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Bookselling in the Age of Amazon

26 June 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

“At the end of the day, bookshops needn’t fear Amazon,” James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said during a keynote speech last week at the Australian Booksellers Association’s annual conference in Melbourne.

. . . .

“If the bookshops are good enough, if the relationship with your customers is truly there, if your booksellers are enjoying themselves and you’ve trained them and you’ve respected them and you’ve allowed them to develop their skills… then our customers truly will remain loyal to us.”

. . . .

Starting when Amazon opened operations in the U.K. in 2000, the behemoth “slowly ate away at the High Street [downtown] market,” he said, and now has about 60% of the market, including 95% of the e-book market. The casualties have been extensive: most chains, including Borders, Ottakar’s, Dillons, Hammicks and James Thin, have disappeared. Indie bookstores declined from about 1,550 in 2005 to about 600 last year. Indies now account for about 5% of the market, and Waterstones about 16%. “Amazon virtually destroyed us,” Daunt said.

But “all is not doom and gloom,” he said. Amazon is known for doing a few things very well, particularly offering customers low prices on books and shipping quickly. As Daunt put it, Amazon is “alluring for one reason only: they’re cheaper.”

As a result, there is much that bricks-and-mortar stores do that Amazon can’t, from putting on events even “in the smallest of shops” to more generally “giving people a sense of excitement about books,” making books relevant, and keeping books “in the forefront.” He added, “We as booksellers have a duty to create excitement about books. If we do so, we’ll continue to have customers come through the doors.”

. . . .

In one of the most striking changes at Waterstones, the company reduced its return rate to 3% from 20%. In part this came about from better buying but also from forgoing substantial promotion co-op from publishers, to the tune of £27 million (around $35 million at current exchange rates). The “wholly destructive cycle” involved publishers “paying us to take particular books.” Besides abrogating buying decisions to publishers, the program also made Waterstones stores less distinctive from one another as well as from their competitors. The change, he added, was painful, like “coming off heroin,” but it had “massive benefits.” Besides improving returns, it “stopped us filling up our shops with books customers didn’t want to buy” and improved working capital by tying up less money. Eventually stock came down 20% and title count rose 20%. The company has also gone from two to five stock turns. He noted that with stock turns below five, “a lot of books are sitting there getting dusty, getting unattractive.”

Cost cutting included reducing head office costs by 60%, cutting costs in the centralized warehouse by 16%, and cutting store payroll by 16%.

. . . .

The emphasis on selling and being on the sales floor, also “brought energy into the shop. If you’re literally running around and don’t stop, customers feel that energy.”

Even though Waterstones staff has been cut, Daunt said he’s increased pay for the remaining employees. At Daunt Books, booksellers are paid a salary rather than by the hour. Waterstones pays by the hour but is starting to pay salaries. “We need to pay booksellers more and make it so people see this as a career,” he commented.

. . . .

When it named The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry its Book of the Year for 2016, the title, which before then had sold under 1,000 copies, became a bestseller. Waterstones’ “books of the month” promotions have also increased sales “dramatically” for each title.

He noted that Amazon doesn’t have any impact on these titles, and called it an “urban myth” that people come into stores saying they can get titles at 50% off on Amazon. To the contrary, there is a sense, he said, that “a book bought from a bookshop is a better book…. When a book comes through a letter box or when a book is bought in a supermarket, it’s not vested with the authority and the excitement that comes from buying it in a bookshop.”

. . . .

“Price is irrelevant if the customer likes the shop,” he commented. “The book is never an expensive item,” particularly for the many customers who “we know are quite happy to go into a café and spend dramatically more on a cup of coffee.”

. . . .

The Waterstones website “doesn’t produce any sales for us,” accounting for less than 3% of the company’s revenue, Daunt said. But targeted e-mails lead to increased sales in shops, and social media is “an opportunity” for local bookshops to communicate with customers.

. . . .

Waterstones sells “a lot more things that aren’t books,” with children’s the most successful area, and has done so in “careful and measured ways,” so as not to “compromise ourselves as a bookshop.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness 

While he read this, a phrase floated into PG’s mind from an unknown source, “the myths and fables we tell ourselves”.

Traditional Publishing Myth #1: Consumers don’t feel any emotional attachment with Amazon like they do with a local bookstore.

Does anyone who regularly purchases from Amazon not feel a little buzz when a package appears at their door? It’s an event which is followed by an unboxing experience. (If you don’t think unboxing is an experience search YouTube for unboxing. Millions of people watch videos of perfect strangers unboxing their Amazon purchases.)

In survey after survey, Amazon is ranked as one of the most admired and respected companies in the world, usually fighting with Apple for first place. PG has never seen Barnes & Noble or Waterstones on any of those lists.

Amazon has a superb reputation and that reputation carries over to all its product areas, including books. Amazon reviews, sales rankings, etc., are a gold standard for many book purchasers. PG doesn’t discount the existence of phony reviews, but he thinks most Amazon regulars aren’t fooled by such reviews, particularly when a book has dozens of reviews.

When it comes to spending his money PG would certainly give more credibility to a few dozen Amazon reviews about a book than he would to recommendations from a minimum-wage bookstore clerk who will soon be moving to McDonalds because the pay is better.

If a book doesn’t meet expectations, Amazon makes it simple to return it for a full refund. With an ebook, the return process is almost instantaneous.

Locating his receipt and trekking back to a bookstore to return a book is something PG is almost certainly never going to do. The book remains somewhere in Casa PG, reminding PG of his bad purchase choice whenever he sees it.

Traditional Publishing Myth #2: Ebooks are a fad and printed books are making a comeback.

Spare me.

Everybody carries a cell phone and almost everybody consults it on a regular basis. Sometimes, they look at illustrations and photos and cute puppy GIFS, but most of the time, they’re reading text. Actual text messages, email, the latest celebrity gossip, Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, Google search results, Wikipedia, etc., etc.

As of the second quarter of 2015, US consumers began spending more time in mobile apps than watching television (and that includes times when the TV is on in the background and no one is watching it). As TV viewing stagnates, the time spent with mobile apps has increased every quarter since then.

The idea that people who spend hours each day receiving information and entertainment from a screen will prefer switching to a printed book on a regular basis is delusional.

PG would probably be labeled as a frequent reader under most systems for categorizing readership. He reads from books every day. He has purchased hundreds and hundreds of physical books, many of which still populate his bookshelves. The same could be said for Mrs. PG.

PG is not a teenager and hasn’t been for some time. He remembers being a teenager, but suspects many of those memories have been smoothed and brightened during the intervening years.

But he’s on his fourth iPhone.

Over the last couple of years, PG has purchased some physical books, usually through Amazon and always when the title doesn’t offer an ebook version. He always regrets these purchases because they sit on a TBR pile that never grows smaller.

He starts to read each book, but when he puts it down, he never picks it back up again. It’s just not a satisfactory experience for him any more. He just won’t read any long-form text document unless it’s an ebook on his Kindle Paperwhite.

PG has run out of time before he has run out of Traditional Publishing Myths to debunk. Perhaps he’ll return to the topic in a future post, but don’t count on it. Feel free to add your own myths in the comments.

Amazon, Bookstores, Ebooks, Non-US, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

42 Comments to “Bookselling in the Age of Amazon”

  1. I give the guy props for cutting out co-op, and even more so, I’ll give him props for this ballsy sales pitch…

    To the contrary, there is a sense, he said, that “a book bought from a bookshop is a better book…. When a book comes through a letter box or when a book is bought in a supermarket, it’s not vested with the authority and the excitement that comes from buying it in a bookshop.

    .

    Their market is people who don’t know what they want to read. They’re really focused on SELLING books, and generating EXCITEMENT around books, without quite letting on that these books that they are excitedly selling are *certain* books that they, in their authority, want you to buy and read.

    Perhaps that works. Who knows.

    • Felix J. Torres

      It will work…
      …for a certain minority of readers who will only read books certified by an authority. Any authority.

      (Shrug)

      They exist.

      I wouldn’t bet my business, any business, on them but they might be the difference between breaking even and making a small profit. For one thing, they are price insensitive. Some even believe price determines quality.

  2. I’ll give PG the publishing myths, and there’s a number of things in this article that are head-scratching, but this is the most forward-thinking business approach to future state brick-and-mortar bookselling I’ve seen in a while.

    • Far better business approach than the sign I saw that translates: Who loves books, shops in the bookstore.

      Although the cartoon on another bookshop’s door about “Organic bookstore (Books on Paper)” was pretty cute.

  3. I love how you keep things, real, PG. This is one my favorite postings you’ve had of late.

  4. “If the bookshops are good enough, if the relationship with your customers is truly there, if your booksellers are enjoying themselves and you’ve trained them and you’ve respected them and you’ve allowed them to develop their skills… then our customers truly will remain loyal to us.”

    So, where did Amazon’s book market share come from? Brand new readers? Or have all the traitors gone to the dark side, and bookstores now have loyal customers?

  5. I will say this: articles like this make it clear that paper booksellers understand that shopping is a psychological exercise. When they continually push the smell of paper, the experience of browsing, the personal service, etc, they’re not wrong to say these are valuable premiums that customers may find attractive in addition to the actual product they’re buying (the book).

    What these folks continually fail to understand is the psychological experience they’re competing against. In a lot of their minds, there are no perks to the experience of buying an e-book, except boring practical things that don’t count. They think it’s “the awesome experience” versus “no experience at all.” That’s the thing that’s going to cut them off at the ankles. They don’t get it, and instead of listening to someone who does and trying to grok it so they can change, they’re often convinced that all the e-book benefits are vaporware, and that people will move on from it once they’re bored.

    Which, as we all know, they won’t.

    If paper booksellers want to be smart, they won’t position themselves as competitors to e-books, because the pool of available consumers consists of customers for both kinds of format. If they diss one format, they’re going to alienate some number of the total. What they should do is position themselves as a *different*, *additional* experience, particularly if they’ve got a brick-and-mortar store to put behind it.

    “Hi, we’re all book-lovers! Come one, come all! Hey, we also have coffee, if you need a place to hang out and talk with other book-lovers! And while you’re here, you can check out the signed editions of this book, because the author came by to put her John Hancock on them! And also, these picture books with enormous, glossy photographs… you might enjoy them in person, in addition to your e-copy! And absolutely, buy e-editions of books you find in our store. Just consider buying a cup of coffee from us, too, to help us keep our doors open!”

    I get that a lot of these people are existentially afraid because they thought they understood how to make money, and having that whipped out from under you is threatening. We all need to eat, and when we’re no longer sure how to be relevant, a lot of us back-pedal. Rapidly. And hope we can keep doing what we’re doing, because we know how to do it well. But unfortunately, the wheels of progress are churning on. :/

    This makes me sad, because in the end, we all love the same thing: stories. Can’t we all just be friends. And take well-meaning business advice from one another. -_-

    • When they continually push the smell of paper, the experience of browsing, the personal service, etc, they’re not wrong to say these are valuable premiums that customers may find attractive in addition to the actual product they’re buying (the book).

      Agree. Consumers may find those things attractive. What they fail to acknowledge is all the folks who don’t care about that stuff. I know it’s shocking, but I never went to a bookstore to smell anything, and did my best to avoid the booksellers.

    • “if you need a place to hang out and talk with other book-lovers!”

      When I go to the bookstore to talk with other book-lovers, my wife tells me to shut up and stop being creepy.

    • -“But “all is not doom and gloom,” he said. Amazon is known for doing a few things very well, particularly offering customers low prices on books and shipping quickly. As Daunt put it, Amazon is “alluring for one reason only: they’re cheaper.”-

      M.C.A. Hogarth, agree with all you’ve said here. I’ll add this comment based on the above excerpt from the Waterstone speech:

      One thing he misses (never mentions) is the superb pleasure it gives me to shop amid the absolutely biggest and most comprehensive collection of books in the world… and to choose in most cases whether to buy used or new (and I do both)… as compared to choosing from his (or anyone’s) on-shelf stock (even if his improved management practices have grown that stock by 20%).

      It’s rather a large omission.

  6. He says “Amazon is alluring for one reason only: they’re cheaper.”

    Wrong.

    Amazon is alluring because:
    1. They have what I want (unlike Waterstones. When I discovered Amazon in the ’90s, it was like magic).
    2. They deliver it when I want it (immediately, in the case of ebooks).
    3. Free (since I have Prime).
    4. If I don’t like it, I can return it by taking it to the corner shop which is open till 10pm (or just click a button if it’s ebooks).
    5. If I don’t know what I want, Amazon will present me with some options based on things I’ve bought or looked at, some of which are pretty good picks – and far better than any shop assistant who doesn’t know me or what I’ve bought before (and also is expected to man the checkout and stock shelves so doesn’t have time to say anything more than ‘sci-fi and fantasy section is on the second floor’).
    6. Or I could pick off my wish list.

    Amazon is successful because it gives people what they really, really want: the item that fulfils their needs, quickly, conveniently, and at a decent price. Everything else is fluff, and Amazon understands that. People might waffle on about relationships and ethics and stuff, but when the chips are down, what counts is right item, right price, right time.

    Relationship? I don’t have a *relationship* with Amazon (and I certainly don’t with Waterstones). I pay them money, and they give me what I want. Amazon gets my money because they’re the ones most likely to give me what I want in exchange. If someone else looked like they’d be just as good, they could have my money. But nobody else does.

  7. Richard Hershberger

    OK, the claim that a book bought in a bookstore is better than the same book bought in a supermarket is obvious BS. And they conveniently overlook that Amazon has, and always has had, three strengths: not merely price and shipping speed, but also depth of inventory. This is what sucked this bibiophile into the Amazon universe.

    That being said, not all of this is BS. Recommendations? Amazon reader reviews can be a very useful tool, used judiciously and for some sorts of books. But I have also been a regular customer of small bookshops where the proprietor knew my interests and tastes such that if I walked in the door and he recommended a book, I took this recommendation very seriously indeed. This is very much *not* the minimum wage clerk pondering a career switch to flipping burgers. Does Waterstones manage this on a larger scale? I’ve never been there, so I can’t say. But the idea of paying a high enough wage that this just a temporary job is certainly the right idea.

  8. I can only speak for myself but this:

    “As Daunt put it, Amazon is “alluring for one reason only: they’re cheaper.””

    …is not true. Carving out the time to run to a bookstore so that I might browse until I find something interesting to buy and read is a luxury I don’t have and can’t afford. Not even on the weekends. So while Amazon may be cheaper on some things, their allure for me is their convenience.

    Instead of slicing out 2 to 3 hours out of my day to drive to a brick and mortar store, wander around browsing before picking my purchase and then driving home between preset hours when the store is open, I can be at home in my study, browsing books at 2:00 a.m. and purchasing those I find interesting based on the “Also boughts.” I’m not fighting traffic, working around schedules, squeezing my car into too-tight parking spaces, worrying if someone will dent my car or swipe a hubcap while I’m in the store shopping, figuring out what are the safest hours to shop or hoping there will be something in the store I’ll be interested in reading thereby not making this a wasted trip.

    So the allure for a customer like me? Little to do with pricing (and I like cheap) and everything to do with convenience, time, and safety. Plus, prime membership has a lot of perks that make it just as nice to order print books online as it does to order digital format.

  9. Felix J. Torres

    He got one thing right: bookstores, online and B&M, do better when they promote books (they think) their customers want instead of books the publishers want them to promote.

    This is the second time (with more detail this time) he’s pointed out that payola isn’t good for the business.

  10. Claire Merriam Hoffman

    Traditional Publishing Myth #3: Brick and mortar bookstores have the books I want to read.

    Most brick and mortar stores don’t carry romance. Even back when romance was 58% of the paperback book market they didn’t carry romance.

    And if by some miracle they do have a romance section, the shelves are hidden waaaaaay back where they don’t pollute the literary fiction shelves. And over the years, the section has shrunk to the point that the selection is abominable.

    On the other hand, Amazon has tons of romances at a fair price and does not denigrate my reading choices. I can quibble about the way they segregate erotic romances, but they still have them on their virtual shelves. Amazon even sends updates on favorite authors and suggestions of new books and authors a reader might like. Why would romance readers go anywhere else?

    Romance readers are voracious. And yet, there is only one brick and mortar store in the US that actually caters to those readers. The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA.

    When a huge demographic is ignored, is it any wonder the chain bookstores and their independent equivalents are having problems?

    Just saying.

  11. I think everything PG and most of the above posters say is correct–if you’re comparing Amazon to B&N. But I still think there is a place for an indie bookstore with (possibly) specialized selection (e.g. mystery, SF, politics) and where the employees actually read books and have intelligent, interesting opinions. You’re not going to beat Amazon on price or selection, but there might be room for hight-end boutique service in the marketplace.

    And I LOVE paper books. I DO read e-books and I listen to a ton of audio, but paper is my favorite way to read. Doesn’t mean I believe e-books are flatlining (I don’t) just means I don’t think paper’s going away. Some people will always love it.

    • Felix J. Torres

      I knew a bookstore like that.
      They went out of business (mumblety-mump) years ago.
      And it wasn’t Amazon did them in…

    • There isn’t room for such stores. In Berkeley CA, not far from the University of California at Berkeley, in a community and area crawling with likely customers, Dark Carnival is closing after 20 years.

      http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/Berkeley-s-Dark-Carnival-sci-fi-fantasy-11217500.php

      “[The owner] Rems said he had taken out high-interest loans — ‘I have a lot of credit cards that I’m juggling’ — to keep the business afloat as sales have declined.”

      They are exactly what you are talking about, and they are failing.

      • Contra that (sort of) is Borderlands Bookstore in San Franciso. Though their crowd-funded business model completely flummoxes me, it seems to be working for them and for their “patrons.” They met their goal of 300 people contributing at least $100 in 2015 and 2016 and I’m presuming they’ve done so in 2017. Still, I can’t imagine there are more than a handful of places in the US where such a model could be remotely close to being feasible.

    • Your comment got me to thinking. In the three cities I’m familiar with — Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria — all the specialty bookstores have closed: Demille, Sophia, Ivy, et al. These were all excellent bookstores with knowledgeable staff.

      They stocked many more titles in their specialty subjects than general bookstores but still many fewer subject specific titles than Amazon. They also had an order of magnitude fewer titles overall than the general stores and a customer base an order of magnitude smaller. Losing a single customer or even a single sale had a bigger impact on profits than it would for general stores.

      Finally, just as Amazon.com was making it more convenient to order any book you wanted, changes by distributors made it more difficult for these small stores to special order books for their customers. Wait times went up or books could not be sourced at all.

      • You guys might be right–but this comment has me thinking:

        I knew a bookstore like that.
        They went out of business (mumblety-mump) years ago.
        And it wasn’t Amazon did them in…

        The little indies seemed to suffer at the hands of B&N. Now that the big chains are in a tail-spin, might not the indies do better? Most of the data I’ve seen for indie bookstores over the last few years suggests they’re doing better since Kindle–not worse.

        • Felix J. Torres

          For the Indies to do better the publishers, especially the BPHs, need to do away with volume-based discounts and they need to invest in small order fulfillment tech. (See Mr Horne’s comment, sbove.)

          One reason the bigger publishers have favored Borders, B&N, and the other chains since the 60’s is their centralized bulk ordering. Go back just to the beginning of the decade and Borders, B&N, and Amazon made up 70% of sales. No need for hordes of old style account reps. Just three guys to manage three accounts. Five if you add Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

          And since special orders go straight to the publisher… well, remember the Hachette-Amazon catfight? Hachette screamed bloody murder because Amazon was flooding them with small orders. They couldn’t process the paperwork, much less ship the books. We all saw the result: two-three weeks wait times. And those weren’t onesie-twosie orders. Just for a day or two of sales, so probably a few dozen in many cases. Maybe hundreds. Numbers few Indie stores can aspire to.

          None of the BPHs and probably few other publishers are set up for just-in-time deliveries. At about the rest of the business world was adopting just-in-time inventory management, New York publishing moved in the opposite direction, disbanding their direct to consumer sales, the only part of their operations capable of small order processing.

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-in-time_manufacturing

          So, how soon do you see tradpubs adapting their warehouses to store, manage, and ship books (especially backlist) in quantity: one orders?

          For non-chain stores to prosper they need a level playing field and leveling the field means higher costs and lower margins for most tradpubs. The big guys are simply a more efficient distribution channel.

          And Amazon is the most efficient of the efficient.

          • For non-chain stores to prosper they need a level playing field and leveling the field means higher costs and lower margins for most tradpubs.

            There are no level playing fields. The whole object of the game is to tilt the field.

          • >>For the Indies to do better the publishers, especially the BPHs, need to do away with volume-based discounts and they need to invest in small order fulfillment tech. (See Mr Horne’s comment, sbove.)

            Doubtless changes in volume-based discounts WOULD help indies, but I disagree that you HAVE to have those changes as a condition for an improving condition for small bookstores. Many indies have survived and prospered in the environment you describe.

            Besides, if indies get two or five or ten percent more of the market, that’s two or five or ten percent more profit–even at existing discounts.

            Also, there have been plenty of articles and surveys showing that indies ARE doing better. I regret I don’t have ABA numbers to share, but I suspect the association’s annual survey shows improvements. (Anyone know for sure?)

            Felix, I think you’re right that the changes you describe would help a great deal–help the publishers as well, actually–but I can’t see how the demise of Borders and the decline of B&N won’t push at least some of the physical book-buyers to indies.

            S.

  12. “Over the last couple of years, PG has purchased some physical books, usually through Amazon and always when the title doesn’t offer an ebook version. He always regrets these purchases because they sit on a TBR pile that never grows smaller.”

    Can’t the same to said, for most of us, regarding ebooks? We purchase more of them than we read, and they sit on a virtual “TBR file that never grows smaller.” The difference is that the physical pile confronts us whenever we pass by our bookcases. The virtual pile is out of mind until we open our Kindles.

    This is the bane of people, such as I (and apparently PG), whose reading eyes are bigger than their reading stomachs.

    “He starts to read each book, but when he puts it down, he never picks it back up again. It’s just not a satisfactory experience for him any more. He just won’t read any long-form text document unless it’s an ebook on his Kindle Paperwhite.”

    I have many of Samuel Johnson’s works on my Kindle Voyage and all of his works, in scholarly editions, on my bookshelves. Whenever I want to read the good Doctor, I turn to one of the bound volumes. The Kindle editions have remained unused.

    For serious, long-form reading, I prefer the physical to the digital book. There is a tactile dimension to each way of reading–you have to hold either the book or the Kindle–and I find the physical book to be better in that regard (and lots easier to make pencil notations in).

    • Al the Great and Powerful

      You said, “Can’t the same to said, for most of us, regarding ebooks? We purchase more of them than we read, and they sit on a virtual “TBR file that never grows smaller.””

      I can’t be the only reader here who rejects this statement. I buy books TO READ THEM. There is no rising unread peak, because they get read.

      And this, “For serious, long-form reading, I prefer the physical to the digital book. There is a tactile dimension to each way of reading–you have to hold either the book or the Kindle–and I find the physical book to be better in that regard (and lots easier to make pencil notations in).”

      Again, I have to disagree. Even doing hardcore research at work, I prefer to have a scratch window open for cutting and pasting snippets from various ebooks to having a table full of open pbooks and NEVER EVER will I be scribbling on a book. Ebooks for me, thank you.

      Al Who Chooses Not To Lug Bags of Books Around Anymore

      • Al the Great and Powerful

        Sorry for making my comments to Karl’s post, I skipped right to comments without reading the tail end of the original posting. I thought the above sentiments were Karl’s.

        Really, P.G.? Physical books for long-form reading? You must have a much better reading room than I do.

        As for your pencil desecration of your books, well, they aren’t MY books…

        Al the Contrite

  13. This is the statement that I really focused on:

    “In part this came about from better buying but also from forgoing substantial promotion co-op from publishers, to the tune of £27 million (around $35 million at current exchange rates). The “wholly destructive cycle” involved publishers “paying us to take particular books.” Besides abrogating buying decisions to publishers, the program also made Waterstones stores less distinctive from one another as well as from their competitors. The change, he added, was painful, like “coming off heroin,” but it had “massive benefits.” Besides improving returns, it “stopped us filling up our shops with books customers didn’t want to buy” and improved working capital by tying up less money.”

    Because I love to oversimplify things, I would say the wide spread practice of paid co-op to get bookstores to shelve books people don’t really want is probably the worst thing that happened to the publishing industry (including bookstores) over the last 100 years. It really is a poisonous activity. It drove away readers, nurtured lousy writers, empowered lousy publishing executives, and weakened bookstores.

    If Amazon plays a tiny part in ending the abuse of that practice, then that’s another great reason to like Amazon.

  14. In the year 11 BK (before Kindle), on our Friday night date night, my wife and I often went to Borders. We drank coffee and ate goodies at the in-store cafe and browsed through the aisles looking for good reads before that was a website. Sometimes we bought a book or a magazine or two. In other cities, in other bookstores, our ritual continued. Until the year 3 AK. That’s when I got a Kindle.

    We still spend pleasant Friday evenings together, but not in a bookstore. Sometimes we have dinner out. Sometimes we order in. But we buy all our books from Amazon. (At this moment, I have 5 tabs open to Amazon ebooks so I can read their Look Inside portions. Better than an even money bet that I will buy all five.)

  15. Feeling a big buzz today. UPS is delivering a walk behind string trimmer from Amazon in about 3 hours. Yes, I could have gone to Lowe’s but it’s the same brand, same price and the UPSman will bring it to the door.

  16. Must we be so binary? I like the convenience of Amazon, I like having a book at hand at all times (on the Kindle app on my phone) and I love having the audio version available when I travel. I also like to borrow ebooks through Overdrive, and sometimes I’ll purchase the audio version to go with it.

    But when I have time, I like to browse in a physical bookstore or in the library. Algorithms are all fine and good, and yet I take pleasure in random discoveries. I once picked up a book because the title tickled my fancy: Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking. A debut novel by a lesbian writer named Aoibheann Sweeney, it might not have come to my attention had I not glimpsed it on the New Books shelf. It was a wonderful find.

    And isn’t it great that readers today have so many ways to discover and acquire books?

    • I totally agree. I don’t see Amazon vs. physical bookstores as being mortal enemies or even mutually exclusive. I’ve been an Amazon customer since I got my first paycheck, back when they still had the river logo and only sold books; I use them when I want to quickly and easily buy a specific book with less than a 1% chance of being in any of my 3 local bookstores. I go to the bookstores (or any of about 6 thrift stores, or the flea market, or yard sales, or my giant twice-yearly local library book sale) when I’m not looking for anything specific, but have some time and just want the fun of browsing and not knowing what I’ll discover.

      Similarly, while I personally haven’t been able to get into ebooks due to spatial/tactile issues, as well as books being my preferred form of interior decoration, I’m completely cool with folks who prefer ebooks and can’t understand anyone on either “side” who doesn’t feel the same. We’re all readers; books and reading are A Good Thing regardless of form.

  17. I know a bookseller who regards B&N and Amazon as alternative warehousing. She’s one of the few booksellers I know who are happy to host author events for authors published by Amazon, if she likes the book and wants to promote it. I really get my back up at this either/or crap, too. As a reader I like real books (sorry, PG) but I like e-books, too. And as an author I have a vested interest in encouraging consumption of books in any format.

    And lest we forget, you can lay a lot of blame for the current state of publishing affairs on the doorsteps of traditional publishers. They have historically made no effort to connect with the end users of their product. In the meantime, retailers like Amazon are figuring out what I want to buy next and letting me know when it’s available. And as an Alaskan, a Prime membership is gold. There are so many retailers out there who won’t ship to Alaska (or Hawaii), whereas if you’re a resident of Tuntutuliak and are a Prime member Amazon will ship you a 240-pack of Pampers, a 50-pound bag of dog food and the lastest John Sanford thriller in three to five days. What’s not to love?

    • I really get my back up at this either/or crap, too.

      A consumer ether makes a specific purchase at a bookstore or at Amazon.

      Each purchase made at Amazon is a market share loss to the bookstore. Each purchase made at a bookstore is a market share loss for Amazon. Market share is a true zero-sum game.

  18. Ashe Elton Parker

    I love print books just as much as I love ebooks. I just can’t hold print books any longer. In order to read, I must hold books (whether print or e) up close to my face, because my eyesight’s wonky even with bifocals, and I must remove my glasses in order to see text close enough to be read, which is, I suspect, a side effect of one or a combination of my multitude of medications which are necessary for my survival–or possibly one of my medical conditions itself. I have print books I bought before this vision issue developed, and which I’d dearly love to read, but cannot because holding print books (most of my print TBR pile are books larger than mass market paperbacks or hardcovers) causes my hands to fall asleep and/or cramp after a fairly short amount of time holding them.

    So, for someone for whom reading has become uncomfortable in a lot of ways and in some ways laborious, ebooks are a Godsend because I don’t have to clutch the book to keep it open. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped considering buying a book if I can’t get an e-copy of it somehow, and I’ve given up on all the print books I was in the middle of when this eye issue developed, because even setting them on my desk or a table to read with the distance part of my lenses causes issues–a tension pull headache from the back of my head that almost always requires a full night of sleep to recover from–and may not be remedied even with that.

  19. At this point, I have no interest in reading paper books anymore unless it’s something I’m fairly sure I’ll never be able to get on the Kindle. I’ve read the first seven Wild Cards books as ebooks, pre-ordering the last two and then having them show up as a pleasant surprise on my Kindle when they were released. The rest of the series is only available in used paperback for $25 and up per copy. No thanks.

    I’ll wait for the Kindle versions and read other stuff already available on the platform while I wait.

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