Every time you read about some boring little mom-and-pop bookshop closing down the online bookstores get blamed. Itís yarayara, what a tragedy the traditional little local book emporiums are getting smothered by the distance selling market.
So what if there are no little bookshops left on the strip? Who has time to dig through piles of dusty, stained old books? For that matter, who has time to look through shelves of Brodart-encased collectible volumes in pristine condition?
Not the people who come to our brick-and-mortar bookshop here in our small town (pop. 30 000), thatís for sure. Maybe two old ladies have spent more than an hour looking at books in our shop during the past year. One didnít buy anything. The other stole a yellowed old Raymond Chandler paperback and vanished without trace.
Good riddance to the browsers I say.
It wasnít Abebooks, Biblio or Alibris that set out to destroy the local secondhand bookstores. In fact, they are there to serve the small-time booksellers. If it wasnít for them, Kay-Leeís Book Nook in Alabama and the like would have gone under long ago. The online used book channels have saved small bookshops, not killed them.
And in the true style of modern democratic journalism (mindless political correctness), which is to discount the man-in-the-street entirely, no one even thinks about the pivotal player in all of this, the buyer of books.
It is this much-ignored creature that is using the online bookstores and avoiding the time-consuming and often fruitless trip to the bookshop. He has learned from bitter experience.
Think about it. Say he is looking for a copy of Predator by Patricia Cornwell. What is the likelihood he will find it at his local bookshop?
I can tell you with authority: less than one chance in 300. I know this because only once in about 300 requests do we have the requested book in stock. And even then sometimes the condition is not right, the price is not right, itís the wrong edition, etc. etc.
SooooÖÖour maligned friend goes online. He goes to www.abillionbooks.com perhaps. He goes right to Alibris (heís had good experiences there before) and searches for the book. There are, at time of writing, 323 copies available. The cheapest is $2.95 from a bookdealer in Houston, Texas, called JPís Books and Beyond. Itís a top-rated store (who knows if itís a real shop or someoneís apartment crammed with 10 000 books) and shipping inside the US is free with orders of more than two books. Our shopper finds another Cornwell book, also at JPís Book and Beyond, uses his credit card to order them and forgets about the order until the books are delivered to his door a couple of days later. If the books donít come up to expectation, well, he can institute a refund as Alibris guarantees every sale.
How can the corner store compete?
It canít, and the book buyer doesnít feel as regretful about the demise of the corner bookstore as the misled journalists writing such crap about the online stores murdering the little man. Actually it was the book-buying public dunnit, as they say in the books.
And can you blame them?
Justine Nofal is a journalist and owner of a brick-and-mortar bookstore. She is also an online bookdealer and booksite specialist. See her blog http://www.search-book-sites.blogspot.com and website http://www.abillionbooks.com
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