The [Book] Case for ThriftBooks

Minimalist logo for Thriftbooks.com. Three upright teal-colored book spines above black lower-cased text: ThriftBooks.

Do you use Amazon to purchase books? We get it. It’s cheap and easy, and generally has a fast delivery. We use it, too! There’s lots of reasons to use Amazon, and plenty of reasons to not use Amazon. But consider this: instead of helping Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy win Monopoly, try the Modcasters’ favorite online retailer: ThriftBooks.com.

Today we’re going to give you a tour of ThriftBooks. What is this place? Why do we think it’s the best book retailer out there? Is it really better than Amazon, the one-stop shop for all your niche needs? (P.S. Stick around for info on our giveaway later in this blog!)

What Is ThriftBooks.com?

Founded in 2003, ThriftBook’s mission is to make literature accessible to everyone—exactly the Modcasters’ goals as well! According to the site’s Purpose, they believe that reading is empowering. Reading fosters empathy, knowledge, and occasionally a bit of escapism.

ThriftBooks carries a huge selection of new and used books in several languages, and offers free shipping on every order over $10. (You can also get DVDs, calendars, and a few other interesting products.) This site is really great for finding various covers of books throughout the years of its publication, as well as collectible versions of a book. It’s also awesome for students: ThriftBooks often sells textbooks! You can also purchase new books through this site, which in the long run is definitely beneficial for the customer. (See section on Reading Rewards below for more info!) Once you’ve made an account, you will be able to add titles to your wishlist to help you keep track of currently unavailable or still-too-expensive books that you want to order someday.

Oh, and did we mention that there are thousands of titles for under $5? (Take that, Subway! I mean, if Subway sold books, but…yeah. Ahem.)

Shipping through ThriftBooks may take a little longer than Amazon, but they use minimal and recyclable packaging. You’re not going to get a package from ThriftBooks that has a single pamphlet in a two cubic foot box. (In inches, that’d be 18 by 15 by 12.5.)

But what really makes this retailer stand out is its Reading Rewards program.

ThriftBooks Reading Rewards

After creating a ThriftBooks account, you can opt into the rewards program. For every dollar spent on their site, you can earn 8 or 10 points. Whether you earn 8 or 10 depends on how much you spend during the year.

If you spend under $100 for a year, you get 8 points per dollar. Spend over $100 per year—(It’s nothing to be ashamed of, I tell myself as I continue shopping on ThriftBooks, my massive to-read pile looming in the distance)—you get 10 points per dollar.

For example, if over the course of one year you spend $48 on Thriftbooks, you’ll have amassed 384 reading points. (48 x 8 = 384.) If you spent $124 during one year, you’ll have 1,042 points. (99 x 8 = 792; 124 – 99 = 25; 25 x 10 = 250; 792 + 250 = 1,042.) You’ll notice that if you spend more than $100 in less than a year, they go ahead and bump up your rewards for every dollar over $100.

So, get 500 points, you earn a free book up to $5 in value! For our examples above, if you spent $48, you have a little more purchasing to do before your free book. But if you spent $124, you end up with two free books!

You don’t have to make a minimum purchase to cash in, so to speak, and the reward is automatically applied at checkout.

“Only $5?” you complain, as though you are entitled to a greater value of free-ness. (Or maybe you excitedly exclaim, “A whole $5!?” in which case, the feeling is mutual!)

Do you not understand how vast the ThriftBooks collection is? Thousands of titles are $5 and under, so you’ll definitely find a free book on your wishlist. The only caveat is that your free book coupon will expire if you don’t use it within two months. So when you earn one, just add one of your wishlist books to the order so you don’t forget to use it!

As a veteran user of Thriftbooks, I, Leigh Ann, can offer a few tips to earn more reading rewards:

From the start, ThriftBooks offers their customers a couple of ways to get bonus rewards. The first time you make a purchase in the ThriftBooks app, you’ll get 100 bonus points! Tell-A-Friend can give up to 250 points. Give your unique code to a friend who has never made a ThriftBooks purchase, your friend gets a 15% off discount, and you get 50 points. This means you can get your reward for up to five friends.

Another way to boost your reading rewards is to take advantage of ThriftBooks limited time deals. They generally have seasonal deals for holidays and themes, such as Black History Month and for LGBTQIA+ books. Occasionally they have featured releases for double rewards. Keep an eye out for those!

But I’ve found a particular type of purchase that makes your reading rewards progress bar jump dramatically: textbooks.

It’s no secret that textbooks are one the most expensive items you can possess, but if you absolutely have to throw away money on them, why not a) buy them from an indie bookstore, and b) put them towards your free book earnings? For the fall 2020 semester, I bought most of my required books from ThriftBooks, and I earned over 1,000 points. That’s two free books to take the sting out of my devastated savings account. (I say “most” because some titles are not available through ThriftBooks; in that case, I usually go to Amazon.)

If you’re not a student, the quickest way might be to purchase collectibles or to buy new books through the site, as every dollar translates to reading points! Collectibles result in your owning things like signed copies and gorgeous covers. New books tend to smell nice. It’s all a win-win-win for us.

Have we sold you yet? Here’s some more info, anyway, and then you’ll find the info on the Modcasts’ giveaway!

Customer Service and Testimonials

Even to their negative 1-star reviews on websites like TrustPilot, ThriftBooks responds within an hour asking reviewers to reach out to them to address these issues and rectify mistakes, and improve access to their site. Let’s go over a few of the issues I’ve seen reported.

One of the issues is occasional fraudulent listings of book conditions (new, fair, good, etc.)—or what some customers feel is fraudulent. Ordering an “acceptable” copy may not match your own idea of what acceptable means.

An overwhelmingly common complaint is slow shipping: understand that we are living in unprecedented times; post offices and delivery drivers are still struggling to keep up with the rates of shipping pre-pandemic! This is such an issue that NPR reported on it: “Widespread Mail Delays As USPS Faces Unprecedented Backlog.” Have some patience! Your copy of The Great Gatsby is surely on its way, and if it isn’t, ThriftBooks has a generally excellent refund or replacement policy.

Last, my favorite ThriftBooks review happens to be from Lori, who writes:

screenshot of a 1-star verified TrustPilot review by Lori: “The book was very dirty. I bought the book for a gift. When the recipient opened the package, the book was dirty and had writing in it.” Profile icon is anonymous, 1 review logged. Timestamped “2 days ago," which would be Feb 3, 2021.
ID: screenshot of a 1-star verified TrustPilot review by Lori: “The book was very dirty. I bought the book for a gift. When the recipient opened the package, the book was dirty and had writing in it.” Profile icon is anonymous, 1 review logged. Timestamped “2 days ago,” which would be Feb 3, 2021.

Look, you’re just gonna have to understand that “thrift” means cheap, and is used to denote “used.” As in, other people have already read this book, and some people annotate their books. I’m not quite sure how you’ve managed to miss any of this, Lori, as ThriftBooks takes great pains to label their used books as anything other than “new.” Come on.

Modcast Giveaway!

Now that you know a heck of a lot about ThriftBooks, we hope you will consider creating an account of your own and supporting this indie store! If you haven’t already, go ahead and explore the site and what titles it has to offer. See anything you like?

The Modcasters are proud to offer a 15% discount on your first ThriftBooks purchase! The caveat? There are currently only 6 discounts available. This is a first come, first served giveaway! (Note: we will update this number to reflect availability.)

Full disclosure: these discounts will come directly from our own ThriftBooks account code for the Tell-A-Friend program. This makes the giveaway more of a mutually beneficial deal, you see. You get 15% off, we get 50 reading reward points. It’s a win-win, right?

How to enter the giveaway:

  1. Email us at modcast.ell@gmail.com with the subject line reading “ThriftBooks Giveaway.”
  2. If there is a code available, we will respond via your email with the code. Use that code to shop on ThriftBooks and get 15% off your first order!

Finally, it is not required to enter the giveaway, but we would appreciate if you shared this blog to spread the word! Happy reading.

Published by modcasters

We’re a group of graduate students studying English Literature and Language on a mission to discuss literature, provide access to those on the deafness and/or blindness spectrum, and rock mustachios.

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