In 2022, 669 million physical books were sold in the UK, which is the highest number ever recorded. In 2023, the Publishers Association reported that there were increases for sales of print and digital formats last year: print books increased by 3%, while sales of digital formats increased by 5%.
A large amount of the profit would have been sucked up by Amazon. Around 10% of Amazon's revenue comes from its book sales, totalling $28 billion (approximately £22 billion) every year. The company dominates the global and UK book market, selling around 300 million print books annually. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are lots of alternatives to buying books from Amazon, including supporting your local independent bookseller, buying secondhand books from charity shops, borrowing from your local library, and making use of community book initiatives. We couldn’t include independent bookshops in our scoretable as there are so many but we’ve listed some of your favourites later in the guide.
We’ve included ebook and audiobook retailers in the guide as alternatives to Amazon.
Key to the score table: [P] = print books [A] = audio books [E] = ebooks.
Alternatives to Amazon for books
Amazon and its brands AbeBooks and Audible are at the bottom of our ethical rankings for bookshops.
Three of the main issues with Amazon are:
- tax avoidance
- building a monopoly
- denying workers’ rights
For around a decade Ethical Consumer has being calling for a boycott of the company over its tax avoidance which costs the UK millions in public funds every year. During this time we've seen resistance to Amazon grow: we have been joined by Fair Tax Mark, Tax Justice Network and others in condemning the company’s tax record; we’ve seen workers, unions, anti-racism organisations, anti-gentrification movements and others raise voices against Amazon globally; and hundreds of people signing a pledge to avoid Amazon.
By boycotting the company, we are taking part in this global movement and increasing pressure on Amazon – or the legislation that allows its abuses – to change.
Fortunately, in many markets there are wonderful alternatives to Amazon, and this includes bookshops.