Saturday, January 31, 2009

Buying Your Books A Different Way

I love books. I love to check books out at my library. Sometimes though, I want the book to be all mine. There are some books that are meant to be part of your collection and read on a regular basis. It would seem that there are so many options out there for us book lovers. Online there are mammoth bookstores, such as amazon and barnes and noble. Usually, they are cheap. Way cheaper than you could get from most brick and morter bookstores. God forbid, you are tempted when buying toilet paper at your local Wal-Mart to pick up the latest in your favorite series. This cheapness comes at a price. The price is paid by us readers, local bookstores, local economy and the authors.

These giant chains and online bookstores can leverage their buying power to negotiate lower prices from publishers and authors. There was an interesting New York Times article that highlighted this issue over the summer. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this. Just good old capitalism at work. However, not all is as it seems. First of all, if you buy your book through Amazon, very little money actually goes back to the author. Pennies. They spilt all that sweat, blood and words for us. Perhaps, taking years to finish their masterpiece and they get pennies back. To me this doesn't seem a fair exchange. Perhaps, next time the author may decide to keep that book to themselves instead of laboring for pennies. "Well," you argue, "they could just not offer their book through Amazon or Wal-Mart." However, since the market has shrunk there are not as many places for publishers and authors to get their work out. Personally, I think that is a shame. I do think there are positive steps we can take to reverse this trend.

When you buy from places like Barnes and Noble and Wal-Mart, they start to influence the types of books that are published. What they buy to sell, influences what is published. There starts to be a reduction in the selection that we are offered. If you are not a Janet Evanovich or James Patterson fan, there are starting to be fewer books for you to try out. I highly recommend checking out some of the smaller publishers. They are publishing books in smaller quantities and are getting authors out there that might never be seen otherwise. Here is a very exhaustive listing of smaller publishers, most of which you can buy the books from directly.

The best way to buy a book, in my opinion, is from the author themselves. This is not possible most of the time. A very close second, would be to buy the book from a local book store. Buying from a local bookstore, helps the economy much more than an online purchase. Especially the local economy. Out of every $100 spent at a local bookstore, $68 of that is put back into the local economy. It also creates local jobs, and a larger local tax base. Besides local bookstores are cool. Way cool. They go out of the way to provide good customer service and you will actually know who you are buying from. They are also able to get almost any book that you may want. Often in only a few days. A lot of local bookstores are great assets for the community. They often offer book clubs and other ways to meet like minded individuals. It is also a great way to get to meet your favorite authors, a lot of independent book sellers have book signings and author lectures. Plush chairs and a cozy environment make these a great place to spend a couple hours browsing and chatting with neighbors. Indiebound is a great place to find your local bookstore and link up with other local bookstore lovers. All you have to do is type in your zipcode and they'll give you a nice list of your local bookstores.

I know it's not as convenient as buying from Amazon. I know it's not as cheap as buying from Wal-Mart. However, it'll make you feel good about buying your book, you'll have more fun and look way more cool by checking out your local bookstore.


  1. Great post. Shopping locally makes so much sense for so many reasons, as does purchasing items, (if possible) directly from an author/artist/farmer, or whatever the case may be.

  2. I think that this is a great point! The same thing is happening with musicians, too. iTunes and other online mp3 downloading programs may be convenient, but for every 99 cents you spend, the artist only gets a few cents - and they are the ones that spent so much money (tens of thousands for a small-scale artist!) to get the CD made in the first place!

    Ahhh, the Walmarting of society - cheap and limited selection...

  3. There is a chance you're eligible to get a free $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.