I recently wanted to buy 10 copies of a book that was very important to me and distribute them out as gifts this holiday season.
As I am a huge ‘buy local” enthusiast my first thought was to head down to my (last) local bookstore and ask them for a price on 10 copies. They came back with an estimate of $160 and “they would call me in a few weeks when it was in”. I then went over to Amazon and realized I could have those same books…delivered to my door within 2 days for about $60 less.
That’s a pretty big difference and it really got me thinking about buying local vs amazon when it comes to books. So I wanted to create a list that summarized all of the major points that were important to me and see which one would win.
This one isn’t too much of a surprise that Amazon wins based purely on the book cover price…we all know they are cheaper. But I’m also a big fan of looking at the “hidden costs” of an item and I have many many times paid a premium for a local service so why not this time? Well…the book isn’t printed here locally…the author probably isn’t local either…also…the dollars I “save” here by using Amazon will almost assuredly be spent locally. At best a couple of dollars might be put into the local community…into arguably a pretty inefficient business.
You probably thought that I would have given this to the local store….they are great and there is something about wandering around a store sipping a coffee and getting a personal recommendation. The problem with a personal recommendation by a single book dweeb is that it’s really more his opinion than understanding of your own tastes…Amazon has complex formula’s from hundreds (or thousands) of reviews and buying history.There is no way the local book dweeb can compete with that and in my own experience Amazon is way more accurate at suggesting something I would enjoy.
Now I do love the fact that my local bookstore has an area for authors to come in and talk to the public..I’ve used that space many a time in fact…this is something that Amazon simply can’t compete with. Naysayers will say if we don’t support the local bookstore this type of facility would disappear…I would argue that the cost even for this single purchase could rent me an appropriate space for an evening.
We all “know” that a local bookstore is a pivotal part of a neighborhood and community and encourages people to read more books…or does it? Nope actually people that use Amazon/Kindle read more books. It’s just so easy…maybe it’s a sign of myself getting older but after a bottle of wine now instead of going out to the club I might hop onto my kindle and buy 2-3 books. Checking my kindle the next morning to find out what I bought is way better than the fear of what text messages I might have sent!
Amazon can of course draw on a huge amount of physical space that would dwarf any real bookstore.
The Minimalist in me also loves the appeal of e-books…but the anti-mega corporation part of me is concerned that once Amazon has ran everyone out of business they will no longer have the same level of customer service/amenities and cost savings they once did. So those concerns cancel themselves out. For now I still plan to use both…books that I
I also want to give an Honorable mention to Albrahama books here in Edmonton, they are a fantastic local bookstore but have really carved out a niche that sets them apart in dealing with older hard to find books…most of the above does not apply to them. In fact I think bookstores are going to have to really work hard (but that it’s totally doable) to diversify their business. Get more authors in…get prices down…setup coffee shops instore…offer things amazon can’t.
In case anyone is wondering the book I was Great Idea’s “Where I lived and what I lived for” by Thoreau. I know it’s almost cliche but have to say that this book is one of the most important I have ever read. I actually carry a copy on me almost always.