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Second-Hand Books the Ethical Way

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Antonia Devereux shows you some of the best places to get your latest read, while saving your pocket and the planet!

Fossgate Books – Credit: Antonia Devereux

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library”.

The quote above is from my favourite book, Pride and Prejudice, second only to the 2005 movie rendition, which if you know me I have most definitely made you watch. Although Caroline Bingley doesn’t mean a single word, I myself will be miserable if my future home doesn’t have a very expansive bookshelf. But with books a little too expensive for the student budget and a trip to Waterstones costing the majority of your student loan, it is a difficult task. On top of this, 640,000 tons of books are sent to the landfill annually, but buying second-hand can help to reduce this book by book! To help you save your pocket and the planet, I introduce the best places to get second-hand books so you can work towards your very own library. 

Credit: Antonia Devereux

World of Books only sells second-hand copies, with a variety of quality depending on how much you want to spend. Any books which have had too many lives and aren’t suitable for sellers are recycled. WoB is certified B-Corp and reports on their sustainability and ethics, working with charities and stakeholders rather than just shareholders.

I recently bought 3 second-hand books from WoB for just £10: Where the Crawdads Sing, Grown Ups, and The Salt Path.

Better World Books offers new and second-hand books, with profits from every book sold going to education programmes across the world. Like WoB, no books are thrown away and any which cannot be sold are recycled.

Not all of Bilbo’s books are affordable, but they are sustainable. Specialising in rare and old books, there are some amazing copies up for grabs. But for those like me (which I imagine is quite a lot) and can’t afford to spend 3 grand on a signed copy, they do also have second-hand books up for grabs!

Minister Bookshop – Credit: Antonia Devereux

Any Local and Independent Seller (that isn’t owned by Amazon)

Local and independent are always key words when it comes to sustainability, fuelling smaller independent sellers is always better than large corporate companies who exploit our environment. It’s easy enough to find independent book stores near you with just a simple Google search, for students in cities check your local independent websites – click here to see York’s! These stores are likely to offer a variety of books, including some very interesting old copies which will look perfect on your bookshelf.

Any book stores owned by Amazon are good to avoid, this includes; AbeBooks, Audible, Book Depository. Originally starting as a bookshop, Amazon has grown into a mega-company. In the Covid-19 pandemic, local business across the UK closed their doors while Amazon’s profits soared. They are affiliated with massive carbon emissions, terrible workers rights and tax avoidance. Every purchase you make is a vote for the company you buy from!

Charity Shops

Most charity shops have a second-hand book section, where you can help to reduce your impact and support charities across the UK and beyond. This works both ways too, if you have pre-loved books that deserve to be on someone else’s book shelf, donate them to your local charity shop!

Reading allows you to live a thousand lives, learn, and provide a much needed break from the never ending screens which come with University life (and Netflix). By buying second-hand, we reduce the need to constantly create and promote reuse!

About the Author: Antonia Devereux, WILD Magazine’s Managing Editor, is a 3rd year Environment, Economics and Ecology student at the University of York, currently working as an Environmental Consultant. Her current read is ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, and she is always looking for new suggestions!

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