How to Buy a Book

So, recently I’ve changed my buying patterns when it comes to books.  I decided it didn’t make any sense to keep giving Amazon money when there are bookstores in Richmond that are closing.  Now when there’s a book I want, I add the title, author, ISBN and ISBN-13 to a note I keep in Evernote.  Then I go to Barnes & Noble to buy the books.

Frequently they don’t have the books I want in stock.  It doesn’t make sense for them to stock lots of books on higher education or specifically on teaching and learning.  But if I go to the information desk, they are happy to look up the books, order them, and apply my member discount to the purchase.  As a member, they ship the books to my house at a faster-than-standard shipping speed, for no extra cost.  In the end the books are a bit pricier than Amazon, but the store gets credit for the sale (as opposed to purchases on the B&N web site), which will hopefully help to keep the store around.

I’m not bound to Barnes & Noble in particular: they’re just the closest bookstore.  I want to find additional booksellers who might not be part of a big chain (suggestions from fellow Richmonders are welcome).

My goal is to help the stores in town.  Amazon is great for making additional recommendations, but I still like browsing.  And just as so many people enjoy libraries as spaces, my family and I love to hang out in bookstores, reading books while we have a little coffee.   So I think it’s worth it to spend a bit more so the store can stay and the people working in the store can stay.

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One Response to How to Buy a Book

  1. Daryl says:

    When I read this, it struck me how much stress there is in the world of media at the moment. Changes are afoot and we can look at the plight of Blockbuster and wonder if stores like BN, Borders and BAM might follow similar paths in the future. Mail order movie access via Netflix hurt Blockbuster a great deal, but the access to online movies bulldozed it. Loving bookstores, I certainly hope a business model can evolve that allows my children to enjoy them as well.

    Perhaps the big difference is that bookstores have become cultural centers. I remember BN in the West End was nearly packed on the weekends, looking more like a hopping bar than a library. The cultural significance seems unique to bookstores and places like Chuckie Cheese for the younger crowd. Coffee shops used to, but comfy sofas have been replaced by shelves of gift mugs and CDs of questionable taste (IMHO). By adding coffee shops to bookstores, they’ve become a meeting place more like what university libraries have morphed into in response to student interest. Let’s hope their profit margins are ample enough to keep them going and that retail centers can identify that having such a popular chain on the block increases the overall value of the entire location.

    That said, my buying trends to the opposite in Canada. As much as I love bookstores, I have a very bad taste over the monopoly Chapters/Indigo has on this market. My actions reflect this, in that I tend to use the bookstores to look for titles I want to order from Amazon or request through the public library. While I don’t wish the coorporation to go bankrupt, I refuse to be ripped off for every magazine and book I purchase.

    With Canadian prices, the difference feels insulting. I can usually get a book from for less than the suggested US retail. At Chapters, we’re still paying full Canadian price. Some publishers have adjusted their prices to reflect the current strength of the Loonie, but a book can still be up to 50% more expensive for a currency that is an par with the US dollar. Good to be a near-monopoly, when you get to choose a higher price point. But I will keep as many Loonies in my pocket as I can, thank you very much. I don’t have a problem with the British books they stock being higher in price, but you tend to choke when you pick up a book and see $12 US/$18 CND (and add 13% tax on that) on the cover and realize the Loonie is a bit stronger at that moment.

    The question for American chains might come down to thinning margins. We looked at a book on baby sleep habits and it is $20 in Canada, $16 in the US, $12 on Amazon and $9.91 for the Kindle edition (for our iPad). Even if I wanted to support the local stores, there is very little chance I’m going to pony up an extra $11 for a book I’ll reference for a few months and possibly again in the future (and have to store besides). Yet I know the brick and mortar stores cannot survive by selling the book at such a low price. It will certainly be interesting to see how the business model adapts in the future. I suspect quite a bit of this will be influenced by how popular e-readers become with children. Right now, parents take their children to the library and bookstores to find something new to read and children’s books have quite a markup. What happens if we, children included, become so enamoured of our digital devices, that a trip to the bookstore is considered a chore instead of a pleasure?

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