Amazon’s application to establish a physical presence in the Canadian book buying scene and the Canadian Bookseller’s Association’s response has started me thinking about our book buying options. (For more about this topic, click here.)
Each of the following provide certain advantages and I access my reading materials from all of the places on the following list, depending on my mood and goal.
Online Retailers– I do occasionally shop at Amazon.ca, often I can get some great deals and get electornically talked into spending enough that I do not have to pay shipping costs. I like that you have the option of buying used books from various retailers that have joined the amazon system. But it is clearly a faceless interaction. You can also buy electronic copies of books and download them onto various reading devices. This is not something I could ever see myself doing. I like the tactile quality of reading an older book with rough pages, worn around the edges. I even like the dusty smell of books dug out of used bookstores. I look at a screen for long enough, when I read a book it has to be from a printed page.
Chain Stores-I have spent hours walking around gigantic bookstores, looking through their discount sections for a deal. Sometimes I like the fact that I can pick a book up off of the shelf, find a corner to sit in, and not be bothered by anyone. Sometimes I like paying too much for a coffee-like beverage. And sometimes, when you want to buy a book of a personal or potentially embarrassing nature (self-help section, sexuality section, Stephanie Meyer section) the anonymity of a chain store is a positive rather than a negative.
Independent Stores-On the other hand, most of the time, nothing beats being able to walk into a store and being welcomed by name. Small stores with friendly staff often take the time to know their customers, and then make suggestions about similar authors or topics. They have more of a community feel and might hold author events. You might pay a dollar more per book, but to me, it is worth it.
Used Bookstores-My favourite rainy day activity is to go to a used bookstore and spend the afternoon hunting through narrow, dimly lit shelves. Again, they are mainly independently run and you pay less. The only downside is that the selection might be restricted.
The Library: The main advantage of the library is obvious-as long as you bring your materials back on time, it is free. Many libraries allow you to borrow more than just books; cds, dvds, recorded books and language learning kits are all available from my local public library. Libraries are part of our communities, they often offer classes, seminars and host special events. The downside? Inevitably it will happen that another patron will place a ‘hold’ on an item that you have out before you are done with it. This might happen particularly often if you are like me and cannot help but check out multiple volumes at each visit. It is frustrating to have to return a book you are enjoying because it has been requested by someone else.
You could make the same list with music purchasing options, or even clothing. If you only shop at large chain stores, give some of the other options a try. You might find that you have been missing out.