Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amazon, Apple and the partially self-inflicted death of independent bookstores

On the way back from Big Sur I stopped at the Santa Cruz
Bookstore--together with Powells and Elliott Book Company probably the
best independent bookstore on the West Coast, now that so many like
Cody's have bitten the dust. They're comfy, have a good selection, do
author readings and stuff, and this nice slightly rundown feeling. I
browsed for a bit and found $60 of books I liked. More out of
curiosity, I SnapTell'd them; thinking to myself "I'll pay the extra 8
bucks or so to keep this independent store in business. Turns out the
Amazon price for the lot was $34, with two independent stores selling
one new and one slightly used copy for $16+$8 in shipping.

Etiquette question: am I a bad person for not forking over 36 dollars
for the pleasure of browsing the store for fifteen minutes?

And the larger question--wouldn't it be more economically feasible for
SCB and other stores like this to get their prices somewhat in line
with the online pricing? Obviously, they can't price match Amazon, but
charging 70% more for the same service will drive people out of their
stores who would contribute to keep a local bookstore. I think it
they'd be within 20%, many customers would gladly pay that, especially
in beach front California. I spend $85 at Borderlands a couple of
weeks ago, even though I could probably have saved ten or fifteen by
going through Amazon. And I feel good about it, because it keeps
Borderlands in business.

P.S. I spent the $36 difference at Bugaboo, Gelato Mania, and Chefworks across the street, so they went to local businesses. (I think independent, but I could be wrong about Chefworks)

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