Since 1998, Alibris has been providing textbooks online with great prices and a wide selection. As the Internet’s largest independently owned and operated textbook marketplace, Alibris is a trusted company that looks to improve its service year after year, making it a great place for buying textbooks online and our TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award winner.
While Alibris does not have the vast product selection of large online retailers like Amazon or Half.com it does provide a very comprehensive selection of books, movies, music, and textbooks online. Alibris sells both new and used textbooks online, fulfilling orders directly and through third-party sellers.
Alibris buys books directly, like Barnes & Noble, and provides an independent seller marketplace, like Amazon. All you have to do is enter a textbook’s ISBN, and they will let you know if they are willing to purchase the book. You can sell the book directly to Alibris and be paid by either check or PayPal. Alternatively, you can place the textbook up for sale in the marketplace.
Like Barnes & Noble, Alibris utilizes tabs on their webpage for easy navigation. These tabs have sub-tabs that further break down browsing categories. For example, if you click on the “textbooks” tab, you’ll see subcategories of “college textbooks”, “home school textbooks”, “high school textbooks” etc. These tabs cater to those who like to point-and-click their way through textbooks online.
Alibris also offers a refined and unique search method. Users can perform standard searches by author, title, subject, and ISBN, along with a multi-ISBN search. The multi-ISBN search is capable of accepting up to 25 different textbook ISBNs, making the best possible matches, and then bundling the textbooks together according to the best price for each title. The multi-ISBN search really speeds up the process of finding multiple textbooks online, taking the hassle out of textbook and price comparison.
Another great feature of the Alibris website is the Book Fetch service. If you’re having trouble finding a certain textbook, you can fill out a Book Fetch form. Every time a book gets added to the Alibris inventory, Book Fetch will look to see if it matches your request. If a match is found, you’ll be notified immediately by e-mail.
We felt that the tabbed categorical browsing experience, the multi-ISBN search, and the Book Fetch feature really lend some unique accessibility to the Alibris website.
Alibris has two standard shipping policies: one for orders shipping directly from Alibris, and another for orders shipping from independent sellers.
For orders shipping from Alibris, standard (4-14 days), expedited (2-8 days), trackable expedited (4-8 days), and one- and two-day air options are available. A Free Super Value Shipping option is offered for orders of eligible textbooks totaling at least $49. Orders to Alaska, Hawaii, P.O. boxes and APO/FPO addresses can take a bit longer to arrive.
Orders shipped from independent sellers can only be sent via standard and expedited methods. No trackable or air shipping options are available. Orders of multiple books from the same seller may allow you to receive consolidated shipping, saving you some money.
Customers who request shipment from either Alibris or an independent seller to addresses in Canada have only one shipping option, which takes 7-14 days to arrive. Shipment to countries outside of the U.S. and Canada is handled via standard international (3-4 weeks) or priority international shipping (about 2 weeks).
Unfortunately, when it comes to tracking shipments, only the trackable expedited and air shipping options allow customers to track the shipments of their textbooks online. While this is definitely one negative aspect about the Alibris.com shipping policy, most customers should not have a problem if their textbooks arrive on time.
Like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Alibris.com has a useful help section. The topics are well organized and present clear descriptions of Alibris’s policies. For answers to questions not covered in the help section, Alibris makes it simple to e-mail customer service your inquiries.
Obtaining the status of the orders placed for textbooks online requires either a visit to the Alibris website or a call to 510-594-4586. Logging into the website will visually inform you of the shipment status of your order(s), while the phone number will provide automated service.
While adequate access to customer service is offered via e-mail, it does not provide the same type of intimate interaction as either Amazon or Barnes & Noble, due to the lack of a live customer service phone number.
Alibris provides a satisfaction guarantee for all purchases. If you are not satisfied that your textbook is as described, you can return it for a refund. Their 60-day return window is the highest of any of the textbooks online services that we reviewed.
The return process is easy. All you have to do is visit your order history in the “your account” section, click the “return this item” link, complete the form, and print the authorization page and return label. Refunds typically take two to three weeks to receive.
While Alibris may not have the incredible product selection of Amazon or the popular name of Barnes & Noble, it holds its own as a leading destination to buy and sell textbooks online. It has a well constructed website, unique search options, a worry-free return policy, and helpful customer service that make buying and selling textbooks online a comfortable experience.