Powell's Books Logo
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3 User Reviews
LAST UPDATED: October 26th, 2021
Founded in 1971, Powell's Books is a Portland, Oregon-based chain of bookstores that now offers online purchasing.

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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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3 Reviews

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Steve Ashby OR

I love Powell's, but I live in Portland metro so I'm probably a little biased. I buy books from them periodically online and have them delivered or pick them up at their store in Beaverton, OR. I have also sold used books to them and that has been a good process.

6 months ago

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trent reznor Adelaide, SA

At one point the site used to be really good - great/friendly customer service, excellent quality items & reasonable prices. What came next within the last year or so at least (should i speculate whether this has been a blatant attempt to maintain maximum profits during 'covid'?), standards COMPLETELY dropped. Items in such poor condition they would not even make a charity store being sent (severely water damaged books at times, books looking like a dog has eaten them, books with loose pages/binding, books with significant creasing, etc)! To make matters worse, these books have usually been listed in their 'standard' condition (which appears to be akin to 'good or very good') while they SHOULD'VE been correctly listed as 'less than standard' (a condition the site claims to have). Refunds have been reluctantly/grudgingly given in cases like this - seemingly with no genuine understanding of the inconvenience of then needing to source these same books elsewhere - which can be made infinitely harder if a 'rare' book! In fact, customer service staff (usually higher staff members such as 'ashley' their 'customer care MANAGER'), attempt to remain tactful, while coldly 'polite' - without actual empathy/understanding/humanity - only profit motive. Wouldn't it be thought that a GENUINE, HONEST & ETHICAL business of ANY kind not only 'own up' to their own slipped standards & poor customer service but also adhere to THEIR 'guarantee' (listed prominently on their site)? No, instead, i had a newer order cancelled, ALL blame put on me for the 'increase' in refunded items (not ONCE addressing the MASSIVE, worrying drop in quality of items). Laughably, i was told: "... it's become clear that we're unable to meet your condition needs. Due to this, and the fact that such a high rate of refunds has become cost-prohibitive for us, we're unable to continue shipping orders to you." BIG problem is, they don't even meet THEIR OWN 'condition' standards - not specifically MINE! Here's their general condition that they claim to have/follow: "Standard What does "Standard" condition mean at Powell's? Books in good or better condition, free of writing or other markings in the text (with the possible exception of a previous owner's name in the front). The great majority of the books in our stock fall into this category. In short, when a book is listed as "Standard," you can expect it to be a high quality copy." "All our new, used, and out-of-print books are in good reading condition — guaranteed. We recognize that ordering used books on the Web, sight unseen, requires trust. If you've ever tried to sell us your old books, you know firsthand how tough our standards are (haha - we wish!). By enforcing strict quality guidelines, we can guarantee that every book we sell, new or used, is a good reading copy." A LOT of FALSE/FRAUDULENT/DISHONEST claims made on their website - insult to injury, one of the worst is: "We're nothing without our customers. Powell's would not be the destination it is now without its loyal customers." - CLEARLY COMPLETELY FALSE, unless you're a customer who is fine with near throw-away/give-away items amongst ones that DO fit their (meaningless) 'standards'. Based on the proud history of this store displayed on the website, personally, i'd say the store's founder/s would be rolling in their graves to see just how their 'family business' is being conducted AND how their 'loyal customers' are treated! STAY WELL AWAY!

1 year ago

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Trent Provo, UT

They have a great selection of used books, and the customer services was helpful to help us make sure which versions of the book was available

4 years ago