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Best Amazon alternatives: how to shop outside of the Bezos empire

Amazon Prime
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Looking for an alternative to Amazon when buying a new gadget, gizmo, TV, streaming stick, or vacuum cleaner – or maybe even new books and handmade gifts? Look no further than this guide, which takes you through a host of alternative online stores from where you can shop.

Whatever you’re buying online, there’s a good chance that Amazon will have some iteration of them item – and that Amazon’s product page will feature heavily both in search engines and in relevant deals pages. Heck, we post about Amazon deals aplenty, and there’s no denying that you're likely to be able to pick up an item most cheaply at Amazon.

However, there’s often a hidden cost to Amazon’s aggressively competitive pricing – and that’s the rest of the retail ecosystem.

Amazon’s sheer scale enables it to reduce storage and shipping costs, at price points that would simply bankrupt smaller businesses that attempt to match them. There’s a reason Jeff Bezos’ originally intended name for the company was ‘Relentless’.

If you’re short on cash, then no-one can blame you for opting for the cheapest model out there, even if it’s on Amazon. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, then you’ll be subject to a host of additional financial incentives to shop through the website, from one-day shipping to subscriber-exclusive discounts – as well as the music streaming service, TV streaming service, and discounted Audible audiobook subscription thrown in.

But if you want to support some businesses outside of the Amazon ecosystem, we have some options for you to consider. Read on below for the best Amazon alternatives, from online booksellers to consumer technology chains.

Amazon alternatives: TVs, speakers, gadgets and appliances

Online Shopping

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This is the really meaty stuff – it’s the bulk of what we cover on TechRadar, after all. So if you’re after the latest consumer tech gadgets, where can you go?

There are plenty of big retailers other than Amazon in this arena. In the US, you have Best Buy, which covers an excellent range of home gadgets, from TVs and soundbars to home appliances, smartwatches, and VR headsets. You can also check out Walmart, which seems to stock every item known to man (even assault rifles) – although shopping with one massive sales conglomerate might rather defeat the object of ditching another.

It’s worth looking at smaller, more dedicated sellers for specific categories. Doing so will also mean you’re likely to find some goods that aren't stocked by the big retailers. Newegg is a good option for PCs, PC components, and gaming accessories, while Micro Center similarly offers PC-related hardware and software that's worth checking out. B&H is a great place for cameras, non-Apple smartphones, and general electronics.

In the UK, it’s worth checking out Currys, which stocks a huge range of tech gadgets, or John Lewis, which caters to slightly more premium technological tastes, and offers generous five-year warranties for big purchases. Argos is another good bet for low-cost gadgetry, including cameras, laptops, and smartwatches.

It’s worth pointing out that most technology companies have their own website. If you love a brand to bits, it might be a smart idea to head to its website to order direct. However, these portals can sometimes leave a lot to be desired in terms of the customer experience, and there are benefits to purchasing from an established retailer.

Amazon alternatives: books

library

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Amazon originally started out as an online bookseller, quickly growing to offer a huge range of other products. 

However, there are lots of other options for online book shopping. Online portal l Bookshop.org made headlines recently, as an enterprise aimed at keeping indie booksellers afloat, with huge success in the US and a recent launch in the UK too. It gives over 75% of profits to the stores, authors and outlets that make up the bookselling ecosystem, with a dedicated fund for supporting indie bookshops. Its website states a desire to “help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling, and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities.”

Similarly, UK website Hive similarly supports independent bookshops with every sale it makes. Otherwise, the likes of Daunt Books, Blackwells, and Waterstones are well-known and well-stocked bookshop chains to check out.

In the US, Biblio.com offers a way to find local bookstores you can frequent in person, while Powell’s ships across the country (with international shipping a bit limited by Covid-19 restrictions at the time of writing).

If you’re keen on keeping cost down, and low wastage too, then it’s worth checking out Abe Books, which offers used and second-hand books in the US and UK – although it's still owned by Amazon. Sorry!

Amazon alternatives: crafts

Etsy

(Image credit: Etsy)

Amazon doesn’t dabble too much in personalized or handmade goods, preferring the scale and certainty of factory-produced products where possible. For a breath of fresh air, visit one of these crafts websites instead.

Most of you will know Etsy, which is a hotbed of handmade goods from desks and posters to jewelry and clothing. It’s basically a craft fair you can browse through online, with a huge range of goods all offering a personal touch from individual artists or small businesses.

Folksy is a smaller, UK-only Etsy alternative. Its website describes itself as “the home of British craft – the place to buy handmade gifts and original artwork, sold directly by the artists and designers who have created them. Made with love, every purchase from Folksy supports a genuine craftsperson.”

Amazon alternatives: what else does Amazon own?

Ring

(Image credit: Amazon/Ring)

Of course, not everything owned by Amazon comes with official Amazon branding, and you may well be unaware that a service you use is affiliated with the retail giant. For one, Amazon owns Whole Foods, so any US shoppers may have made use of its grocery shopping through the Prime portal.

One of the company’s better-known acquisitions is Audible, the audiobook and podcast subscription service. If you’re using an Amazon-brand streaming stick such as the Fire TV Stick Lite, then you’ll have been inundated with ads for Audible.

ComiXology, the ebook portal for comics, is also an Amazon subsidiary, as is the streaming service Twitch – of which you might be aware given the recent Twitch Prime rebranding for its premium subscription tier, and the various perks you get as an Amazon Prime subscriber (a free Twitch channel sub per month, for example).

Amazon also owns smart home manufacturer Ring, which makes a range of smart security cameras, smart doorbells, and the like – although the company has been hit by a rather worrying privacy scandal that involved employees reportedly accessing user footage.

Henry St Leger

As Home Cinema Editor, Henry lives and breathes televisions, which is bad for the lungs but great for his content addiction. He also reports on VR, video games, smart speakers, and home entertainment.