Monday, 29 April 2013

Buying Books & Booksellers

After recently visiting The London Book Review I started thinking about how I actually buy books. Ebooks have been a phenomenon, and according to an article I read this week an estimated eight million Brits now own an e-reader (17/04/13 Evening Standard). Although I own a kindle, and appreciate the convenience of  been able to cart around hundreds of books in my handbag without putting my back out, I will never stop buying physical paper books.

 I will also never stop supporting book stores, yes the internet is marvellous, but online shopping is impersonal. I find it easier, and more enjoyable to leisurely browse for books in a shop. You can read the blurb, feel the weight and appreciate the cover design in a way that is not possible when just clicking on links. 

I find it a real pleasure to spend hours in a bookshop, my arms overflowing trying to make a decision. It is one of the simple joys in my life to open a book for the very first time, the pages fresh and the spine crisp and unbent, you cannot experience the same sensory delight reading from a screen. 

There is more engagement with a paper book. When you buy from a book store instead of the internet you are already starting to interact with your chosen title, the bookseller your buying from will probably comment on your purchase, and will be genuinely passionate about literature. It is, for me, a lot enjoyable shopping experience than buying from the monolithic Amazon.   

Booksellers in book stores have vast knowledge and love to make recommendations. They are a fantastic resource if you're unsure of what to read next or trying to buy a gift for a reluctant reader. Ok, I might be slightly biased because I used to be a bookseller. I worked for Waterstone's for a several months before unfortunately been made redundant. I think my store went under for a couple of reasons:
  1. The company was slow as a whole to react to changes in publishing. They have only recently embraced ebooks and started selling Kindles. The e-readers they were previously selling were quite frankly shoddy imitations. 
  2. They were undercut by their competitors. It is often cheaper to buy the latest titles online or from a supermarket. It was so infuriating when I worked as a bookseller and would spend hours with a customer making recommendations etc. when they would then turnaround and say "thanks, but I'll buy it on Amazon, it;s cheaper". 
  3. General trend for buying online. The whole of the high street has been effected by this, people are shopping more and more online.
  4. Waterstone's didn't appreciate their staff. As you can get the same products elsewhere, it is the booksellers themselves that make book stores competitive. Yes, like I said in point 2, you got the occasional person that would pick your brains and then went online, but many people appreciated your enthusiasm and your help and would make a purchase though it would may cost an extra £2. Waterstone's should have appreciated that they would be in lot dire straits without the commitment of the bookseller and should have introduced more staff benefits and a higher wage. 
    hahaha this is spot on- booksellers are judgemental but so useful! 

All the booksellers I worked with were experts. They could track down a particular book from half remembered information about the colour of the cover or an incomplete plot line. I loved championing my favourite novels and it was really satisfying discussing with a returning customer what they thought of your previous recommendation.

I do regularly buy from Amazon, as I appreciate the convenience and cheapness, so I'm not suggesting buying from there is wrong or anything.  I suppose the whole point of this post was to say what a massive shame it would be if there were no more book stores and to prevent that from happening they must be supported.

What do you think? Where do you buy your books?

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