Killing Bookstores

James Emery White, at his blog, on how purchasing from Amazon is killing local bookstores, and here are our questions:

What to do? Are more people employed/employable if we purchase from local bookstores? What does this mean in other areas — like grocery stores? appliance shops? garage builders?

One of my favorite movies is “You’ve Got Mail,” an overlooked Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie, but by far my favorite.
The story is the quintessential modern romance, but it is set against the backdrop of one of my favorite cities (New York, and one of the better movies which features the Big Apple as a major character) and one of my favorite places.
A bookstore.
I have written in an earlier blog that I am, unashamedly, a book man. You can read it here.  All the more reason I was saddened to read on the front page of my local newspaper that two of my favorite area booksellers will be closing.
In “You’ve Got Mail,” the story revolves around a big-box bookstore forcing a small, independent bookseller out of business. Now, it is the online giant Amazon, along with new technology such as e-readers, which is doing in the big-box stores.
I’ve written about that before as well, and you can click here if you are interested.
But I’m not just sad.
I’m convicted.
Because I am why they had to close. Yes, I helped kill two of my favorite bookstores.
Like many others, I loved spending an hour or two walking the aisles, enjoying the deep armchairs and sipping on coffee from its in-house bar. I would fill my arms with books that caught my eye, laid out tantalizingly as “New Fiction,” “New Non-Fiction,” “New Biography,” and more. Finding a new book by a favorite author that I did not know had a new release; finding a topic of interest that I did not know had been published; such was the great joy of the visit.
And when I made my decision as to what to buy?
Confession time.
I would write the titles down and go home and order them on Amazon.
Now that I’m repentant, it’s time for penance.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://catalystspace.com Jesse Phillips

    This is the nature of our digital future. Sorry bookstores are becoming obsolete. So are DVD rental stores. Maybe a hybrid coffee & media store will result?

  • Robin

    I was faced with the same decision on my most recent purchase. Do I order the book from Amazon for $14.48 (shipping included) or shell out $19.95 to the local bookstore. I decided that I appreciate having a quaint local bookstore connected to a coffee-shop, so I went with the bookstore.

  • Robin

    I will say that if the bookstore was not connected to the coffee shop, thus providing a natural place for reading and enjoying literary ambiance, then I would almost never visit and would most certainly have ordered off of Amazon.

  • http://homekettle.wordpress.com David N.

    As a used and rare book dealer who (for now) operates almost exclusively online, I feel the same guilt in some respects. I love bookstores, but I may be helping to put some of them out by offering my wares online. But this is balanced by the fact that I’ve been able to put obscure books into the hands of people who never would have been able to find them in their average local shop.

    In the next year I plan to open a brick and mortar location in my small town while continuing to sell much of my stock online, thereby providing the best of both worlds.

  • smcknight

    Thank you David N.

  • Pat

    Yep, same here Scot. When I hear of a book I like, I hit the internet and look for the best deal from any one of a number online retailers. When I can’t afford a book, I look for it at the library. It is a sign of our times. It’s admirable and noble to shop at physical bookstores out of the hopes of helping the small business (or the large business and their employees in the case of Barnes and Noble, Joseph Beth et. al.), but then there is the factor of expense as well as convenience. I don’t have to leave my home or carve time out of my schedule to go to a store. I can sit in the comfort of my home, peruse the selection and then make my purchase. It’s hard. Even if we gave in to our noble desires, there’d have to be hundreds or thousands more willing to do the same to make a difference in the lives of the physical booksellers. Probably what’s going to have to happen is that the internet is going to have to become problematic enough to make physical booksellers popular again. Either that or the physical booksellers are going to have to offer other things to entice us to their stores. Even so, they will have competition from places like WalMart that offer so much more AND a book aisle. It’s by no means a bookstore, but depending on what you’re looking for, you may find it in their aisles. Maybe the solution is for big-box stores to actually offer a full bookstore on their premises rather than one little aisle. That might be a start at getting us back into the stores, but then again, that does nothing for the independent book dealer. Sigh….With so many choices, what to do…?

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    On the flip side, the cheaper books are, the more get purchased, and the more money authors make. I like good bookstores (my parents had one when I was young), but I also like good books.

    Besides, most of the stores going down are the mega-stores that put family book shops out of business in the first place. Hand me my tiny violin.

  • http://seanpalmer.wordpress.com Sea

    I struggle with this one. Really.

    I was in a big-box chain store yesterday and found a book for $19.95 that I can get on my e-reader for $6.95. At the same time, our local store’s (non-chain) prices are even higher. I struggle with the fact that I can go there and browse, find things I wouldn’t likely find otherwise and sip coffee. In addition, they local host authors for signings, readings, and Q & A’s. Amazon can’t do that. It isn’t as good for my pocket-book, but it’s good for books…and literature…and reading.

    Yet, simultaneously…I’m cheap!

  • Matt Edwards

    If it’s any consolation, somebody will be writing something like this about Amazon some day.

  • Richard

    For me, the answer is, It Depends. If the cost of the book in a bookstore is equal to or close to the cost of a book online with shipping, then I’ll just go to the local bookstore. If the book is significantly cheaper online including shipping, I go online. Shipping is often the backbreaker.
    Now Scot, you won’t like this, but I usually look for used books. I know that wipes you writers out of the equation but for people like me, I need to save buck. So I’ll often order online from Amazon for used books. I’ve bought some great books that way for as little as a penny plus shipping.
    I rarely buy a brand new book. Reason? Cost but more importantly, I want to watch how the book is received and reviewed. Why spend money on a book that ends up being a dud?
    So, like I say…It depends.

  • http://normajhill.blogspot.com/ norma j hill

    Personally, I have to admit to using Amazon.ca (and other on-line stores) from time to time. Mostly because I can’t find the titles I want in local bookstores. But I have been trying to shop local when I can, and preferably shop independent bookstores.

    I also admit to a lot of “sharing/passing around” books (and/or using the library) rather than buying books I want to read and then leaving them sit on my shelf. I also love used bookstores and digging through boxes of books at yard sales. I have a friend who is interested in a lot of the same titles as myself, so we tend to compare “want” notes, and then share the books we buy. We also buy titles, that we both want to read, for each other as gifts … knowing we can “borrow” them back :-).

    But I’m wondering, by doing things like that, how I am affecting beginning/self-published/less recognized writers? And what about the small bookstores that will sell their books? And the small publishers who take chances on new writers?

    I don’t feel too too sorry for writers when I know their book will be an automatic “bestseller” because their name/brand is already well-established. But I’m wondering about writers who haven’t reached that point yet. And the indie publishers and bookstores that support them.

    On the other hand, as a bit of a writer myself, I have to admit to loving the on-line opportunities, in writing, publishing … and purchasing.

    Just a couple years ago, I would have argued that traditional books will never go out of style. Now, I’m beginning to wonder. At least, I’m pretty sure that they’ll have a considerably smaller bit of the market.

    (I don’t know if I’m happy about that or not.)

  • Larry Barber

    The killer for traditional bookstores, for me, is their limited selection when compared to Amazon. Most of time, when I’m looking for a serious title, my local B&N (supposedly the largest B&N in the world) doesn’t have it. Sure, they can order it, but so can I, from Amazon. It also seems to me that the inventory at physical bookstores is heavily weighted to the “fluff” end of the spectrum, as well. If they would carry more serious titles I would patronize them more. I know they have to stock titles that they can sell but a better selection would be welcome and would counter one of Amazon’s biggest advantages.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Amazon is snuffing out the chain bookstores just as the chains smothered out the small, independent bookstores.

    Outside of a few esoteric indy bookstores, this was a welcome development, at least for readers, as the larger store chain bookstores carried a much richer selection.

    But Amazon changed that and I can go through my wish list and only a small fraction of the books are available at the nearby Borders or B&N. The chains, instead, have narrowed their book selections, opting to devote space to DVDs, CDs, greeting cards, in-house coffee shops (which out of these is the one good stroke) etc.…

    Always thought bookstores should have countered with 21st century strategy marketing and offered “print on demand” or kiosks that guarantee 2-3 day pickup. I would gladly pay a little extra.

  • Daniel

    Larry @ #11, “Fluff”?! If all of these fine Christian bookstores go away where am I supposed to find my Christian trinkets?

    The thing I will miss is the disappearance of the college bookstore. A lot more of our students are going to amazon for their books. Short of making it to ETS/SBL, the college bookstore is the best place to peruse the kinds of books I like.

  • Deets

    I keep stopping by my local bookstore, but they always seem to be out of the Kindle version the books I’m looking for.

  • Craig Querfeld

    Interesting post. There is something romantic about perusing books in a bookstore but my experience is that bookstores here in Latin America carry out dated stuff and when I am in the States it is hard to find bookstores that are relatively cheap and carry books that I want to read not Larry’s (# 11) “fluff.” I have not choice than to click on the amazon links provided in the different blogs that I read and order them via Amazon and ask people who are coming down to visit to bring them for me.
    I guess I too amd contributing to putting bookstores out of business.
    If someone decides to open a theological bookstore in South Peru then I may think of buying books there. Any takers?

  • E.G.

    The world changes. The world has always changed. There’s no market for buggy whips anymore.

    I love our local bookstore, and my wife and I use it as much as we can. But sometimes the convenience (and price difference) of ordering something online rather than waiting for the local store to “get it in” wins the day.

    “Record” stores are dead.

    Video rental stores are basically dead.

    Next on the hit list are travel agents (almost dead) and real estate agents (the writing is on the wall).

    Bookstores should be able to survive longer, and perhaps thrive, *if* they embrace new technology and the desire people have for some real community. Our local bookstore is also an art gallery, coffee shop, and venue for local and regional music performances. They have the right idea. I don’t know if they will survive in the long run but it’s a potentially viable business mode. Perhaps others need to follow suit.

    The internet has changed the world. We’ve all had almost two decades to get used to that fact. That should be enough time.

    (On another note, I am a big proponent of ebooks and ereaders. Both of them will – and are – bringing great benefits to education in the developing world.)

  • http://www.TheJesusAgenda.net Dave Leigh

    This decline is not new but new technology is accelerating the demise of local bookstores. There are many online outlets besides Amazon and they all generally offer better deals. I recall a conversation with a Christian bookstore owner 30 years ago on the edge of the Ohio State campus, when I still used a non-electric typewriter. (Computers then filled buildings, not desktops.) He admitted back then that if he did not sell nic-nacs, cards, and gift items, he would never be able to stay in business based on religious book sales. As I’ve watched over the years, I’ve noted that the stores that remain are of that type, and don’t carry a lot of serious theological material. The exception is bookstores on Christian campuses. But even they have a lot of merchandise, as they keep the serious texts in the back room, and these are usually restricted to course materials ordered by professors (who in many cases also wrote those books–ha!).

    The bookstore is certainly going the way of the music store and movie rental outlets. What will be interesting to watch will be the impact this has on readers and on the literacy of the average consumer. Those who are not tech-oriented may find they read even less than before, or are not as up to date.

    I know of a human resources company that recently made the decision to only accept job applications online, whereas job seekers in the past could come in and get an application form to fill out on the spot. My contact there tells me there is a significant change in the type of applicants they’re now getting, as the new requirement for being able to use a computuer has acted as its own kind of filter.

    It will be interesting to see not only how the changes in technology affect bookstores, but also the literacy and education level of the general population.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    As a small business owner I struggle with this idea myself. In the end I feel that the market is boss and that’s just the way it is in our country. The tyranny of the majority makes it difficult for people who have specific tastes to be serviced by many businesses. Over the past 20 years there was a broad movement toward understanding that mass customization of the products will allow people to have their needs met, but the market has not matured to the point where bookstores can do this at a price people are willing to pay. The product that bookstores are selling is actually closer to what libraries are giving away for free than it is what Amazon is doing. So it is possible that local bookstores will never be viable because the state sponsors libraries.

    Of course, without Amazon in the market the bookstore product is books to take home. With Amazon that is no longer the primary product. It is the experience.

  • Darren King

    You know, this makes me wonder, does anyone know of a story of a bookstore being able to reverse the trend and stay open because a group of locals decided to buy there as a sign of commitment to the local bookstore experience? I’ve heard plenty of stories of stores closing when people go online – but never yet heard a story like I describe above.

    Even if locals did commit to buying books locally, I wonder if that small market of people along would be enough to keep the store alive? Seems like profit margins are narrow enough already – so I don’t know that group of committed folks could really amount to enough of a market to keep a store alive that was otherwise threatened.

    Anybody know of any bookstore near-death experiences?

  • http://www.thekingandhiskingdom.blogspot.com Nick

    My family owned Canada’s largest Christian book distributor/retailer R.G. Mitchell Family Books. I was really sad when it went under because it was a wonderful place for Christian community and conversation. However, I do understand because even I love the ease/selection of ordering online. Free shipping rocks my world!!!!

  • http://exploringapprenticeship.com Keith Clark

    As a two-years-removed-from-an-MDiv minister in a small rural setting without a local bookstore, I can say that Amazon has played a huge role in allowing me to remain engaged with the latest literature in theology and ministry. As such, the availability and ease of buying books from Amazon has helped sustain me as I’ve tried to adjust to a setting in which I don’t have the relationships with fellow students and professors that allow for vigorous dialogue and learning.

  • John I.

    No struggle whatsoever for me. Buying on line provides more value (various on-line reviews, ability to look inside books that would never be on a shelf, customer reviews, lists, etc.), a better purchasing experience for both print and electronic books, better return service, better prices, wider selection, better delivery options, etc. I can’t think of one reason to darken the door of a local bookstore. Local bookstores are like buggy whip makers, especially now that books are going electronic. May as well be nostalgic for the local livery stable.

    John I.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    Back in the early 1990s, before Amazon was the main issue, my friend and fellow graduate student was a subversive of a different sort. With both a very local very good bookstore and a chain Christian book store in town, this is what she regularly did:

    She would find out what she wanted and then go to the Christian bookstore and ask them to order the books she wanted that were Christian-related but out of the Christian book store range of products. She would then go to the other bookstore and ask them to order the more Christian books on her list.

    Peace,
    Randy Gabrielse

  • Alan

    I hate to see bookstores go under. I’m an avid read, like many people here, and I am doing what I can to raise my son to be an avid reader. I love books, and have many of them.

    But, am I really supposed to spend 30-40% more on a book, for the sole purpose of keeping a bookstore open? Especially a chain store–whom we’ve already decided has done this to local bookstores?

    Maybe the problem is deeper than buying books. I heard Donald Miller make a joke (at Catalyst in 2005) about giving someone back the $0.86 he made off a copy of Blue Like Jazz because someone didn’t like it. The point really struck me because it showed (through hyperbole) that authors are making pennies off a book. Maybe somewhere in the $19.13 markup on Blue Like Jazz, someone–publisher or bookstore–could have backed off on the price. That way, I would have been able to justify going to a bookstore to buy it, instead of being so broke that I had to buy it online.

    The bottom line–if I choose to buy at a bookstore instead of online (and I do buy in store, probably 25% of the time), I will be forced to buy a much smaller number of books, reading less, and being less informed and probably less effective as a minister. That, or borrow more books, creating the same problem in the end.

  • John I.

    BTW, it’s my ethic that if I do pass a bookstore and browse and find something I want, I do not order it on line. I either buy it then, or wait for it to go on sale, or wait for budget room to buy. Or I buy something else to compensate for an online purchase of that book. Otherwise I feel I am stealing from the bookstore, browsing and making use of their facility without ever paying.

    John I.

  • Kenton

    In these decisions I think it’s only right to give consideration to the one selling – for all of the reasons stated above. If I’m in a bookstore and see a book I want to read, I’m loath to run home and buy it online – not to say that I never do. Usually I determine a price point related to enjoyment level and number of hours I would spend reading it compared to a movie. If the book is priced accordingly at the store I buy it, even though I’m certain I can buy it online for a few bucks less. There are times, though, that amazon’s price meets the price point and brick and mortar store doesn’t.

  • Barb

    my first job at major company was “chart clerk”–we made vu-foils–by hand with a variety of techniques that required human interface. Never heard of it? that whole function was replaced by Powerpoint.–if I hadn’t moved on to different jobs my job would have gone away. computers can do many things well–i love shopping on Amazon–whenever I feel like it, and reading the comments by reviewers, the price, etc. We can lament the changes that technology brings–but I don’t feel guilty about it.

  • smcknight

    Kenton:

    You said: “Usually I determine a price point related to enjoyment level and number of hours I would spend reading it compared to a movie.”

    Whoa, that’s heavy. What does it mean?

  • Darren King

    The other day I was at my local Borders and saw some bizarre (and what I considered inappropriate)behavior. People would go into the Seattle’s Best Coffee, which is connected to this Borders, with books or magazines from the bookstore in hand. They would then sit down in the coffee shop (sometimes after buying a coffee, often not) and read for a long time. Before leaving the book or magazine there on the coffee shop table and leaving. Often the books and magazines seem worse for the wear after the fact. How do people think this is an okay thing to do?

  • Darren King

    That should read: “They would then sit down in the coffee shop (sometimes after buying a coffee, often not) and read for a long time, before leaving the book or magazine there on the coffee shop table and leaving.

  • smcknight

    Darren, I’ve seen the same. Not right. I agree.

  • Blake

    Instead of joining in the reminiscing and complaining allow me to offer a suggestion: not-for-profit or non-profit co-operative book stores. My seminary’s bookstore is a co-op where anyone that wants to can buy a year long or semester long membership. In exchange they get a variable amount off on all the books in the store (averages out to 10 or 15 percent off). The advantage of the membership fees is that they become the primary means of paying the cost of running the store (salaries, postage, office supplies etc.) Which means the store doesn’t need to hike up prices as much on the books to take care of that aspect of the business. With the books they just need to at least break even. For books I need that they don’t have in stock, they special order it from the publisher. I get charged the cost of the book and share of postage and an extra dollar for the trouble. This actually makes my co-op cheaper than Amazon 95% of the time. I spend thousands of dollars on books every year for coursework and research and save hundreds of dollars over what I would spend getting them from Amazon.

    The real great thing about this model is that the more memberships they can get the more influential they become in negotiating smaller prices with the publishers and middle men they buy from. As the co-op continues to grow the books will only get cheaper. I’m going to be really excited when they finally launch their website so I can still buy from them when I’m no longer studying here.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    This is sort of related to books……I am reading Barth’s Evangelical Theology (I thought that would be appropriate given you all), and it is the most painful thing i have ever read. Are all of his books like this? Wait, let me say that in Barth speak.

    I am reading, or at least assimilating the information from, or perhaps allowing the words to caress my mind, but not really scanning or in any other way summarizes the content, or the page numbers for that matter, of the aforementioned text, that may be considered a text for some but not for others who may, or may not, be Christian theologians of ARGHHHHHH!

    Are all of his books like this>?

  • smcknight

    DRT,

    There are three like this: Augustine’s City of God, Aquinas’ Summa, and Barth’s Dogmatics. Just wonder what would have happened had these folks written with a glowing prose.

  • http://www.bookbrief.blogspot.com TFM

    I think it’s obvious to all of us that we are witnessing a major [cliche alert] paradigm shift. Not only are bookstores quickly going out of business, but we are recognizing that we no longer need to produce untold tons of paper to communicate the same information that we can receive electronically. Books as we know them will become quaint reminders of an earlier era. We will miss them, but we will also know why we no longer need them. To whatever extent that the medium is the message, the message is that we want our information immediately and for as few cents as possible.

  • Daryl

    The coffee shop seems like a pretty important part of the puzzle that creates the ambiance… maybe we should add small bookstore-outlets to coffee shops, instead of trying to resuscitate traditional bookstores. A coffee shop could use a bit of space to highlight and sell books (particularly the new book section we love), and it could be connected to a central bookstore for everything else (like library branches).

  • Kay

    DRT@34,
    Best laugh, or more precisely, expression of mirth or delight, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements, that I’ve had all day!

  • iraeyn

    Publishers do not like Amazon. Most of the cost of producing a book comes from publishing, but at Amazon’s prices, publisher’s margins are very low. The only parties that benefit from an Amazon purchase are Amazon and the buyer. When Amazon was new publishers gave it larger discounts to foster a new market, but Amazon grew enough to force publishers continue giving it those discounts.

    I know people who will flaunt their ethical credentials by criticizing Walmart at the drop of a hat. Walmart certainly deserves most of it for putting local stores out of business with aggressive pricing. But many of these same people won’t think twice about buying books from Amazon. The dynamic is the same. Amazon can offer low low prices everyday, but only at the expense of slowly strangling the market. These people unconsciously set aside their ethical claims because it’s their money and their personal interest at stake. In the end it is hypocritical to hate Walmart but love Amazon.

    Just for the record, I do shop at Walmart when I am in a place where that is the only option. I also buy from Amazon if I absolutely need a book in 2-3 days and I can’t get it elsewhere. But for everything else I use the local bookstore. That way I support the little guy and the money stays in the community instead of going to a big corporation.

    Also, if you buy an ebook, you haven’t actually bought the book. You’ve only bought a limited user license. Convenient, and I own a few (mostly reference works on my computer – much better than carrying the actual books around everywhere), but nowhere near as secure as owning a hard-copy.

  • Jason Lee

    It seems like there are good reasons to believe that big-box chains and non-local online retailers have been putting small businesses out of commission and the good local jobs that go with them. Small businesses (eg local bookshops) also provide more local jobs than just what they have. They are more likely to use other local services like local accountants and advertising. The chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy don’t usually use local advertising services. They prefer mass direct mailings. Local small businesses may not make America a leading world economy, but they arguably do provide stable better quality and humane local jobs (especially for low skilled workers). With the demise of manufacturing, these are exactly the kinds of jobs people need.

    In terms of individual application, people can get on city committees to block new chains coming in. People can also work toward taxing online retailers so it evens the playing field for local retailers. There is evidence that this works. We can also just simply buy less so that we are able to pay more for that one good book at the local store. If you must have lots of books, use inter-library loan.

  • http://missourimule.blogspot.com Larry Barber

    The only parties that benefit from an Amazon purchase are Amazon and the buyer. When Amazon was new publishers gave it larger discounts to foster a new market, but Amazon grew enough to force publishers continue giving it those discounts.

    Nonsense, Amazon doesn’t have nearly that much power over publishers, you only have to look at the recent incident concerning Kindle books to see that, where the publishers forced Amazon to raise their retail prices even though Amazon didn’t want to and was even willing to take a loss on a book to maintain their $9.99 price point. Amazon’s relationship with book publishers is not at all analogous to WalMart’s relationship to most of it’s suppliers. Publishers have monopolies on the titles they publish, they are the only source for any given book, most of WalMart’s items can be purchased from numerous sources.

  • Jon G

    Scot…great post. Lot’s of food for thought here.

    Here’s my two cents.
    1) What happens to the price of books once all the local bookstores actually do go out of business? With less competition…will on-line retailers be able to jack up the prices? Or is it in Amazon’s nature to provide competetive pricing since it isn’t really a seller in itself, but rather a collection of sellers.

    2) At what point in this digitizing of literature (moving from printed words to electronic) do we, as consumers, demand that the cost associated with the physical printing process be eliminated. It seems audacious to pay nearly the same amount for a printed book as an electronic book when everybody knows that a large portion of the printed cost comes from expenses like paper, shipping, etc. Shouldn’t at least that portion of the book cost be removed? I’m guessing it has something to do with keeping physical book sales competitive with electronic ones, but the skeptic in me says the publishers are trying to have their cake and eat it too!

  • Bill

    I think part of the problem is the Wal*Mart’ing of America. As long as it’s cheaper that’s where we buy.

    But we need to realize why it is cheaper. The publishers (in this case) play favorites and give the big boxes, Amazon, Mardel, etc. big discounts to buy in quantity. Unfortunately this creates an uneven playing field for the smaller competitors.

  • Robert A

    The keyword for anyone in business at this stage is: diversification.

    You have to have brick-and-mortar and brick-and-click to be successful.

    Just fyi I was reviewing purchases of books over the last year and (ballpark):

    90% on internet
    10% in bookstore (NOT B&N)

    50% used resellers via internet (ebay, Amazon, fetchbook.info)
    25% Amazon.com
    25% CBD.com

    I’ve been buying books like crazy via secondhand internet sources. If you’re not doing fetchbook.info you’re missing it. If I’m buying from a local seller its not B&N and their lackluster staffers, but from specialty stores. I love these places.

    Number one reason I buy a book where I do, price. As a PhD student I spend a ton of money on books. Price is a big deal for me.

  • Christine

    I am very passionate on this issue, and it’s why I support local, independent bookstores – not the big chains which already control much of what America reads. It IS important, and, IMO, not at all akin to video stores or record stores dying out. Please DO support your independent bookstores. We’re on a tight budget, but I try to put my dollars where my passions lie and buy from our local bookstores whenever possible.

  • CARLA

    When the bookstores are out of business, Amazon.com will be able to charge whatever they want, and don’t think it will be cheap. The low prices are just to lure customers in now…

  • Kenton

    Scot- re: Price point

    It’s not an exact calculation, but if it’s a light read I can put away in 4 or 5 hours and it costs $20, then that’s $5 or $4 an hour respectively. For the same money/hour, I could see a 90 minute movie for $7.50 or $6. So I have to ask myself how does spending $20 for this book compare to spending 6 or 7 bucks for a movie? Is the book as good as a movie escape? I think you get the idea. If I can justify a $20 value for the book, I buy it at the brick and mortar store. They legitimately earned the additional profit over amazon’s price by providing me all the accoutrerments of the coffee stand and comfy chair, etc.

  • http://themourningdovecaws.com Andy D

    Scot,

    “I would write the titles down and go home and order them on Amazon.” This proves that you’re not quite ‘there’ yet—you’re still ‘writing things down.’ You really oughta get a phone with apps that will scan the barcode, instantly giving you access to comparable prices online, then save it for later browsing.

    In other words, don’t feel too bad. Some of us are even more irresponsible when it comes to consumerism.

  • TJJ

    The “new thing” that Amazon did to the old “order it yourself” marketing model, was the speed of getting the stuff. It used to be when you “ordered” something, online, telephone, fax, at a sales desk, or whatever, it would typically take what…two or three, even four weeks, right? It is almost hard to remember that is once how it was, and actually, not all that long ago.

    Amazon changed all that with fast, and relatively inexpensive shipping, and thereby changed the whole marketing model. Throw in price and selection, and the deal was done.

    Bookstores are quaint, often have great ambiance and coffee and music, and community feel to them, but in terms of a way to sell sell books, they are a marketing/economic dinosaur.

  • Jason Lee

    TJJ, You seem to presume that state of the art marketing is always progress. Sometimes the old could be better and more humane, no? What’s our goal? Striking it rich or creating good things in the world? Aren’t civilizations usually judged by the latter and not as much the former? Also, shouldn’t Christians take the scope of the latter into account and not just the former?

  • christopher

    Let’s not kid ourselves. This is ALL about price. I can browse books in a farmhouse. It has nothing to do with ambiance. At least the book sales part of it. If I can get a significantly cheaper price at the farmhouse I will buy there. I did this again today. Brand new from Amazon with free shipping I bought a $50 book for $30. Even with bricks and mortar and employees and such where is that other $20 going? I know what the employees make and it’s not going there! Book stores will need to become more effcient to survive. I really for the life of me can’t understand why Barnes and Nobel can’t offer me localy a non bestseller book at close to the same discount as Amazon. If they did I would never use Amazon again! I can also say this idea that filling stores with knicknacks to sell is not going to save them. Sear and Kamart do this model and look where they are! It’s really all about the price! Get the price down on the book and we can talk. Otherwise I guess you will be closing your doors.


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