Powell's Books


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Founded in 1971, Powell's Books is a Portland, Oregon-based chain of bookstores that now offers online purchasing.

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#8 Powell's Books Logo Powell's Books



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The Good

  • Great search function
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Green practices

Although Powell's Books doesn't sell ebooks, we found almost all of the New York Times bestselling-books we searched for in both print and audio versions. It also features rare and collectible books and gift items such as games, journals, Game of Thrones paraphernalia and an unexpectedly fun line of novelty socks.

We found the search results to be accurate and easy-to-read. As with many of the other online bookstores we reviewed, Powell's Books features both editorial and user reviews for the titles it carries, as well as a wishlist feature to save items for purchase at a later date. If you're having trouble selecting your next read, you can also email the staffers at Powell's for personalized book recommendations. You can also sell your old books to Powell's - just enter the ISBNs online, wait for Powell's to send their offer and then drop your books in the mail. Powell's will cover the shipping charges.

The Powell's Books Money Back Guarantee is straightforward and offers you the option to return any book you aren't satisfied with for a full refund. There aren't any confusing addendums in fine print other than the standard exclusion of opened CDs and DVDs.

Powell's Books offers the option to subscribe to four different newsletters - there is a daily delivery with a featured title, a weekly event list, a general news blurb sent every few weeks or a periodic catalog of coupons and promotions. The ability to tailor how often you hear from Powell's, as well as the subject matter, is a helpful way to avoid a flooded inbox.

Green practices are a high priority for Powell's Books. Its delivery trucks use biofuel, some of its locations have been renovated to include sustainable materials and alternative energy-efficient lighting, and employees are incentivized to commute to work via bus or bicycle.

The Bad

  • No rentals
  • Not great for students
  • Higher prices

While Powell's does feature new and used textbooks for sale, it doesn't offer a rental service. Given the typically high price of textbooks, rental services are becoming a commonplace way for students to save money and avoid amassing a collection of heavy books on their shelves. If you're in school and low on cash, you'll have better luck with online bookstores that offer textbook rental services, such as Half.com or Tattered Cover.

Another downside of Powell's Books is its pricing: it consistently featured some of the highest list prices in comparison to all the other bookstores we reviewed. If you're on a budget, Powell's may not be your best shopping destination.

The Bottom Line

Features like a Money Back Guarantee and personalized book recommendations, coupled with environmentally-conscious business practices, make Powell's Books a regret-free shopping experience.

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