A Good Person’s Guide to Book Shopping

Our books at The Book Hive, Norwich
V&Q Books at the Book Hive, Norwich

The best ways to order books online with a clear conscience

Do you like buying books – but don’t always have time for a leisurely stroll around your local independent bookshop? Do you need to send book gifts around the country? Do you sometimes need a specific book really, really urgently?

You might think your main option is to shove yet more mammon into the drooling maw of online commerce’s worst offender. The book will be picked by a robot, packed by a stressed non-unionised worker, and delivered by a driver who has to pee in a bottle because their schedule’s so tight. Then the online company’s bazillionaire owner will spend your money on a rocket-ride into space. All while hastening the demise of high-street shopping… Oh, and tax-dodging, let’s not forget the tax-dodging. And yet – they have everything in stock, and it’s so quick and convenient. Surely there’s nothing else a harried person can do?

But no! There are a range of alternatives. Here’s the V&Q Books guide to ethical book-buying.

Robot getting some rest

1. Go to a shop, lazybones!

To best benefit yourself and your environment, put on some outdoor clothes and walk to your local independent bookshop. If they don’t have the book you want in stock, ask them to order it in for you – then you get the pleasure of going to the shop again and possibly forging a lasting relationship with the bookseller, most of whom are charming and intelligent and extremely well-read. Admittedly, this solution requires you to be non-disabled and live in a buzzing metropolis replete with bijou bookstores and pedestrian infrastructure, so we’ll allow other modes of transport besides your feet.

2. Order online from a bookshop!

You probably have a favourite bookshop, whether it’s a chain or an indie. Now it’s time to check: Do they have a website? Can you order directly from them? That’s what I do when I discover a book I absolutely have to have as soon as humanly possible – in my case via Berlin’s ocelot bookstore. You can usually pick up the object of your burning desire in person, or get it delivered to your door. And the bookshop makes its usual margin on the book, which is great news for them (even though they’ll only get to see your eager face once, or not at all).

3. Order directly from the publisher!

If you know exactly what you want, many publishers will sell it to you online and send it out personally. Work out who published the book, then go to their website and check if they take direct orders, right now! They might even give you a discount – like our three-for-two offer on the Anatolian Blues trilogy (but only in the UK and Ireland). They’ll certainly sigh with delight to know that a real human being wants to read their book, or gift it to a friend. Plus, they’ll save the percentage of the price they usually spend on distribution.

4. Order online from!

If you’re in the UK, head over to the alternative to Amazon, The website is run by a small team and powered by the book wholesaler Gardners – but the ethical thing about it is you choose which bookshop profits from your purchase. To get started, choose a bookshop from their enormous map, by zooming in or entering an address or name. A 30% chunk of your money goes to that bookstore – and I’m fairly sure they won’t spend it on cage fighting, expensive divorces or space travel. also features really useful lists put together by all sorts of experts. Why, you could even head over to the V&Q Books recommendations page for tips on other great books from Germany, Austria & Switzerland, cool English books set in Berlin, or our translators’ recommended reading.

From our page

5. In Germany, you can order online from various other providers.

We recommend autorenwelt shop (where writers receive double their usual share of your money) buch7 (75% of profits go to social, ecological and cultural projects) or ecobookstore (sends money to rainforests). All of them are more ethical options!

What are you waiting for? Slip on that famous blue raincoat, pull on your boots made for walking, or flex those fingertips – as Geier Sturzflug sang in 1984, it’s time to spit on your hands and raise the Bruttosozialprodukt. (With apologies for the awful mainland-European clapping-on-the-one in the video!)