“ Online book shop selling new and second-hand books „
i used to be a very regular customer.
in my experiences, books on many occasions were either out of stock (listed incorrectly) or of poor quality (damaged or with significant notation inside despite their 'standards' promising otherwise). rare was it for me to receive an order in a condition as described - i was constantly chasing up items (lost, not received, of poor quality etc).
suffice to say, on my final dealings, even after providing clear photographic evidence that an item was NOT as described (far from it), customer service staff attempted to suggest otherwise & weasel out of the obligation to provide a 'full refund' under the conditions of THEIR so-called 'product guarantee'.
to add further insult to injury, they added a condition that my $4 'full refund' would only come after returning the item (initially at my own cost - much more than the book is worth, to be 'refunded' weeks later when received). all that for $4?? i think the company knows most won't follow through...
this experience was the final straw...cheap prices don't always equal quality. sometimes you really do get what you pay for...
to sum up, the quality standards listed on their site mean nothing, their 'product guarantee' is not adhered to, excuses are given & 'rules' made as they go.
you may ask: if they're that bad, what did you keep buying from them? answer: faith that maybe i had an odd 'bad' order/experience & the prices were cheap...
all that said, i'm happy to say that many other sellers will be reaping the benefit of my regular patronage.
buyer beware...there's many other sellers out there that do it better (maybe a slightly higher price at times but MUCH better quality/service)...
~Me and my book problem~
I have a serious book addiction that fills my house with books which clutter most of the rooms. It used to cost me a lot of money but when I realised that I was unlikely to beat my book addiction, I could at least take steps to reduce the financial impact. I get a lot of free books through writing for www.curiousbookfans.co.uk , I swap a lot of books through www.readitswapit.com and I fill my kindle with cheap books through Amazon's daily deals and periodic sales. It's fair to say that I could go years without needing to buy another book but that doesn't stop me. When I can't get books for free or by swapping, my cheap bookseller of choice is www.awesomebooks.com
I first came across the company AwesomeBooks (let me call them AB before my fingers drop off through too much typing) through buying second hand books on Amazon's marketplace. One day a parcel with my Amazon order arrived from AB and I noticed a website address on the packaging and discovered their website. I figured - correctly as it turned out - that if they could afford to sell books cheaply through Amazon and pay Amazon their cut of the 'deal' then buying from them directly without Amazon as an intermediary was likely to be even cheaper.
~A little bit of history~
AB started from someone's basement in 2004 and have grown so much that they now have roughly 2 million books in their distribution centre. They source cheap or free books from ex-library stock, books being sent for pulping, charity shop leftovers and many other ingenious sources that they're too smart to reveal. The founders were book lovers so they set up a business that would give others what they themselves had been looking for - cheap books and reliable service. Last year they processed more than 15 million books and I love to think that by buying from them I'm contributing to a fantastic book-recycling network as well as saving myself lots of money. They also send excess stock to school libraries in the developing world, to hospices for the patients to read and to groups raising money for charity. There really is a lot to like about this business.
There are various ways to browse the website and lots of links to particular genres, to 'best sellers', to bargain books in the 'bargain bin' or 'bundles' as well as a good old-fashioned search function for those who already know what they want. You can choose to browse new or used books too. I don't find the AB site all that easy to navigate but I have a handy way of getting round that problem which will no doubt upset the nice folks at Amazon if they realise how I've been using their site. I keep a very long 'wish list' of books on Amazon and then periodically - usually when AB are offering even bigger discounts (more of that later) - I go through my wish list and look for second hand books where one of the listed sellers is AB. Then, knowing that they have the book, I go off and track it down on their website using the search functino By doing this I can reassure myself that I've probably got the best available price before I order.
AB sells both new and used books although I restrict myself entirely to their used stock because I don't find their prices all that competitive on new books. The majority of the books that I buy are from their 'Bargain Bin' and typically sell for about £2.59 give or take 20p or so. They periodically add thousands more books to the Bargain Bin so even if you've looked before and found nothing, it's still worth checking on a regular basis. If you sign up for their mailings, you'll get a tip off each time they top up the 'bin'. Even better if you 'like' them on facebook, they will alert you every time they have a special offer on. I've had several voucher codes for an additional 20% off all their books which typically brings most of the Bargain Bin down to just over £2 including postage.
Free postage is available to all customers in the UK regardless of how many or how few books you buy. Given that the Royal Mail will charge you considerably more than £2 to post all but the skinniest of paperbacks, this is a fantastic offer. If you buy two or more books they'll deliver free of charge to most of Europe and North America which is an even more stunning bargain and there's no minimum spend. You could feasibly spend around £4 on two bargain books during a 20% off period and get them sent to the US all inclusive.
Another fun function of the site is their 'bargain bundles' which offer 3 books of some tenuous connection for just £6.99. You can search by author, genre, or key work. For example I have bought bundles of books that I found by searching under 'India' or bundles by particular authors. Within any section you can construct and customise your bundle. These are very inexpensive but they can be tricky to find exactly what you want and - in the words of the market stall holders - 'When they're gone, they're gone' so if you manage to make an interesting bundle, buy it straight away as it might not be there the next day.
~Packaging and Complaints~
When I first bought with AB I wasn't crazy about their packaging and I think they had a lot of complaints at that time. They used to use poor quality 'Jiffy Bags' (or padded envelopes) which often ripped in transit. More recently they've switched to more sturdy cardboard 'envelopes' and I've had no problems with them at all. I've seen complaints that they don't put invoices in the pack and this may be a problem for some people - however, it's no issue for me and if it keeps their costs down and helps them sell books for less, I'm not precious about having a printed invoice.
There are no descriptions given about the condition of their second hand books and some people may not like this. Personally I have no problem at all with receiving ex-library or ex-charity shop books, books with a few dog eared pages or a wrinkled spine. It's what's inside that counts. I've never had a book arrive in really bad or unreadable condition but I heard that if that happens they're pretty hot about issuing refunds in response to any complaints. They will always accept returns within 30 days with a no-quibble refund and if you have a problem, they promise to respond within 24 hours. I've only written to them once and they easily beat their 24 hour target.
If you want to buy for someone else, they offer a gift wrap service and can post to alternative addresses. You won't need to worry about the recipient knowing what you paid because there are no invoices in the parcels. Gift wrapping isn't cheap at £3.99 but you can add a personal message to go with the parcel and if you're trying to avoid buying, wrapping, and then posting a parcel on again, it might be worthwhile.
~Paying for your books~
Each time you select a book it goes to your online 'shopping bag'. A counter at the top of the screen keeps you updated on the number of books and the cost of your shopping bag so you can stop yourself if you get too carried away. Payments are accepted by the major credit and debit cards (excluding AMEX) as well as by Paypal. Generally I use Paypal and I've never had any issues. Postage takes a few days - I'm never too sure as I'm not at home during the week but I'd guess 3-4 days is typical.
Rubbish. My limited edition hardcover book was sent in a thin jiffy bag with no paperwork or invoice. The book was badly ripped and customer services has been appalling. They replied to my first mail, and requested photos of the damage, but never replied again, even though I sent lots of further mails asking for help. They do not have a phone number, so cannot be contacted, unless by e-mail. Not very useful if they don't reply.
I e-mailed one last time before posting this rotten review, asking for an explanation and stating that I would soon be reviewing my experience, but they have yet again failed to reply !!!
I've had to address all issues via Alibris, who eventually (after I e-mailed them almost daily and highlighting legal online consumer rights) refunded my order. But it took almost a month and the consumer rights issue before they agreed to do so without any costs to me!
Alibris also wrote direct to Awesomwbooks asking them to contact me, but again nothing! It's been very frustrating and not what one expects.
Awesomebooks are certainly not awesome, and I will never buy from them again.
My review may sound harsh, but when things like this happen, customer services should at least be cooperative and work to sort the problem out, and not totally ignore every effort one makes in contacting them!
While others have been lucky and had positive experiences, I need to make prospective customers aware of the hassles I've had and the potential headaches one faces should there be a problem with an order.
All addicts get their fix wherever they can and want to pay as little as possible for the privilege. Bookaholics are no different and seek out their drug of choice in a variety of places which can be high end bookstores, where you can mooch among the bookshelves or sink into a leather armchair to peruse a book before buying, second hand bookshops, often tucked away in secret little corners of any town in the land and the ubiquitous charity shop from which I've unearthed some absolute gems in my time and paid mere pennies for them. The search for the perfect tome is continuous (or should that be continual?)
Online, of course, there are the big boys such as Amazon and Play.com as well as auction sites such as eBay and eBid but the real bargains are often to be found in the second string of online booksellers who tend to specialise not particularly in newly published books but in writers' back catalogues. Among this group are sellers such as Aphrohead, Alibris and the subject of this review, Awesome Books.
The Awesome Books website is very clearly set out and navigation is extremely easy. The first thing visitors notice is the banner concerning delivery which is free in the UK and there isn't a minimum spend required either. Free delivery is also offered to Europe and North America on all orders of two books or more and for the rest of the world, there is a charge of £2.99 for the first book plus £1.99 for additional books.
The books for sale are divided into New, Used and Bargain Bin and each of those sections is further divided into genre and, in some cases such as fantasy, sub-genre, which makes searching for a particular book pretty easy. There is also the option to search the entire site by keyword, ISBN, title, author or publisher which, again, makes seeking out that elusive title that much easier.
Don't expect any newly published books on this site as they mainly concentrate on books which could be described as having gone off the boil but it's a great place to track down your favourite author's back list or find that more obscure title you've been looking for. The site boast they have over 2 million books available so you're bound to find something to your liking.
All books offered for sale carry the ISBN, price, condition and number of pages, and some titles also have a brief description of the contents. Awesome Books claim that any used books for sale will be in good condition without stains and all the pages will be present although there may be some creasing on the spine and some pages may be dog eared. Of the used books that I've bought, this is a fair assessment of what you receive. Awesome Books also offer a full refund guarantee so you can buy with confidence.
All prices on the site are clearly marked and also the amount of discount offered, which can be anything up to 75% off. This makes it easy to see exactly how much you'll be paying and also how much you're saving.
Certainly, with regard to new books, their prices aren't very competitive, at least not with the likes of Amazon or Play.com, even when taking the free delivery into consideration. Most new books are priced in the range of £4 to £7, offering roughly 1% discount on the publisher's recommended sale price. Used books have a price range from £1.79 which is also the starting price for most books in the Bargain Bin section too.
From time to time, Awesome Books offer discounts and the codes for these are published on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
The buying experience
The site has the usual shopping basket set up and adding books is easy peasy. One thing to note here is that there is an option under the "Add to bag" button to "Buy from Amazon", which at least gives the buyer the opportunity to check out whether the Awesome book is cheaper elsewhere! A running total of the books in your shopping bag is shown in the top right hand corner of the site and once you've completed your purchases, the buyer clicks on the shopping basket where the option to go the checkout is shown.
Previous buyers can simply log into their account from this screen or new buyers choose the option to buy without registering. There is an opportunity once your purchase has been made to create an account if you want.
One annoying little niggle when entering delivery details is that when choosing the country, the United Kingdom is way down the list. As a UK seller, I think the UK option should be first on the list and buyers shouldn't have to cursor down through the alphabetical list of practically every country on the planet to get there. It wouldn't take an HTML genius to make that change.
Payment for purchases is made through World Pay, which are a secure and well known payment site so there aren't any security issues to worry about and the site accepts all major credit cards. Once your order has been placed and your payment confirmed, the option to create an account is offered. This is simply a case of creating your password as the log in will be the buyer's email address.
Every order is acknowledged by email by Awesome Books and payment is also acknowledged by an email from World Pay.
For UK deliveries, Awesome Books estimate delivery will take between 2 and 5 days. My experience has been that they invariably hit this target, although towards the top end of their estimation. In their defence, this is probably because I tend to order books towards the end of the week or at the weekend which adds a day or so to the delivery time.
As far as star rating goes, I'd like to give Awesome Books three and a half but I'll be generous and round up to a four.
Having been a customer for a couple of years now, I can state unequivocally that Awesome Books deliver what they promise. They may not be the cheapest internet booksellers but there aren't any hidden costs so you know up front what your getting and what you're paying for. Although not my favourites (Aphrohead retains the crown there), they are certainly on my list of also rans and buying from them is a quick and easy operation. You won't be disappointed.
I love books. Since learning to read at the age of three I have always had at least one book on the go - usually several. I do love libraries - but my big problem there is that if I have enjoyed a book I will usually re-read it, often many times - so I much prefer to own books. There's nothing quite like the feel of a brand new book, but as I'm not made of money, of late I have been venturing into the world of secondhand books. I feel happier that it's saving a few trees too!
Secondhand bookshops and charity shops are great for a browse, but not so good if you're after something in particular.
I've picked up some good secondhand books from Amazon Marketplace, but the disadvantage there is the £2.75 p&p cost - making even the penny books £2.76 - still not bad compared to a new book, but as an inveterate bargain hunter I was sure I could do better!
So, one day I had a flash of inspiration, and decided to check out some of those Amazon penny sellers, looking directly at their own websites - and discovered Awesome Books.
Who are Awesome Books?
The website is awesomebooks.co.uk and they are basically an online bookshop selling all sorts of new and secondhand books.
The 'new books' bit is quite recent, and I've never bought anything new from them. I've had a quick peek, and my impression is that while they are cheaper than RRP, new books are probably cheaper elsewhere. That is just an impression though - my personal experience here is of buying from what I think of as a huge online secondhand bookshop.
Well, they stock all sorts, from 'adventure and fantasy' to 'parenting and childcare' to 'politics and scholarly works' - with plenty in between!
There are often several copies of any particular book, and each is listed with an 'Item Condition' rating . These nearly all seem to be 'Good' for used books and are generally books which have clearly been read, have a bit of creasing to the cover etc., but are generally what they say - in good condition.
There are usually a mixture of paperback, large paperback and hardback, so it's worth checking carefully what you've selected if you want a particular format.
The best advice I can give is to go on and have a look if you're after something in particular.
Some examples of the kind of stuff I've found on there:
I am rather partial to Alexander McCall Smith books - and on this site there are several pages of secondhand copies of his books.
Or children's books - I recently picked up all four of the Anthony Horowitz 'Power of Five' series (I had read my daughter's library copies but then found myself in need of a re-read!).
I recently read on dooyoo an excellent review (by Secre) of a book called 'The Lies of Locke Lamora'. I'd never heard of it before but it sounded great so I popped over to Awesome Books - and there were about 8 copies to choose from.
Prices and Delivery
More recent books often cost a little more, but the most regular price I pay is £1.99 - this is for the sort of books which are a penny plus p&p on Amazon.
Shipping is 45 pence for a single book, but FREE (worldwide!) if you order two or more books - rarely a hardship I have to say! Even paying the postage, £2.44 beats £2.76, but I've never been stuck only finding one book I want to buy!
Delivery is very quick too, orders are shipped within 24 hours and my experience has been that books usually arrive within 2-3 days.
Well, the website itself is my main niggle really - it could be vastly improved.
Down the left hand side is a 'menu' where you can select a genre - but all this gives you is a huge list, potentially pages and pages to scroll through, and as the list contains pictures too you only get 20 results to a page. I guess this is the equivalent to bookshop browsing, but I find it very frustrating - particularly as the categories are quite broad. A few subcategories would improve things no end.
Better is the 'search' function - you can input a full or part title or author name. One problem here is that it can depend on how the book has been catalogued as to whether you find it or not - for example, going back to Alexander McCall Smith, he has written a series about a character called Isabel Dalhousie, but this series is also known as the Sunday Philosophy Club. Some of the books are referenced by one name, some by the other - so a search on 'Isabel Dalhousie' won't find those which were catalogued as 'Sunday Philosophy Club' and vice versa.
The very best if you know exactly what you want is to use the advanced search and input the ISBN (you can always get this off Amazon!)
I also find the site is a bit annoying when it comes to clearing out previous selections - I end up inputting the same thing over and over. There's a filter to select whether you want to search new, secondhand, bargain bin, or anywhere - this in particular is very frustratingly reset to 'anywhere' each time.
Those are the annoying niggles then - and they're really not enough to get too upset about - it's just that as an IT professional I know they could make it so much more user-friendly!
Apart from that the website is fine - checkout and payment are all fairly standard, and they send you an email to confirm.
Awesome Books is a fantastic online shop for secondhand books - one I use with great frequency. I almost always find what I want, and at a good price. Delivery is quick. I have to knock off a star for the website itself I'm afraid, but don't let that put you off - this is really a brilliant place to find books, and is always the first site I look on.