A Bookshopper’s greatest indecision: Online or in Store?

Whether that all-engaging book that you were reading comes to an end, or you just want to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, deciding whether to purchase the next book online or in a book store is always a difficult decision.

With the number of physical book stores diminishing due to a boom in online retailers, book lovers and authors are expressing their contempt against this arrangement. Even as far back as six years ago, when shopping online was not as popular as it is today, award-winning novelist Nicole Krauss, wrote about how the beauty of a physical book store lay in the fact that the sellers themselves decide and select what is to be displayed on their shelves. Thus, the very organisation of a book store is a direct personal reflection of the book-seller themselves and anything that is personal suggests a level of intimacy; an emotion that human beings thrive on.

When visiting your local bookstore, you will most definitely see a hand-written note stuck onto selected books placed at several sections of the store. These notes are short and intimate, outlining the personal opinion of a book-seller, who is coyly telling you why you should not delay your purchase of this particular book. Some book-buyers wander around the store with a sense of obligation to identify these notes, because a book that has urged another individual to provide some sort of feedback, must be worth reading. When purchasing online, you don’t get this same personal touch, instead sites that sell books online, make suggestions according to the personal information they have somehow retrieved from the potential buyers browsing and purchase history.

However, some book buyers have stated that the feedback they are able to access from reviews on these online websites (such as Amazon) are as equally trustworthy and, possibly even more trustworthy than the ones in store, as they are able to skim through several, rather than the ‘one’ available in a physical store. They also expressed their lack of trust to the customer service assistants in book stores, expressing the times that they have been directed to the wrong section of their three-floored book store (one buyer was sent to the Home section when he had asked for the whereabouts of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) due to the deficiency in training that book stores provide their employees. An occurrence that has no possibility of happening when browsing for books online.

Shopping for books online may seem like the least social way of carrying out this pleasurable activity. One can almost imagine the books piled one on top of the other in a cold, dark, dusty warehouse, silently sobbing, waiting for months on end to be purchased. But it cannot be denied that due to the low overhead fees, online companies are able to sell books at a more affordable price, which is always much more appealing to buyers. You can also browse hundreds of books without spending long-wasted periods of time getting lost in a book store. The recommendations you get from these websites most probably–95% of the time– reflect your reading interests, and the books that you were most likely to buy if you had walked into a store anyway.

Shopping online is also beneficial on those sweet lazy days when you just don’t want to go out the house and don’t want to feel obliged to make small talk with the assistant in the store that is trying to convince you to buy. Instead, as soon as you log into your account you’ll get greeted; ‘Hello Ayshe’ the site will write, and you won’t feel the need to respond. When your purchase arrives a few days later in a firmly packed brown box, you’d have probably forgotten that you had placed an order or what you had ordered and so you will experience that heart-warming surprise that will brighten your day. Most importantly, there will never be a moment where you’ll suffer from the slightest anxiety that the book you desire to purchase will be out-of-stock. You can just log out, log back in again and purchase it whenever you want, feeling that it’ll always be available.

So, it’s all up to you. Whether you pick physical book stores or online ones, the most important thing is that you are able to get your hands on the book that you can’t wait to get reading. But if you want your local book store to survive, give it some quick consideration and appreciation, before its’ too late.