Hello! Today I'm considering the quandary of where to buy our books from. We have lots of options currently, we can buy online from places like Amazon and TBD, we can buy from supermarkets...or hey, from a bookshop.
There are pros and cons for each option. Buying from supermarkets means you can pick up a book on your weekly shop, and they're usually at rock bottom prices, often even cheaper than Amazon. However, supermarkets only stock a small selection, and it's usually the very mass market books that they expect will sell well. So if you're not looking for the next bestseller, this probably isn't the best place to go.
Online retailers are only getting stronger. Cheap prices, free delivery and hassle-free shopping make it a popular choice. But there's no....joy in shopping online. You can't look at the books, you can't pick them up, read the backs, run your fingers along the spines. And unless you know what you're looking for, it can be hard to browse on a website. Their 'recommendations' are fairly formulaic and changing them up involves a lot of ticking and unticking of boxes. I've said it before, but the day Amazon invests in some form of interactive recommendation service, bookshops are truly doomed. There are more downsides to online shopping, delays in delivery being one. Remember that awful snow we had pre-Christmas 2010? Yeah, my pre-ordered copy of Last Sacrifice never showed up. I ended up going to buy it in Waterstones anyway because I NEEDED it.
Bookshops are the more romantic, more ethical choice. As an older teenager I used to get £50 a month allowance, and I would often get the bus to town, stand in that beautiful Waterstones on St Anne's Square in Manchester (RIP, beautiful shop) and pick books from the 3for2. This is literally what I spent all my money on. And I didn't have a bank card or anything, so there was no online shopping for me. I loved the thrill of picking books I'd never heard of and wondering if I'd love them, the calm feeling I always felt from being surrounded by books. For me, buying books was an indulgence, because I mostly relied on the library. And the thing is, I was always perfectly happy to buy books in bookshops
pre 2007 (which is about when I started buying books on Amazon) but
now, NOW I look at that £7.99 rrp and think "but I could get this so
much cheaper online". Part of me wishes I never knew that.
Nowadays, I do tend to buy most of my books online. And I do feel guilty about it. My reasons are:
A) I get kindle books sometimes
B) My decisions about book buying now are, sadly, usually very strategic. I don't tend to 'impulse buy' books anymore, but because I have so many to read I carefully consider which ones should be added to my collection. This HAS taken a bit of the fun out of book shopping.
C) Price. It is price, it is an issue. I long for the day when I can justify walking into bookshops to buy books all the time, but right now I just can't afford to.
D) Variety. This is definitely improving, especially with so much interest in YA now, but I have walked into bookshops before many times and not found the book I want, especially if I'm after a backlist title. Which when you're looking for something specific is very frustrating.
Sometimes though, I just have to buy a book in a shop. I like the excitement, the thrill, the build up of doing so. I like going out on release day and seeing it and knowing it can be MINE. Though sometimes this does backfire, like the time I pre-ordered CoFA from Waterstones, only for them not to have it, and I had to go to the other Waterstones who then had to go find their copies from the back aaand...it was all very traumatic.
How do you guys buy books? Do you wish your buying habits were different? Do we have a responsibility to buy from bookshops, or do they have a responsibility to make themselves more attractive so they can compete more? Or is it a mix of the two? Does buying online feel 'less fun' for you? Weigh in in the comments!
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