Thursday, January 15, 2009

Guest Post: I Buy Online (It's Not a Crime) by Anysia of BookLorn

(This is the last in a series of posts about how avid readers get their books. I've enjoyed reading each perspective as I greatly respect each of these readers and important bloggers in our community. Today I'm thrilled to have Ann/Anysia of BookLorn and also the brains behind HereBeReviews
She buys online and wants you to know why)

What I want from a bookseller is fairly simple: I want books. The
fewer hoops I have to jump through to get those books the better. I
want to find what I'm looking for with the least fuss, the least time
spent and, yes, the least money spent (although I'll pick the first
two over the last one any day of the week). For me that means buying
online either from booksellers or directly from the publisher.

I have been buying books online as long as there have been online
booksellers. A bricks and mortar
introduced me to buying books online. They installed kiosks in
their stores so that customers could browse their whole selection,
order, and have their books delivered to the store for pick up--all
without having to pay shipping fees or deal with an employee (the
kiosks also let you find where something was shelved in the store
instead of trying to track down an employee).

Until then, I never knew of all the books that were out there but
weren't on bookstore or library shelves. Suddenly I had access to all
of them (or at least more than I ever had access to before) and I
wasn't giving that up. When the kiosks were removed from the stores,
customers were encouraged to go to the website directly. I went and
didn't come back.

I shop online for a number of reasons, but the biggest is that the
bricks and mortar chain store (we only have one national one in
Canada, though it goes by at least four names) and independent stores
don't give me what I want or need as a customer: selection, service,
and price (in that order, just in case you were wondering). They never
have, so for me it was never a matter picking online stores over
bricks and mortar stores so much as finally finding a bookseller that
suited me.

Before there was online, I didn't buy that many books--at least not
new ones. I read a lot, but mostly it was from the library or books
that I picked up at the used book store. It wasn't a matter of price
(although that was a nice side benefit), but a matter of selection.
Libraries and used bookstores had the most interesting and eclectic
collection of books.

Whenever I have tried to get a bricks and mortar bookstore to order a
book in for me I have always run into issues: the book doesn't exist
(they couldn't find it, but it most definitely existed), the book will
take more than a month to come in, the book must be paid upfront (that
one went with the one month wait), or there'll be a premium charged
for the service of ordering a book not already on the shelves. You can
bet I jumped at the chance to do it myself when online buying came

Online I can search by keyword, author, and now even content. I don't
need to get someone to show me where it is, guess where the bookseller
decided to shelve a hard-to-categorize book, or have someone stare at
me blankly. If it's not available online, I can find that out in less
than five minutes and I can do it in between doing the laundry and
making lunch. I don't have to wait on hold with every bookstore in
town or spend an hour traipsing to and from a single bookstore only to
find that they don't have what I want.

Price is not what drove me to online booksellers. Selection and the
ability to serve myself did--price was just a nice fringe benefit. I
still go into bricks and mortar stores occasionally, but they haven't
really changed much. I have, though. I know what's out there now and
it doesn't fit into any store I can walk into.

(Be sure to check out BookLorn and HereBeReviews!)


Chrisbookarama said...

If I want a book online, I'll buy the book online. If I can get it at the local bookstore and therefore quicker, I'll get it there. It doesn't matter to me. If I could create a prefect world, then all these places to buy books would live together in harmony (cue sappy music). I don't think it's a crime either.

Adele said...

I love the whole experience of visiting the bookstore, browsing it's genre fiction sections, taking books down and reading the first few pages, considering, exploring. I like interacting with bookshop staff, little snippets of conversation while they have a dig around incase i'm just not seeing something, or it's not where i'd expect it to be. I the very occasional interaction with other browsers. The only thing I don't love about the whole experience is when I know a book is out, but they don't have it. Then I go online.
I think it's personal preference, for me the buying is part of the build up to reading, so I enjoy it, if all you want is for a book to arrive then online shopping is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Great guest post - I love the title.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I love browsing in book stores, whether they are online or not. If I'm in a book store and the book I want is there, I will buy it there. If I am browsing an online store and it takes me 3 clicks to order it, I am going to do that.

S. Krishna said...

I agree with this - I don't buy all my books online, but I don't feel bad when I do.

Alea said...

Great post! I love using the in store computers to help me find what I'm looking for. Much faster than chasing a bookseller around the store. I buy a lot online but also buy a lot in store, I guess it just depends. And I like how browsing online and in store show you different things, I like to go back and forth.

The Undead Rat said...

I would love to buy my books at a bookstore but my passion is horror and even the biggest boookstore chains around here think so little of the genre that they only have 5% or less of what's been published. If I want to read more than Stephen King or Peter Straub I have to get the book online -- and I use a specialty online bookstore called Horror Mall. They can get books even Amazon or Barnes and Noble don't know about.

I still go to bookstores for my non-horror selections as well as the refreshing and invigorating feeling I get being surrounded by shelves and shelves of books.


Unknown said...

Price and convenience are why I shop online. In fact, the price is so key, that although my husband and I like to browse, we have a hard time paying 25% more for a trade paperback than we'd pay if we bought online.

We do patronize used bookstores -- loving to browse (and buy!) the undiscovered treasures available there even more than at a big box store.

Anonymous said...

Anysia, I totally agree with you. I really don't have anything more to add.

BUT, while I totally agree, I'm still making a concerted effort to buy books from indy bookstores. I agree that they can't compete with the price, selection, or service that you can get online (or even from Borders). But I like having the indy bookstores, as one of the things they do is bring in authors I like to go see, and if enjoying that means that I buy books from them to be that one more person helping them to stay in business, well, then, so be it.

Anonymous said...

Price, convenience, and selection are why I buy the majority of my books online. I can technically walk to one of two bookstores nearest to me, and there's another bookstore ten minutes away from campus, but I just don't have the time to do that now. It's much faster for me to order them online instead. Also, every time I go into a bookstore looking for a Diana Wynne Jones book I haven't read before I can't find anything. Asking a store to order it for me is useless when I've got an internet connection and can find what I want within minutes.

So, to sum up my rambling: I agree. And I don't think there's anything wrong with it, either.

- Anastasia

Amy said...

You make the most important here for me....before I bought books online I rarely bought brand new books. So for people like buying isn't actually stealing business from anywhere else.

Thanks for the great post.

Andi said...

Hi Amy,
You won a blog award, come check it out

Kara S. said...

I admit that I buy 100% of my books online, but I have a really good reason ... the closest brick and mortar bookstore is 60+ miles away in one direction. And even then, it's not that great of a store. No Barnes & Nobles in our state. *sniff* For me, buying online saves a lot of time and money especially if I don't know if the brick and mortar store is going to have the book I want anyway. Before Christmas, my mom was looking to get a book for my SIL. Mom went to a local big name store - $45 plus 3 wks for it to arrive. I looked online - $19.97 plus 2 days for it to arrive. Um, guess which option we chose? While price may seem like a big deal, I make more purchases online simply because of the convenience (and I like to keep the UPS delivery people in business LOL).

Marie Cloutier said...

Great post. Sorry bookstores have let you down in the past but it's great that you haven't let that stop you from reading great books!

Anonymous said...

I buy my books both in physical book stores, and online. I enjoy the process very much no matter which route I take. I love roaming the aisles of a store, the smell of new books, the beautiful covers. It's rare that I leave a bookstore without a bunch of books. I also like buying online, though - not only because of the selection, but because I've discovered so many new-to-me authors by clicking on interesting looking titles and covers. Just like I can spend hours at a physical bookstore, I tend to spend hours at an online bookstore, too! The only difference is that I don't always leave my online session with a shipment of books on the way to me, although I'm sure to leave the session with books saved to my shopping cart.

RAnn said...

Bookstores are like every other business. Unless the small local business can provide something a larger version cannot, it will fail. The corner grocery that tried to carry everything (at least in small amounts) failed years ago--we prefered the larger selection and lower prices of the supermarket, even if the owner didn't know us or our kids. Our locally owned video rental store was diplaced by Blockbuster, which is being busted by the even bigger and even cheaper Netflix. Unless the small indie bookstore can offer some value not found in Amazon etc. it too will pass into history. While that may be lamentable to a point, I'm a believer in the market and don't believe Amazon et al can meet all of everyone's needs.

Anonymous said...

It's been interesting to read the comments.

I don't believe that any one type of bookseller is better for everyone, just that certain types of sellers are better suited to certain types of buyers. Some people lose sight of that and that has caused tension on some book blogs.

Serena said...

fantastic guest post...i love that online book buying is so convenient and that I can find any book i want without being stared blankly at by the bookstore peeps...o and then there's the one where the bookstore people tell me its not available at their warehouse but their online store says I can order it...hmmm..

Anonymous said...

I shop around ... and by that I mean I shop EVERYWHERE, not that I go from store to store comparing prices.

If I'm downtown I often go into our lovely indie bookstore. Sometimes in browsing I see something that catches my eye. When I go in for an author event I always buy the book there (even though it may be discounted at a big box or online).

If I'm gathering books on a particular subject (like this engineering project I'm doing with a Team of 10/11 yr olds), I'll look online for the biggest selection.

And, when my daughter gets a gift card we go over to B&N and have a great time spending her money!

There are many types of stores to fit many types of needs. Apparently I'm very needy, since I frequent all types!

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