With iPads, Kindles and Nooks growing ever more popular, it’s much easier to go online when buying your books. Even if you don’t buy ebooks, ordering your books online is temptingly convenient.
With that option, why bother with bookstores? Here are five good reasons to stay loyal to local and indie bookstores:
Real people, real recommendations
Talking to people face-to-face might be old-fashioned, but it does have its advantages. Online book reviews from GoodReads, Amazon, B&N and, yes, Examiner are handy — but sometimes, it’s nice to be able to ask a “real” person. The job of bookstore personnel is to know which book to recommend to which people. Among the ranks of bookworms, they’re the authorities — making their reviews more trustworthy than those of anonymous Amazon customers. Also, online reviews often cover the hottest titles in hopes of boosting pageviews. Bookstore personnel will guide you to what’s good regardless of what’s popular.
Ease of browsing
One of the main complaints about online shopping is that you can’t see the “shelves.” You have to trust a program to come up with a list of books based on your last purchases and those of people with similar interests. When browsing in a bookstore, it’s much easier to let the eye wander over the shelves until it finds something interesting.
Usually, “instant gratification” is a plus (or a minus) applied to shopping online. You click, pay, and there’s your order. Unless you’re downloading an ebook, you then have to wait for the book to arrive at your house…which means you don’t get instant gratification. Each order can vary widely in shipping time, and you have to pay extra for priority shipping. When visiting a bookstore, you pick up the book you wanted, pay, and it’s in your hand — ready for reading at your leisure.
If the store doesn’t have what you want, you can always order it. You can do that online too, but that process can be deceptive: the price doesn’t include shipping and handling. Depending on what type of shipping you select, the end price of the book is often close to or even above what you would find in a bookstore. Bookstores, on the other hand, order books for you without charging a shipping fee. They also call when your book is in and are more consistent when it comes to shipping times.
All right, this is definitely a sentimental and old-fashioned reason to patronize bookstores. But no matter how tailored to your needs a computer program is, it can’t match quality customer service. Most indie and small-time booksellers pride themselves on their personal atmosphere and customer loyalty. In fact, it’s one of their major draws over faceless online wholesalers.