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  • Amazon Attacks

    There’s a good piece in the NY Times today about the suffering book market, that is to say, the publisher-retail system. The home-grown out of the garage retailer is doing just fine, and the two are at odds. Once again my practices clouded me to the reality of this- I do order books online, but I mostly do it when a book is out of print. Of course, I work only a few blocks away from the largest physical bookstore in the country, Powell’s (also mentioned in the article).

    I do see the problem for stores who sell student texts which are often bought used, but there’s not much option when a book is out of print. If publishers have a reliable way of gauging demand to put a book back in circulation, I’m not aware of it. And here is where I’m hoping that reading devices like The Kindle will step up to open that revenue stream again so authors and publishers can still collect on those works.

    Despite my so-clever title, let’s leave comics off the table- how do you get your books? Could publishers combat this drain by helping Amazon make sure you qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping?


    Comment from Michael Hoskin
    Time: December 29, 2008, 8:19 am

    I visit physical bookstores mainly and my tastes run toward used books so I’m not a great example. I do buy from Amazon at least twice a year, but only as a treat and/or to purchase gifts. I always buy enough to get free shipping and usually get discounted items, but my bookshelves have become so cramped that I doubt I’ll be splurging in 2009.

    Comment from Parker
    Time: December 29, 2008, 9:04 am

    A-HA! I don’t know why I said that. So you’re about even with me, it sounds.

    Comment from Craig
    Time: December 29, 2008, 9:20 am

    Most of my purchases come from Amazon. I visit books stores regularly, but most of my purchases from them are in the discounted book section. I also visit use book stores but sadly they seem to be going the way of the dinosaur.

    Comment from David Oakes
    Time: December 29, 2008, 9:37 am

    I get my books at the library. After filling the sixth bookshelf and the second room full of books, my wife and I both decided that we didn’t need to own the things to read them.

    Sure, it may take six months for my “Suggest a Purchase” to go through, or a year before Inter-Library Loan is willing to share. But since I am not spending money, I can try things I wouldn’t normally, and that fills up the gaps more than enough.

    Comment from Dana
    Time: December 29, 2008, 9:52 am

    Base economics rule the day.

    Unless there’s a sale at the book store, or I have a coupon/gift card, or it’s impulse buy for the kids, — it’s always Amazon or eBay. I’d guess that would be a solid 75-80% of the time.

    (And that INCLUDES comics, I’m somewhat sorry to say.)

    Comment from Parker
    Time: December 29, 2008, 10:08 am

    Libraries do pay for their copies, so that’s actually still a sale where you can track interest in a book.

    Dana, I’d be like that if I had more patience. Again, that bookstore is right there just when like Winnie the Pooh I’m feeling a little eleven o’ clock-ish. Which is why I suspect at some point if I have a Kindle or some kind of e-reader where I can get a book in a minute, I’ll probably start spending more money on books.

    I often get interested in a book after reading an excerpt online or hearing the author speak on NPR, but daily life retakes my priorities before I can follow through on getting hold of said book. But as a complete iTunes sucker, if I could get it RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT…

    Comment from Martin Thomas
    Time: December 29, 2008, 10:09 am

    There isn’t a physical bookstore close enough for me to visit regularly, so I get nearly all my books online. The new/used split is about 80/20. I generally buy enough on Amazon to qualify for free shipping.

    Comment from Dana
    Time: December 29, 2008, 10:25 am

    I’m SURROUNDED by great bookstores.
    Everywhere I go, there they are.
    And still $ rules the day.
    Conversely, I bought more at the book stores in Q4 because of coupons and discounts. That, in turn, has me sitting on the eBay giftcard I got for Christmas waiting for the Jan/Feb releases.

    Retail-guilt inspires me to Ibuy from “first run” sellers (typically, InStockTrades or Torgo’s Comics and Games).

    Comment from Bret Bernal
    Time: December 29, 2008, 10:51 am

    Man, I sure miss visiting Powells. Anyhoo, most of my book buying is from the local Borders or Barnes & Noble. (I typically wait until I get an e-mail coupon.)

    I do use Amazon at least once per month–purchasing a used copy 99% of the time. I save a fortune that way which frees up a lot of dough to support my crack habit.

    Comment from Beast
    Time: December 29, 2008, 11:27 am

    I’m guilty as well. I always buy my books (typically Comic Trades and Hardcovers) online. I love supporting my local shop (in this case comic shops), however I draw the line at trades/hardcovers. Mostly because the savings online for trades makes it too big an incentive not to go for it. And yeah, I always make sure to buy enough to get free shipping.

    Getting the $100 Marvel Omnibus volumes for $62 from Amazon is just too good to pass up. Thanks for making me feel guilty, Jeff. :D

    Comment from Chris McAree
    Time: December 29, 2008, 2:30 pm

    I like to browse when I get the chance to go to Dublin. Locally, there are a couple of specialist stores with excellent staff/owners on their given subjects, but nothing beats being surrounded by ten thousand titles and getting the chance to peruse at my leisure.

    Comment from odessasteps magazine
    Time: December 29, 2008, 3:42 pm

    I will shamefully admit as a former Borders employee that 99% of my book buying is done online. Of course, I do frequent the brick and mortar stores in the area to “preview” what I want to buy, to see if I like, before getting it from Amazon. Usually, the only thing I get at stores these days is the newspaper and/or magazines, things I need for disposable reading during lunch or work.

    Comment from seth hurley
    Time: December 29, 2008, 6:00 pm

    We have a great inter-library loan system, so that is always the go-to for older media or brand new stuff I am willing to wait-list for.

    I buy books, comics, & dvd’s through Amazon’s Marketplace all the time (Curse You, Buy It Now Setting!) Many of the sellers are individuals or independent bookstores (Powells included) so even with S&H it can still be much cheaper than Amazon itself. Instocktrades has great discounts for comics as well.

    I only ever buy directly from Amazon if I have a gift card.

    My area has a fair amount of well stocked used bookstores that we frequent and we will cull our home library a few times a year to trade for cash or more likely credit.

    I have only ever bought iced coffee at Borders or Barnes & Noble, they are nice enough to let me read their magazines though!

    Comment from Parker
    Time: December 29, 2008, 6:09 pm

    I really don’t want anyone to feel guilty (honestly!). It’s the stores and publishers’ responsibility to find ways to get us buying their books. None of these practices are stealing.

    I love the smell of a musty book store, I say to no one in particular.

    Comment from Dana
    Time: December 29, 2008, 11:24 pm

    For me, another down-vote for the book stores (uber-geek territory, I know) is the security device that Borders like to jam inside the books.

    I don’t need my books NM, but for the love of Pete, I do not want a plastic security tag stuck over Cap’s big speech after reading 109 pages.

    Comment from Bill S.
    Time: December 30, 2008, 11:22 am

    I work in a library system, and if we don’t have it, I submit a request to purchase to one of the other librarians — or buy it myself, if it’s in my selection area. The number of books I’m personally buying are thus minimal, and tend to be comic collections that I don’t think our graphic novels selector would spring for.

    Also, because we weed the collection pretty regularly, I get some discarded books that I’m interested in.

    I buy most of the comic-related stuff from my local comic store, and there are a few smaller press publishers that I buy from directly, like Small Beer Press. I mostly use Amazon when purchasing DVDs, usually because the DVDs I’m interested in tend not to be very popular.