Friday, December 9, 2011

How we buy books

I unfortunately can't remember the hat-tip, but someone linked to this article on the habit of book-browsing in corporeal bookstores and then buying the books online, which definitely qualifies as a thought-provoker.
According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first. Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.
I know I shouldn't be surprised but I am. My own use of Amazon today is completely contrary to this one. As I've mentioned in the past, one of the first things I do before considering a book is check its Amazon reviews (negative first, then positive). This is not because it's Amazon, per se, but rather because Amazon has the greatest collection of user reviews (which is one of the only remaining advantages to using the site, other than the obviously lower prices but I'll discuss that at length another time). I look at a book, investigate it, learn about it, and then decide whether or not I want to buy it. From there, I have a few options. I can order the book online or I can go to a bookstore I like and buy the book. In recent years, the most likely outcome has been the latter.

But it's much easier to go about it the "normal" way. You find a book in the flesh, you want to investigate it, you go online. Once online, you make your decision. Then you're just one click away from buying the book. And it's cheaper... so why not buy it like that? Even this thing that you go into a bookstore, look up a book on your cell-phone, realize that it's cheaper elsewhere... I understand even if I don't agree with it (and certainly don't like it). Maybe if my situation was different, I too would  be tempted to approach book-buying this way. Living abroad and having a yearly buffer zone between my book-buying sprees means I can afford to do my homework ahead of time. Today, Amazon is no more convenient to me than a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

I know one thing, though. Indies will survive because they provide what Amazon never will - personal service, author readings, a type of convenience that can only be found in corporeal form, and provide customers with the joy of spontaneous book-buying. And I hope for one more thing: that for every customer who walks in, looks at a book and ends up buying it later on Amazon.com for a discount, there's another like me who first looks the books up on Amazon, and then goes out to the local bookstore to buy it. Because really, the feeling is much better this way.

Update: Oh, and while this "deal" in which a customer uses their cell-phone to scan the bar-code of a product and then get a discount on Amazon (instead of buying it at the store the customer is currently standing in) doesn't include books, it's still pretty despicable (via The Book Catapult). Just saying.

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