Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

24.2.11

The end of books.

Ex-The Australian reporter and now independent bookseller Corrie Perkin gets free publicity on Page 3 of last Saturday's Weekend Australian:
"A true booklover loves having a conversation about books ... That may be the conversation they have with the bookseller or with other booklovers in the bookshop. ... You can't have those conversations with Amazon, you can't have those conversations most of the time in a shop like Borders because they don't have the staff."
True, but only up to a point. It's also patronising to customers as well as to the hundreds of book-loving staff who work in the book chains. They don't all do it for the dollar. Moreover, it ignores the information available at Amazon such as reader comments and reviews, forums, rankings, reader purchases, recommendations, recently viewed lists and on it goes. I have found Amazon's service to be faultless, and I do enjoy that parcel arriving in the mail. No face-to-face? That's like telling Dr. Bell the telephone would never catch on.

The smaller booksellers are in denial. Perhaps it's a last-ditch attempt to differentiate themselves from the chains. Even that argument is tenuous. Last time I was in an independent bookstore, which was Wednesday morning, there was only one staff and she was busy. Last time I was in a chain (Dymock's, last weekend) there were plenty of staff and customers with whom to have conversations if you wished and not everyone does.

And then we get to price. Let's pull one out of the air: The Adventures of Herge: Amazon, $21.86. Independent bookstore, $75. So for an extra fifty dollars I get to talk to the other customers about it - or the staff if she is not dusting? Nuts.

The politicians are telling anyone who will listen that the Borders and Angus & Robertson failure was about bad management. They're not so willing to mention their own failure to pass the Productivity Commission's 2009 recommendations, a decision that has "put thousands of retail jobs at risk and forced readers to pay more".

Readers won't be forced. Why would they when they have a world of cheap books online? And then there's Kindle. My mother-in-law is hooked, and she is the generation that is supposed to save the book.

3 comments:

paula said...

i'm greedy because i want both. i'd like to continue my love affair with readings in carlton. going there to browse, shop and hang around is a real treat. but if i'm buying the kids books for christmas, or shouting myself a gorgeous food tome, i want the bargain. i'm simply not in a position to go past a 75% discount. somehow i don't think i'm alone.

kitchen hand said...

Paula, I'm shopping increasingly at second hand bookshops, where you can turn up some real treasures. Readings remains a favourite haunt as well, of course, after coffee - first things first. (Also, their brown bags get recycled here as cake tin liners.)

Lindie said...

I still love Barnes & Noble and going to the library. I bought a Nook and love it too, but just for traveling. Carrying a small item full of books is so much better than carrying 8 books with me! But at home I read real books.