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Time to Say Goodbye to Independent Bookstores?


Books

Cheliax

Good question:

Should We Fight to Save Indie Bookstores?

Reasons to let indie stores go echo the same reasons to shut down FLGS.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
joela wrote:

Good question:

Should We Fight to Save Indie Bookstores?

Reasons to let indie stores go echo the same reasons to shut down FLGS.

Actually, with the success of Amazon.com, is it time to say "Good Bye to Bookstores" independent or otherwise?

Taldor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Actually, that sounds bad from a european perspective, as this trend has not yet happened in Europe, and we tend to follow your bad ideas more than your good ones :)

Yes, you should try to keep independent bookstores, because, like all kind of stores, these are social places, where people can meet and talk IRL, and that is not something that happens over the Internet.

Amazon is convenient. It is also soulless. Bland.

IT will never replace a one-man work of passion and offer the same thing.

best,


Stereofm wrote:

Actually, that sounds bad from a european perspective, as this trend has not yet happened in Europe, and we tend to follow your bad ideas more than your good ones :)

Yes, you should try to keep independent bookstores, because, like all kind of stores, these are social places, where people can meet and talk IRL, and that is not something that happens over the Internet.

Amazon is convenient. It is also soulless. Bland.

IT will never replace a one-man work of passion and offer the same thing.

best,

This.

I love both my small local book store and Tattered Cover in Denver, and give both of them money regularly, although I must admit that Amazon is taking it's share through Kindle books.


My favorite Indie bookstore is also a coffee shop cafe. They added the cafe because they were going broke trying to make ends meet just selling books and magazines. They are also phasing out book sales though because of lack of sales but are expanding their magazine and news paper selections for the people that still want a real paper/magazine to read with their morning coffee.

Most Indie bookstores will have to follow a similar business model and start selling something else in addition to books if they want to keep their doors open.

I would love for indie bookstores to be able to stay open but I personally have gone totally digital a few years back with the exception of RPG books and won’t miss them if they disappear.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The only real way to fight to save a business, be it a book store, independent or otherwise, a game store, or whatever is to patronize it and spend money there. The main reason most of these businesses are vanishing isn't usually a lack of interest in the stores, but rather the introduction of alternatives that didn't previously exist. Video stores have been replaced by the likes of VOD and Netflix streaming and DVDs in the mail that offered convenience and better prices. Independent book stores have been replaced first by large chains with their wide selections and discounts and shopping experience and also by internet vendors like Amazon with their great prices and super convenience. I greatly enjoy small independent bookstores myself, and when I've found those that offered the products and service I like I've spent money there, but I certainly won't patronize a business just because it's small and independent, especially if out of the way and/or expensive.

L


I think in some markets an independent bookstore can still survive and in others, not so much.

I used to live downtown in a major city. I'd bet that the bookstore I patronized there still exists.

Where I live now, the only bookstores within ~10 miles of me are Barnes and Nobles.


Honestly I feel like the old model of publishing locks out huge numbers of people who might other wise have went on to be great authors. If you have a few centralized publishers that means fewer people have a chance to make all or part of their living through

Amazon (and ebooks in general) create more freedom for the consumer and authors. It seems almost impossible for stores to stay afloat if they are strictly the old model. Maybe if they mix and match some other items they have some potential, but they don't have any inherent right to exist as they are now.

Andoran

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I try to do business with locally owned and operated businesses as much as I can, just so that the money I spend remains in the community rather than going off to bolster some other cities economy. I do make some exceptions to that, if the product I want to buy has other issues with it (for example, I generally don't buy Paizo's printed books because a) they are printed overseas and fuel/money is wasted shipping it around, b) they don't use any recycled materials in their books or shipping materials as far as I've been able to tell.) I prefer printed books and will pay a premium for a quality product that meets my criteria, but if it is not available, I will settle for a PDF.

Taldor

I'd rather keep the indie bookstores and let the big box retailers die. That's me though.


What's an independent book store? Never seen one. We have two used book stores, but pretty sure that is different.


They exist, but, yeah, you mostly see them in the cities.

Everything that can be said about bookstores also applies to record (or, I guess, I should say "cd") stores. I was late getting into the internet and I found that records I had been looking for in vain for over a decade (and I worked in a used record store during that decade!) were now instantly available with a click of the mouse, or, at worst, a bidding war on ebay.

And while it's true in theory that stores are places for people to meet and socialize, I have found, unfortnately, that that hasn't really been my experience. But that's probably because I live in New England. We're not terribly friendly people.


Cartigan wrote:
What's an independent book store? Never seen one. We have two used book stores, but pretty sure that is different.

This would be a bookstore that sells new releases of books, magazines etc that is not part of a national chain like Borders in the USA or Chapters/Indigo in Canada.

I know of exactly one independent book store in my hometown. I know of none in the city I currently live in. I don't feel they are something that needs some kind of special protection but I do know that when I am in my hometown I make a special point of going to the local book store and making a purchase however small. Growing up this store was also the main supplier of RPG books and magazines in the city (they have since dropped those)and has a strong nostalgia factor for me. I will be sad when it finally does close.


Doodlebug Anklebiter wrote:

They exist, but, yeah, you mostly see them in the cities.

Everything that can be said about bookstores also applies to record (or, I guess, I should say "cd") stores. I was late getting into the internet and I found that records I had been looking for in vain for over a decade (and I worked in a used record store during that decade!) were now instantly available with a click of the mouse, or, at worst, a bidding war on ebay.

And while it's true in theory that stores are places for people to meet and socialize, I have found, unfortnately, that that hasn't really been my experience. But that's probably because I live in New England. We're not terribly friendly people.

Ironically, we actually DO have a record store. It's based out of an old warehouse that's been turned into a hippie gathering place.


Cartigan wrote:
Ironically, we actually DO have a record store. It's based out of an old warehouse that's been turned into a hippie gathering place.

Sounds like my kind of place.


Doodlebug I don't think it is a New England thing. I live in Kentucky and ours don't have much meeting or socialization either.


Good to know that we aren't the only cold, antisocial misanthropes out there. :)


People in the area are generally very friendly, sometimes to the point of distraction, they just treat book stores as private time.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm not talking about that kind of bookstore!


Those kind of bookstores will only go out of business if the local government passes laws restricting the sales of those kinds of books.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

100% recession proof!

Although, I bet they've been taking a hit from the internet, too.

Cheliax

Don Juan de Doodlebug wrote:

100% recession proof!

Although, I bet they've been taking a hit from the internet, too.

Uh, yeah, they have. Especially streaming. But that's a different topic ^_^

Andoran

Lord Fyre wrote:
joela wrote:

Good question:

Should We Fight to Save Indie Bookstores?

Reasons to let indie stores go echo the same reasons to shut down FLGS.

Actually, with the success of Amazon.com, is it time to say "Good Bye to Bookstores" independent or otherwise?

This is a profoundly naive point of view. Without competition, Amazon will gouge you for every nickel they can.

Let me tell you a story sir. It's about the price of books in Canada.

Amazon.ca opened here to great fan-fare a few years ago and, last November dropped their free shipping requirement from an order of $39 to $25.00, same as in the USA. At the time, the cost of books at Aamzon.ca was only modestly higher than in the USA. By a few percentage points or so.

The difference in the Canadian market is that in Canada, Amazon's competition is the Big Bookstore chain Indigo/Chapters that sells at brick and mortar and also operates Indigo.ca.

In late February 2011, Indigo RAISED their prices on all US cover priced books by 25% in Canadian funds. This is despite the fact that the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar. They did this out of desperation and greed.

For a gamer, in real dollar terms, the cover price on the Inner Sea World Guide was raised from $50.00 to $62.50 in their stores, and any discount on the cover price ONLINE was applied against this fantasy price of $62.50. Indigo did this **across the board** on all of their books.

Even though there is no duty on books and even though the Canadian dollar is consistently worth more than the American dollar -- that's what Indigo did.

Amazon's response? They moved to MATCH the increase in price within 48 hours. That's right: Amazon.ca RAISED THEIR COVER PRICE by 25% in response.

If you think that without competition, Amazon.com's prices will remain low? You are operating under a dangerous combination of alcohol and sedatives.


Don't books already cost more in CAD than USD? Or am I getting that backwards.

Silver Crusade

Steel_Wind wrote:


If you think that without competition, Amazon.com's prices will remain low? You are operating...

While I completely agree that we need competition, I don't think that it follows that the competition has to come from Brick and Mortar stores. If it does then we're pretty much doomed :-(.

Here in Canada book stores have a huge problem not of their making. Publishers mark up the cover price of books in order to "protect" themselves against currency fluctuations (i.e, rip off Canadians). This means that I'm generally paying a premium of 20-30% over US cover price for absolutely no reason except stupidity and greed on the part of publishers.

This has caused me to buy many fewer books than I used to. Its not so much the money as the fact that it really bugs me to pay a 25% premium. The fact that the US and CDN cover prices are generally both visible just makes the rip off even more obvious.

Although I think that it is tiny in comparison to amazon bookdepository.com is a wonderful online store for Canadians. It sells at a discount from the US cover price AND it provides free shipping. It is almost always cheaper than amazon.com OR amazon.ca for normal books. Right now its sometimes cheaper and sometimes more expensive for Paizo products.

The problem with independent bookstores (to go back to the original thread) is that they HAVE to provide me with something compelling to make up for the increased price and inconvenience of shopping there.

Previously, specialty bookstores provided me with one huge advantage. The staff really knew their stock and could often direct me to books that I'd likely enjoy based on my description of what I was looking for. Unfortunately, technology has now largely duplicated that. At amazon.com I can see what readers who liked a book also bought. While imperfect, that generally does a pretty good job of leading me to books that I might like. Together with reviews and books that actually have excerpts on line I can now often do a better job of finding a new interesting book online than in a store.

The other advantage that they used to provide was having lots of backstock. So, if I discovered that I liked an author I could immediately buy up lots of their other works.

In Toronto there are 2 specialty stores that I occassionally visit. One is a SF store, the other a mystery store.

But my visits there are becoming less and less common and I buy less and less. They have reduced back stock and I rarely find something that I hadn't already noticed at Amazon.


joela wrote:
Uh, yeah, they have. Especially streaming. But that's a different topic ^_^

I loves the internet!


My big thing is browsing. I've tried, and I just can't browse books online with the same enjoyment, intensity, or results I get from browsing a brick-and-mortar store. If I know exactly what I want beforehand Amazon is great... if I'm looking for a good read without a title in mind I still hike over to the store.

Andoran

Cartigan wrote:
Don't books already cost more in CAD than USD? Or am I getting that backwards.

Well they did for a time. In fairness, we were operating for a great many years with a Canadian dollar that was worth .80 USD. So ths fact that the price was 20% higher in Canada and was marked that way on the books was fine and fair enough.

The problem is, for several years now, the Canadian dollar has been at parity or above the US Dollar. Throughout most of 2011, the Canadian dollar has been (and continues to be) above the US dollar.

Most publishers in the US have stopped pre-marking the price on a book higher in Canadian funds in recognition of this reality. The real cost to booksellers who pay in US funds and sell in Canadian funds has gone down. Their margins have increased. They want them to be even bigger.

What the sonofbeeches at Indigo did was then resticker books in their stores and online with an arbitrary across the board markup of 25% over the US dollar value marked on the book. This was also done on the online price, and the % discount on the "cover price" was applied against this new arbitrarily increased "cover price".

In fact the ACTUAL cover price didn't change at all. The sticker they stick on top of the cover price changed.

Amazon.ca was only too happy to pounce on this immediately with an across the board price inscrease of their own. It was a cash grab that was plainly and obviously not in the interest of Canadian consumers.

The price changes were so closely aligned with one another and rolled out at the same time, so quickly in succession (essentially simultaneously), that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there may have been some form of collusion between Amazon and Indigo to fix the price in the marketplace for books within Canada in the early part of 2011.

Ordinarily, that sort of activity, if true, would be a criminal offence under the Competition Act.

So that's the kind of "competition" we are seeing in Canada betwen online sellers of books. If all we are left with is Amazon? All we'll be left with is emptier pockets than we would be otherwise in the presence of competition in the marketplace. These guys will charge whatever the market will bear, in as sneaky and self-interested a manner as they can get away with. That manner of pricing is demonstrably true in Canada and it will be true in the USA too, if you let them get away with it.


What is particularily aggravating is the Super Saver Discount Shipping is only available within the country being shipped from. Ie: I can get the free shipping on orders over $25 within Canada from Amazon.ca, but not on orders over $25 when ordered from Amazon.com. This has directly affected the number of books I have purchased through Amazon.ca and Amazon.com ($500 last year vs. about $100 this year, including shipping).

Silver Crusade

Caedwyr wrote:
What is particularily aggravating is the Super Saver Discount Shipping is only available within the country being shipped from. Ie: I can get the free shipping on orders over $25 within Canada from Amazon.ca, but not on orders over $25 when ordered from Amazon.com. This has directly affected the number of books I have purchased through Amazon.ca and Amazon.com ($500 last year vs. about $100 this year, including shipping).

What I find amusing/aggravating is the fact that it can sometimes be cheaper to buy from amazon.com instead of amazon.ca even after shipping is factored in (this is less true now that they ALSO charge a customs fee). At least once (for a DVD set, I believe) I did this and the package came directly from the amazon.ca warehouse anyway :-).

Let me (Again) heartily recommend bookdepository.com for all Canadians. I've had nothing except good experiences with them. They're a bit slow (as they themselves admit) but they're very reliable

<disclaimer>
I have absolutely no relationship with bookdepository.com except as a very, very satisfied customed
</disclaimer>


pauljathome wrote:

Let me (Again) heartily recommend bookdepository.com for all Canadians. I've had nothing except good experiences with them. They're a bit slow (as they themselves admit) but they're very reliable

<disclaimer>
I have absolutely no relationship with bookdepository.com except as a very, very satisfied customed
</disclaimer>

Thanks. I'll have to check them out.


Let us hope we do not end up with a book monopoly by amazon becuase of all of this. I think Amazon has market power over books. I think they do not raise their prices in the US as no one can afford a higher price in the US.


I think a monopoly is virtually impossible, but a oligarchy is something we should worry about.


I think this all depends on where you live. I live in Los Angeles, CA, and within 1 mile of my apartment there are 2 small independent bookstores that seem to do quite well. Within a half-mile of those two stores is a Barnes & Noble, which also seems to be doing well.

Personally though, I hate independent bookstores but love B&N. My complaint with the indie stores is that they only have like 30 books, and never the ones I'm looking for. At least when I go to B&N, I can usually find what I'm looking for.

I also love Amazon but I would never want the brick & mortar bookstore to die out.

What I would really LOVE to see is a massive B&N-like store devoted to geekdom. A huge store that sells comic books, video games, board and card games, and RPGs all in the same place. That would be heaven to me!

Contributor

While I love independent bookstores, I only love them so much because the economics of the book business mean that they are almost never convenient to my house. There was one independent bookstore that I went to in high school. It survived all of a year and a half before going bankrupt.

Meanwhile, there were chains that were around and had many more books and sometimes even discounts.

Some of the chains have since gone under. There was one small one with a branch near my house that went under after a few years. Then there was Crown Books, which was pretty darn big. That's gone too.

The independent bookstores that tend to thrive? From what I've seen, they tend to be in college towns or the bohemian districts of large cities, if not both, with a large percentage of their business coming from people already in the neighborhood.

It's also a fact that most independent booksellers tend to specialize, which means that even if one is local to you, it's hard to patronize it if its specialty isn't one of your interests.

What this means is that for many things, Amazon is more convenient. If I know what I want, I'm hardly going to drive an hour to a cool browse-and-hangout store on the off chance they have the book I'm looking for. I'll hit it if I'm in the neighborhood for some other reason.

That said, while my local Borders went under, there's still a ginormous Barnes and Noble even closer to my house.

Local independent bookstores? There aren't any, at least in my version of "local."

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Steel_Wind wrote:
If you think that without competition, Amazon.com's prices will remain low? You are operating under a dangerous combination of alcohol and sedatives.

No. I am not, and have never been, that naive.

What I said is that the Amazon.com is crushing the Brick & Mortar marketplace. I do not say - or believe - that is a "Good Thing." (It is not.)

What I was saying is that I believe it to be inevitable.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
pauljathome wrote:
Let me (Again) heartily recommend bookdepository.com for all Canadians. I've had nothing except good experiences with them. They're a bit slow (as they themselves admit) but they're very reliable

Well… The thing is, Amazon bought Book Depository this summer.


Stereofm wrote:

Actually, that sounds bad from a european perspective, as this trend has not yet happened in Europe, and we tend to follow your bad ideas more than your good ones :)

Yes, you should try to keep independent bookstores, because, like all kind of stores, these are social places, where people can meet and talk IRL, and that is not something that happens over the Internet.

Amazon is convenient. It is also soulless. Bland.

IT will never replace a one-man work of passion and offer the same thing.

best,

To me it's a matter of what Glen Duncan calls the amoral craving for novelty. Amazon and B&N are utile, but everything there is on the map. When I go to a library book sale or a used bookstore I never know what I will find. Something long out of print, something awesome that's languishing in obscurity, a remnant of lives long gone in the form of an inscription, some 70 year old newspaper clippings tucked between the pages, who knows.


jocundthejolly wrote:
Stereofm wrote:

Actually, that sounds bad from a european perspective, as this trend has not yet happened in Europe, and we tend to follow your bad ideas more than your good ones :)

Yes, you should try to keep independent bookstores, because, like all kind of stores, these are social places, where people can meet and talk IRL, and that is not something that happens over the Internet.

Amazon is convenient. It is also soulless. Bland.

IT will never replace a one-man work of passion and offer the same thing.

best,

To me it's a matter of what Glen Duncan calls the amoral craving for novelty. Amazon and B&N are utile, but everything there is on the map. When I go to a library book sale or a used bookstore I never know what I will find. Something long out of print, something awesome that's languishing in obscurity, a remnant of lives long gone in the form of an inscription, some 70 year old newspaper clippings tucked between the pages, who knows.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren't in the serious second-hand book business. You are comparing apples and oranges.


Fayries wrote:


Well… The thing is, Amazon bought Book Depository this summer.

Next up: Amazon hires snipers to man the book depository?


I dinnae remember an indie bookstore growing up. For us it was the library (yeah bookmobile!:) or Waldenbooks. I found a few when I went to college and we have one* here (also a college town).

An indie bookstore has to pay a lot for their inventory because they will not buy enough to get the discounts that a chain will. This is is to say they will often not look at the books beyond the top three releases for a given week before their capital for the week runs out. If they can not sell those books to their market, they will not have capital for next week. The chains have a much bigger market (national and global) and can afford to have deep inventory in many different categories.

Like all business, an indie bookstore needs to find a niche and this probably means going a little deeper into the releases of one category and ignoring others. (Their might be other ways to niche, like coffee, magazines, or something we have not thought about.)

If they find a niche I like I will do everything to save them. If not hopefully they found a more popular niche that their market will support them (frex: we have several religious bookstores in town). Personally I like bookstores and hope we have them around for quite a long time :)

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