instead of being recycled the packaging is from a certified sustainable source = ****
Containing 3 of the 4 attributes from the 4 star line = ***
Containing 2 of the 4 attributes from the 4 star line = **
Containing 1 of the 4 attributes from the 4 star line = *
None of the attributes = 0 stars

6. Range of books
Tens of millions = *****
Millions = ****
Hundreds of thousands = ***
Tens of thousands = **
Thousands = *
Less than a 1000 = 0 stars

I carried this out over a period of 2 months. Every time I wanted a new book, or new a friend or family member wanted one, I searched for it the next platform along alphabetically. All prices referenced on the book sellers’ websites were correct at the time of purchasing (Spring 2017).

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A Break Down of Each Book Seller’s Ratings

Better World Books

Better World Books

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. User reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
The description was poor. I was told the book was in ‘very good condition’ and it definitely wasn’t.

SPEED: **
It arrived in 4 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: *****
Free delivery

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£5.96 v £6.99)

PACKAGING: *
No protection. Dark plastic wrapping. Neither recycled nor recyclable. One star as the packaging used was ‘minimal’.

RANGE OF BOOKS: ****
‘Millions’ according to their homepage.

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 12/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 33/50 = 66%

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Blackwell's

Blackwell’s

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
No reviews section for individual books.

SPEED: ***
It arrived in 3 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: **
£2.50

BOOK PRICE: ****
Same as Amazon (£6.99)

PACKAGING: *
Plastic bubble wrap used, which is not good for recycling. Not recycled. Envelope larger than necessary. Only one star gained, for being well protected.

RANGE OF BOOKS: ****
9 million

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 10/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 28/50 = 56%

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BOOKS etc.

BOOKS etc.

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
The site is not quite as slick looking as some others but in terms of speed and functionality it works perfectly on desktop. However, it is the only site of the ten not optimised for mobile devices so loses a star for that.

SPEED: ***
It arrived in 3 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: *****
Free delivery

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£12.32 v £13.40)

PACKAGING: ****
Lil Packaging used = Recyclable. Minimal. Well protected. Not recycled card but it is PEC certified from sustainable sources.

RANGE OF BOOKS: ****
Over 8 million

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 11/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 37/50 = 74%

——

Foyles

Foyles

WEBSITE USABILITY: *****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.

SPEED: *****
It arrived in 1 working day

POSTAGE PRICE: *****
Free delivery

BOOK PRICE: **
More expensive than Amazon (£12.99 v £11.43)

PACKAGING: ***
Card. Minimal. Protective. Recyclable. Not recycled nor stamped as certified sustainable.

RANGE OF BOOKS: n/a
At the time of writing there was nowhere on their website or social media that gave a figure. I tried contacting support twice to find an answer but they didn’t respond to either of my queries. I have therefore left this category out of their rating. Their total score has been adjusted to be out of 45 instead of 50 as a result.

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 10/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 30/45 = 66%

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Guardian Bookshop

Guardian Bookshop

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
No quick add to cart option.

SPEED: *****
It arrived in 1 working day

POSTAGE PRICE: **
£1.99

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£8.99 v £10.49)

PACKAGING: ***
Card. Minimal. Protective. Recyclable. Not recycled nor stamped as certified sustainable.

RANGE OF BOOKS: ***
200,000

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 12/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 34/50 – 68%

——

Hive

Hive

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive
No reviews section for individual books.

SPEED: ***
It arrived in 3 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: *****
Free delivery

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£7.15 v £8.99)

PACKAGING: ****
Lil Packaging used = Recyclable. Minimal. Well protected. Not recycled card but it is PEC certified from sustainable sources.

RANGE OF BOOKS: ****
They are connected to 100s of independent book shops (with “over a million products at competitive prices”)

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 10.5/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 35.5/50 = 71%

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Near St

Near St.

NB: This website only serves people in London because their stock is independent bookstores in the capital, and they deliver by bicycle.

WEBSITE USABILITY: ***
+ive:
Fast. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews.
-ive:
Minus 1 star for the map function not working properly on website. This is quite an important part of this site as it locates books closest to you and displays them on the map. When I clicked on the location of a shop I got a map of the whole of London with no location pinpoints. The map was also larger than my screen size, meaning that the ‘X’ to close it was not visible, so I had to zoom out in my browser in order to do make it smaller so that I could find the ‘X’ and close it. Also minus 1 star for the delivery info: General info on the delivery options and costs were not easy to find on the website. Essentially this site is geared towards a click and collect format from a book shop nearby your location. However, they do offer delivery by bicycle courier for all items, so the info should be clear to see.

SPEED: *****
They offer delivery within hours via bicycle courier!

POSTAGE PRICE: 0 stars
The closest book available was a 75 min walk away from the location I chose in Ealing and that was going to cost an extra £8 to be couriered by bike, almost doubling the cost of the book.

BOOK PRICE: ****
Same as Amazon (£8.99)

PACKAGING: n/a
As I don’t live in London I didn’t go through with a purchase so don’t know about the packaging. Their total score has been adjusted to be out of 45 instead of 50 as a result.

RANGE OF BOOKS: **
The range of books available to you from Near St. depends where in London you live. I searched for books near Ealing and the closest book shop associated with them was a 75 minute walk away.

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 13/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 27/45 = 60%

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Oxfam

Oxfam Books

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Detailed product descriptions. (Reviews not applicable as their stock is always different depending on donations received.) All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
No quick add to cart option

SPEED: **
It arrived in 4 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: 0 stars
£3.95

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£1.49 v £6.94)

PACKAGING: *
One star for being minimal. Black plastic used. Not protective. Not recycled or recyclable.

RANGE OF BOOKS: **
60,000+

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 14/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 28/50 = 56%

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The Book People

The Book People

WEBSITE USABILITY: ****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.
-ive:
No quick add to cart option

SPEED: ****
It arrived in 2 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: *
£2.95

BOOK PRICE: ****
Sam as Amazon (£3.60)

PACKAGING: ****
Lil Packaging used = Recyclable. Minimal. Well protected. Not recycled card but it is PEC certified from sustainable sources.

RANGE OF BOOKS: **
Tens of thousands (“over 100,000 books, toys, gifts & stationery”)

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 8/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 27/50 = 54%

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Wordery

Wordery

WEBSITE USABILITY: *****
+ive:
Fast. Easy navigation. Search bar available on all pages. Modern site. FAQs, delivery info easily accessible. Quick add to cart option. Detailed product descriptions and user reviews. All delivery options available on purchase.

SPEED: ****
It arrived in 2 working days

POSTAGE PRICE: *****
Free delivery

BOOK PRICE: *****
Cheaper than Amazon (£6.97 v £7.23)

PACKAGING: ***
Cardboard. Well Protected. Minimal. Recyclable, not recycled.

RANGE OF BOOKS: *****
Over 10 million!

Ethiscore from Ethical Consumer Magazine: 10/20

TOTAL STAR RATING: 37 out of 50 = 74%

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