Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Book Tour

Bookstore by reuvenim
Bookstore, a photo by reuvenim on Flickr.
During the weekend that was we did something we haven’t done for a while now: we went inside a book shop for an extended browsing session.
There are two main reasons why this is fast becoming an extinct experience. The first is our transition to ebooks: our entire book shopping experience, from the stage of picking recommendations to the actual delivery, is now online. Second is the demise of the book store, in the sense that most book stores out there (cough Borders cough) flog the best sellers at you and keep the more interesting books in a state of un-browse-able disarray (if they keep them in the first place).
The book shop we visited was a proper corner book shop that did not seem to commit that big chain sin: Tim’s Book Shop is both large and friendly, and although it still focuses on new releases it does not push the latest from Dan Brown directly into your veins. Instead it offers a nice browsing experience by sections, and their children area in particular is a pleasure to browse in the company of our household’s three year old.
Browsing we did, but I’m afraid we did not buy anything. For a start, I am now running a policy of not buying paper books anymore: this saves me money but is also more environmentally friendly and fits better into our small house (to quote Captain Kirk upon deciding on his book purchases, “space – the final frontier”).
Publishers, by the way, are not doing themselves any favors. A title I’m currently looking to buy, The Book of Rachael by Leslie Cannold, is currently available only on paperback or by reading online from a PC monitor through the Readings website (can a more disastrous approach to digital book publishing ever be conceived?). I contacted the book’s publisher for advice regarding their release plans for the Amazon Kindle, my ebook platform of choice, and was told there are no plans for a Kindle release but that a Kobo release will be available soon via Borders. Personally, I don’t understand all this bickering around formats; I would have imagined publishing as widely as possible would be in the publisher’s own interest, especially when the Kindle platform is the most popular ebook platform and when the act of publishing for the Kindle is dead easy. That, and the fact that with the aid of tools such as Calibre it is just as dead easy to convert a Kobo book in the ePub format to a Kindle friendly format. You wouldn’t even be doing anything particularly illegal. As it is, the publishers seem hell bent on promoting piracy instead of selling their books.
The second reason for us not buying books is more down to earth: pricing. I’ll give you an example: a book our son saw at the shop and wanted to get, The Invasion of the Bristlebots, was selling for $30. A quick glance at booko revealed the same title is available at Book Depository for less than $13, delivery included. I’ll tell you what we did later that same day: we ordered two copies of that book, one for our son and one as a gift, and it still cost us less than a single copy at the friendly neighbourhood bookshop.
The way I see it, bricks and mortars book shops are living on borrowed time.

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