The Problem with Bookstores

December 17, 2011

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A whole lot of hoopla has been raised the past two weeks with Amazon’s strong arm tactics giving $5 off any product you scan with your smart phone in a brick and mortar store, the Slate article which justified it and a whole bunch of others which didn’t. While I agree with some things in the article, I don’t agree with the spirit of it, but that’s another issue.

I have been an Amazon customer for many years, to be honest I don’t have much to complain about. I get my orders in a reasonable amount of time, the price is good and the selection is unbelievable. What can I say, I love the ability to buy any book that was ever published at a reasonable price.

I am also all for supporting your local businesses I, selfishly, also like to eat and have a roof over my head as well as give my children the holiday present they’ve been craving.
Yes, Daddy will turn on the heat.
But just for one day!
Happy Holidays!!

That being said, I cannot possible pay twice the price for a hammer at Mr. Cunningham’s Hardware Store than I would at the BORG (Big Orange Retail Giant), that wouldn’t be prudent. I’d pay a buck or two more to support Joanie and Chachi though.

Local businesses, like everyone else, are entitled to make a living. What they are not entitled to is my money.

Which brings me back to independent bookstores. The problem, from my limited perspective, is that many independent bookstores sell books.
And only books.
They need to sell an experience.

Don’t know what to buy your sweetheart?
Come to the Cemetery of Forgotten Bookstore where our friendly neighborhood personal shopper, Mr. Monfort, can help you with all your needs. No charge for personal service and a cup of coffee on the house.


“Yes Mr. Kent, I can order that book for you and you know what, I’ll give you a discount on it. Sorry for the inconvenience. Is there anything else at the store you might be interested in? May I recommend a book that I believe Lois would absolutely love?”

I’m not saying open a coffee house like other book stores, but make it a unique, memorable experience. Bookends in New Jersey has a ton of author events, granted someone knows somebody (“wit’ da’ ting, in da’ place”) to have such high profile authors and celebrities make it a stop but still, they found their niche.

Why not have reviews available?
When I go to the wine store I have the wine’s rating below the bottle, same could be done for books.

But even bigger than that, the local bookstore could easily become the “place where everybody knows your name” – and that’s something even Amazon mechanically generated greeting can’t offer.

By the way, the Price Check by Amazon app gives you 5% up to $5 and does not include books.
Those darn facts again.

Zohar – Man of la Book

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  • Gently MadDecember 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I love bookstores and I especially love those little out of the way bookstores that have so much character and personality.
    I’m with you, however, that they are not entitled to my money and to quote from a book, ‘if the cheese moves you need to move to where it moved.’
    There’s a couple of unique bookstores where I live. One even has combined a hair salon with her book store. She calls it “Beauty and the Book.” She now has a national tv show that interviews famous authors.
    On my blog I interviewed an interesting old coot who owns a local bookstore. Here’s the link if you’re intersted:

  • MelDecember 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I completely agree with you. I have been buying my books through Book Depository in the UK for some years. The reason being the range and the price and free shipping to Australia. There has been an uproar in Australia as well with the closing of bookstores here of course, but I maintain that just as businesses will go offshore to increase there profitability, so of course I am going to do the same! Especially as the money I save can go towards life essentials as you suggest.
    At author events, whether they be at festivals or in a local store, I will buy the book in the store (or at the event, even if it costs twice as much) to support the local event or business. So yes, more creative, experienced based thinking needed for sure.

  • Courtney ReneDecember 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I love books, whether I find them in a book store or while sitting on the beach with my kindle in hand, I love them. But, the problem I am finding with brick and mortar (B&M)stores is that they are more expensive for the same book I can get “free shipping” on from Amazon. Or, they dont carry everything I may decide on a whim that I want.

    While having a moment of nostalgia I wanted to find an old book titled, Little Pig that I used to LOVE as a child for my daughter. Not one of the B&M stores I visited had it much less knew what I was talking about (I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the book only the story). Amazon found it immediately with only the terms, “pig lost in big city stuck in cement”. Plus I didn’t get any attitude from the computer.

    I am visiting B&M stores less and less. I am sad to see them go. I agree with you though, that until they have something more to offer, Amazon will be getting my business.


  • bookmagicDecember 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

    I’m so tired of the whining about Amazon. There are so many authors I probably wouldn’t have taken a chance on if I was paying full bookstore price. But I have discovered and enjoyed some of those great authors from Unbridled books like Emily St John Mandel and Peter Geye. I buy many, many, more books because of Amazon and now the Kindle. That can’t be bad for authors.
    There was am awesome indie bookstore in my city. They were driven out by Border’s and B&N long before Amazon was a blip on the radar. Amazon is not the devil.

  • jasonDecember 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Exactly! I have been both an Amazon buyer and seller for several years, and I agree with the sentiment that stores are not entitled to our money. I think this is the root of my prob with all the outpouring and affection for mom & shop stores; sure, they’re nice, but when they’re attempting to sell plastic cups at 2x the price of a Walmart; what are they thinking? They don’t deserve that sale any more than Walmart does.

    Anyways, I’m thinking the same is true of books. When Borders was selling a hardback for $25, and I sell it a handed-down new copy on my Amazon store for $5, c’mon, it’s a no-brainer. Buyers aren’t dumb, and they’re not going to let themselves get ripped off under the pretense of ‘loyalty.’

    And you really can’t match the selection of Amazon, which is my most important criteria. I still love to go to used bookshops and library sales and buy a box or a bag full of books.

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