Auburn-based Thrift Books leading the pack online

Hector Rivas stands amidst the Thrift Books warehouse

Hector Rivas stands amidst the Thrift Books warehouse

These days everybody is feeling the pinch of the troubled economy.

With prices for many goods and services rising, far outpacing wages, it has become a struggle for many to afford the basic necessities, let alone find enough cash to buy items not necessary for survival, like books and entertainment.

But there is good news for the cost-conscious bookworm, said Hector Rivas, chief executive officer for Thrift Books, an Auburn-based, Internet used book seller.

Sitting in his office in the Auburn warehouse – one of four the company operates – Rivas explained one of the reasons his company is thriving in these tough financial times.

“A lot of customers are price sensitive right now, and they’re looking for bargains,” Rivas said. “Because of that, we have a great Web site for them and great products for them.

“Everyone asks me (what we offer that other companies don’t) and I tell them it’s price,” he adds. “Hands down it’s price. You can get a New York Times bestseller delivered to your home anywhere in the U.S. for under four bucks. Within a week we’re lowering our prices even cheaper. Most of our inventory sells for a penny a book. Then it’s just three bucks and change for shipping.”

Rivas first came onboard Thrift Books in 2003, shortly after founders Jason Meyer and Auburn High School graduate Daryl Butcher started the company.

“The original founders met at a church function, and the idea was to start selling used books on Amazon,” Rivas said. “So unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar store, where they had their business and decided to sell on Amazon, they built around selling on Amazon from the beginning.”

Rivas, who had previous sales experience while putting himself through college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said he soon found himself in charge of procuring books for the fledging enterprise.

“We get our books from a lot of different places,” he said. “We partner with a lot of different libraries. We work with traditional brick and mortar stores like Half Price Books. We also get them from thrift stores. We work with probably 70 or 80 different organizations.

“We negotiate at a higher level, and they send them to us by the truckload,” he added. “It’s not unusual for us to buy up to 2 million books in a single month.”

Originally the company operated out of a storage unit in Kirkland, but soon found itself needing to expand.

“It was four guys and a couple thousand books to start with,” Rivas said.

Soon the company moved to a new space on Mercer Street in Seattle.

“Ironically, the building that we had on Mercer Amazon is ripping down and building their new headquarters there,” he said. “They’re putting that on top of our old building.”

Soon the company outgrew the 24,000 square feet of space in Seattle and found a new 67,000-square-foot home in Auburn.

“We hold about a million books in this warehouse,” Rivas said.

In addition, the company maintains four other warehouses, in Detroit, Portland and Atlanta.

“Each of those holds a million books as well,” Rivas said.

Although statistics are not available regarding used book sales on the Internet, Rivas said that he believes Thrift Books is the largest purveyor of used books online.

“I believe we are the largest distributor of used books on the Internet in the world,” he said. “There is not a company online (selling used books) exclusively that is bigger than us.”

Currently, the company employs almost 200 people nationwide, including the more-than-60 people who work at the Auburn warehouse and corporate headquarters.

And although the company still does the majority of its business through and eBay, Rivas said he hopes that a revamped customer service philosophy will spread the good word about the company’s Web site at

“We’ve got a liberal customer service policy that we modeled on Nordstrom,” he said. “Some people may take advantage of that, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.”

Despite the current hunker-down mentality prevalent in many businesses, Rivas said growth is the key word at Thrift Books.

“We’d like to get up to 10 warehouses and 10 million books online,” he said. “Honestly, when a customer thinks of used books, we’d like it to be synonymous with Thrift Books. We’d like for that name to be the first thing that comes to mind.”

Visit Thrift Books at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa
Puget Sound Darigold workers on verge of strike amid contract negotiations

Workers cite lack of medical leave, outsourcing and bad-faith negotiations as reason for strike.

Best of Auburn 2021 contest seeks nominations today!
Best of Auburn 2021: Nominate your favorites now!

Nominations are underway for your favorite restaurants, businesses, community members and more… Continue reading

Dave and Buster's restaurant and entertainment venue looks to hire 130 people to staff its Bellevue venue, set to open in August. Photo courtesy Dave and Busters.
Dave and Buster’s hiring 130 for August opening in Bellevue

Dave and Buster’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens in downtown Bellevue on… Continue reading

Smuggler’s Deli Sandwiches (courtesy of Smuggler’s Deli Facebook)
Secret sandwich ‘ghost kitchen’ sneaks into downtown Auburn

Smuggler’s Deli started as a way to keep Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro afloat.

Downtown Auburn. Courtesy photo
Auburn restaurants may get sidewalk permit fees waived

In 2020, the city of Auburn adopted an ordinance to provide a… Continue reading

Auburn general contractor helps employees rebuild their lives

Mari Borrero has been a United States Marine, a Kent School District… Continue reading

Images of dishes from Issaquah’s Umi Cafe posted on the SMORS page. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Ho)
Facebook page promotes minority-owned restaurants across Puget Sound region

Miya Nazzaro used to be a member of Facebook pages that were… Continue reading

Downtown Auburn. Courtesy photo
Council approves B&O tax to generate more revenue for Auburn

The Auburn City Council approved the city’s first ever Business and Occupation… Continue reading

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Cash Cards Unlimited partners, left: Nick Nugwynne, right: Cassius Marsh (photo credit: Cash Cards Unlimited)
Former Seahawks player Cassius Marsh cashes in on trading cards

Marsh and his friend open physical and online trading card store as collectibles boom amid pandemic.

First large-scale, human composting facility in the world will open in Auburn

“It’s what nature meant us to do. We just do it faster.”