Are you a book browser? I’m not. What I read is heavily influenced by newspapers and magazines. Not reviews, but author interviews and articles on books and writing. When I go into a library or bookshop, it’s always with a specific book in mind.
This means that shopping for books online suits me very well. I usually buy my books from Amazon where they are often cheaper than the recommended retail price, readily available and, even with supersaver free delivery, on my doorstep two to three days later.
Recently I ordered three books from Waterstone’s. One of them arrived a week later. I had to take a detour on my way home from work to pick it up. The second is still not available more than a month after the publication date, although I could buy it from Amazon now for less than the Waterstone’s price and have it in a few days. The third book is a difficult one to get. Waterstone’s cancelled the order; on Amazon I can get it for £2 plus £2.80 postage from a marketplace seller in the States.
Buying books online has clear advantages for the book buyer: price, availabilty, the convenience of having the book delivered to your door within a few days. The arguments I’ve heard for eschewing online book buying in favour of popping in to your local bookshop are that you can browse for books you might not normally have bought or known about, you get personal service, and you can support a local business.
If browsing’s your thing, let’s not forget that in a bookstore you are limited to the fraction of published books that that bookstore has decided to stock. The personal attention I received at Waterstone’s when discussing my book orders was lovely, but it just doesn’t stack up against the convenience of having cheaper books in less time from Amazon. Incidently, my experience of Amazon’s customer service has been great. It may have been via e-mail but the result was a new book a few days later, leaving me very happy.
As for supporting local bookshops, at the moment that’s just not a big priority for me. Perhaps it should be, but I need someone to tell me why. What are the arguments for shopping in independent bookshops? I’m sure there are plenty of good ones: more money for authors because their books aren’t heavily discounted? More support for local authors? You wouldn’t find their books in major book chains but they’re on the shelves in independent bookshops. Anything else?
What’s important to you when it comes to book buying and where do you buy your books?