Ethical Alternatives to Amazon

ethical-alternatives-to-amazon

There’s been a lot of bad press about Amazon lately, more so than ever, from their unethical tax avoidance policies to the shockingly bad robot like conditions their workers operate under, and I think people really are beginning to question where they shop.  However it’s not always easy to know where to shop, so I’ve put together a guide on online ethical alternatives to Amazon:

Books

For eBooks try eBooks.com.  eBooks has a vast selection of digital books ready for download for just about every range of eReader out there – from Kindles, to iPads, to Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Android, PC, Mac and more.

For hard copies of books Oxfam Books are a good ethical alternative to Amazon.  They have a wide selection of secondhand books online that benefit charity. Up until recently I had no idea that Oxfam sold items via their website, and I think it’s great that they’re opening up to capture bigger markets online.  GreenBook.Club is a book swapping service that’s just recently been set up and well worth a look, and Bookdonors is a great secondhand online bookshop.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for secondhand then it’s worth checking if your local independent bookseller offers online shopping.  Quite a lot do – my Edinburgh favourites that offer UK wide online shopping include Golden Hare Books, the Fruitmarket Gallery (who have great kids books and specialist art books), and Word Power.  All come very highly recommended from me.  Others, like Edinburgh Bookshop will order in any book for free for you.

Another ethical alternative to Amazon is to use Hive.  Hive is a service where you can order books online and have them delivered to your local bookstore for free for collection.  Every time you make a purchase on Hive, your local  independent shop on Hive will receive a percentage of the sale.  So even though you’re shopping online, your local bookshop will benefit too.  There is also the spin off that you might see something else that you fancy whilst in-store.  Obviously, it’s best if you can use your local bookshop as your first port of call, but it’s always a good backup option.

Don’t be swayed by the Book Depository – they are owned by Amazon – shop secondhand or shop local instead!

Music

For digital downloads iTunes isn’t really a more ethical alternative to Amazon – Apple have a terrible reputation for human rights in China, where their factories are based.  A good alternative is 7Digital, which is fairly ethical, and all songs are DRM (digital rights management free) which means you can play them on unlimited devices.

alternatives to amazon

For physical CD’s/Vinyl 

For older releases, as an ethical alternative to Amazon then your first port of call should be one of the myriad of secondhand record stores.  Oxfam Music is a good choice, as again, proceeds go back to Oxfam.  Alternatively, if you can’t find what you’re looking for then Discogs is a good choice, with loads of sellers selling secondhand items.

For new releases, your local independent might sell online.  I’d check with them first before seeking out other alternatives.  I’d heartily recommend my local independent – Avalanche Records – who sell online.  They specialise in Scottish indie music but have a range of new releases and good stuff too.

EDIT: A reader has also suggested buying CD’s directly from the artists themselves, via their websites, to ensure they gain the highest amount of revenue on their CD sales.

If either option fails Recordstore.co.uk has a wide range of CD’s, vinyl and promotional materials.  If it’s something specialist that you’re after then Proper Music is a specialist online retailer concentrating on folk, blues, jazz, country, Americana and world music, however you’ll also find classical music and overstocks, deletions, imports and anything else that they think is of interest to their customers

DVDs

Without wanting to sound like a broken record, Oxfam sell a vast range of DVDs and box sets.  Alternatively MovieMail or the Channel 4 Store are good fairly ethical alternatives to Amazon that are worth checking out.

Computer Games (Video and PC)

For video and PC games, again, try Oxfam (they really do sell everything!).  Alternatively, for PC games try instant download services Games Planet or Metaboli.  For console games give The Game Collection a go.  None of these options are super ethical, but are much better than using Amazon or buying from the supermarkets.

I can’t cover everything that Amazon sells, but I hope I’ve covered some of the main categories.  If you’d like me to cover any other areas then do let me know in the comments section below and I’ll dedicate a future post to your requests!

And if you’ve liked this article on ethical alternatives to Amazon then do check out my guide to ethical bank alternatives and ethical alternatives to Google.

14 comments

  1. Another good option for contemporary music is to buy CDs directly from artists (off their own websites or at a gig) so that the musicians retain most of the funds rather than a corporate distributor. Oftentimes the CD arrives autographed or with a handwritten thank you!

    From an equity to artists’ perspective it is also good to avoid Spotify as the musicians need to sell a zillion downloads to collect the price of a pint…

    Reply
  2. Thanks Meg, I completely forgot to add about buying CDs directly from the artists websites. We’ve done that lots of times before, and indeed, last time my partner got a thank you note from the artist included with his purchase!

    I didn’t cover Spotify as I didn’t think Amazon offer an online streaming service – I just covered places where you can buy digital downloads or physical CDs, but yes, that’s a great point about avoiding Spotify. It’s absolutely awful in terms of the artists equity.

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  3. Great article. I had no idea that The Book Depository was owned by Amazon. My favourite place to buy novels is my local second hand book store. I can always find something great to read there. I also try to be honest with myself about whether I will read a book again- if I don’t think I will, I pass them on to friends and then ask them to pass them on again when they’ve read them. It stops me stockpiling too many books (I am a book addict) and helps to reduce the environmental footprint of printing books. Plus, we shouldn’t forget the joy of libraries. We don’t always need to own everything we want to read. I rediscovered the joy of libraries when I made the conscious decision to reduce my book shopping addiction. Now that I have my son, we always look forward to our regular excursions to the library!

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    • Good idea about swapping! And I do love the library. We live in a small village and don’t have a library but every week the library van comes round and it’s a real treat for my daugther and I!

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  4. There is an independent bookshop in Liverpool (a co-operative) called ‘News from Nowhere’ which is an alternative to Amazon. And, of course, your local library (if there are any left). This is a useful list, though, thanks for publishing it.

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  5. I’m decluttering and selling books. I give some away but want to sell some to raise funds for myself.. The books I want to sell are worth quite a lot more than the ‘all the same price’ offered by one organiseation (I think it’s Hive).

    Is there an alternative to Amazon for this?

    Is there a charity which would take this on and get the same kind of cut which Amazon takes, but it would go to a good cause?

    Maybe there’s one which does this already?

    I hope so. I don’t want to give Amazon my money but I do want to seel some books.

    Thank you

    LM

    Reply
    • Hi Lucy, I’m not too familiar with options for selling books. I have sold books on Amazon, and to be honest you have to price your books very low to undercut both Amazon and other sellers of the book. They also have a cap on postage – around £2.80 the last time I used it, so if you’re selling hardback or heavy books you are left considerably out of pocket. One book I sold, I was only allowed to charge £2.80 but it actually cost me £6 to post, so all of the money I made on the book went on postage. Do you have any secondhand book shops near you? Some buy old books and can give you fairly decent prices depending on the book – I had good luck with some textbooks from university. The only other thing I can think of is have you heard of webuybooks.co.uk ? I haven’t used it myself, so don’t know how much they give you for books, but you can donate some of your profits to charity – http://www.webuybooks.co.uk/blog/you-can-donate-some-of-your-offer-to-charity/ Hope this is helpful!

      Reply
  6. I usually shop online for books.i sp. look for bargain/auction sites.Rich in content and easy to navigate, NextOnly.uk serves as an excellent showcase and meeting point for all those interested in rare and antiquarian books. This attractive site gives information about bidding, selling and items in forthcoming Nextonly Auctions.

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  7. Cinema Paradiso is a good alternative to Lovefilm or whatever they’re calling it now. The film are often a bit better than what’s on Netflix.

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  8. Hi
    Thank you for this post.
    A long time Amazon customer, been holding on purchase since read about their worst practices in the article that New York Times carried few months ago.
    So just thanks to you, have ordered on Wordery. They too offer free postage to India.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Ten Things | Moral Fibres - UK Eco Green Blog

  10. For computer games, https://www.humblebundle.com is a potential alternative to physical media stores. they do now offer ebooks and other digital media, alongside video games. They work around a ‘pay what you feel’ model, with a portion of all profits going to charity.

    Reply

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