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Where Do You Buy Your Books?

Where do you buy your books?

It’s a topic that’s extremely important to some people, and other people could care less. I fall somewhere in the middle.

The book-selling world as we know it is now broken down into three sections: Amazon, the chain store (Is Barnes & Noble the only one left?), and the independent bookstore.

I understand the importance of buying from local businesses, like independent bookstores. When it comes to dining out, my wife and I rarely eat at a chain restaurant. We much prefer local businesses.

But if I’m honest with you, I haven’t carried that passion into my book buying. I purchase most of my books, new and used, from Amazon, just out of convenience.

Since I work full-time, have a family, and work on my blog at night, it’s just easier to order the books and have them waiting on me when I get home. Maybe that’s a lame excuse, but as it’s been horribly said…it is what it is.

When possible, I’ll grab a few books from an independent bookseller. Ann Patchett recently opened a bookstore here in Nashville called Parnassus, so that’s an option for me on that front.

But that’s less frequent than I would like. I rarely buy books from any larger chain stores, even though I work half a mile from one.

There’s something to be said for the local bookstore. No one in the corporate office is telling them what books they should be promoting that week, in other words–what books you need to buy. Serendipity is much more likely in a local bookstore, I think, and that’s why I need to do a better job of shopping there.

So that’s my experience. Where do you stand?

Do you care about local bookstores versus national chains? Or that Amazon is basically taking over the book-buying world with its online and e-reader presence?

Where do you buy your books and why?

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53 Comments Post a comment
  1. As soon as Amazon offer a discount, I’ll buy it from them. I’d love to support local stores, but not if it costs me more.

    Because I like to read classics, I often browse second-hand bookstores though.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • It’s hard to beat Amazon on price. They can take a loss on books because they sell so much other stuff. I still need to do a better job of supporting the locals if I can, even if it cost a little more.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  2. Nel #

    I actually rarely buy books. The library is my bestest buddy. 🙂 If I really, really love a book, I’ll buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I love the idea of supporting local bookstores, but they don’t have as much variety. I do love local used bookstores though.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • Variety is big. I KNOW I can get something from Amazon, but smaller stores require a trip and I’m not even sure if I can get the specific book I’m looking for.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
    • Agreed, libraries are even better.
      I also borrow as much as possible. Since I am moving every 6-12 months, I don’t want to build up a huge stock of my own library anymore.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  3. Most of the time I get my books from an independent bookstore. Only if it is a rare book to buy I opt for online shopping. Another close option is to buy books from an old-books shop nearby my house. I have a huge fascination for books used my someone. Sometimes they leave little notes here and there which I find very interesting. Those books may have been gifted to someone. Recently I grabbed a copy of “Lord of the Flies” that was gifted by a teacher to her favourite student. 🙂

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  4. When I buy “new” I buy from Amazon. I’m with you on the convienence factor but it is also a bottom line cost factor. I frequent a local used paperback bookstore. I go absolutely nuts at our public library annual book sale. I just scored 35 paperbacks for $14.50 and did the Yippee-Skippee dance. As for the chains, I go there for a cup of coffee and people watching. Where I live B&N does a bigger business in dating match-ups then book selling.(just my observation)

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • homec #

      funny you say that about B&N, back in the day my husband and I would go there for a cheap date night!

      Like

      June 22, 2012
      • Nel #

        Been there, done that! 😉 Books AND coffee. Who could pass that up?

        Like

        June 22, 2012
  5. Amazon, used and rare stores for the eclectic read, art museum shops for the same, local independent. Of course I bought a lot from Borders when I was employed there and I received many reading copies and lots of books at meetings for free. I miss being able to get my hands on first editions so easily and then being able to get them signed by an author I really liked.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  6. homec #

    I don’t buy as many books as I used to. I have become BFF’s with the library (and there e-books!). I had all these books and I’m not a read them again kinda of girl so they usually ended up donated or just sitting there. I used to buy my books from B&N and they are a little cheaper than the independent store, but I decided it is worth it to shop local. I just bought a book yesterday from an independent seller. If I am looking for something specific, I usually go there but you are right about finding serendipity at the local seller. They also have a great used section for some good deals.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  7. We had a chain called Borders in the UK, staff were so helpful and my family spent many happy weekend trips in the bookshop reading/trialling books. Of course in the long run this was part of the problem – people didn’t seem to buy enough books (although there was always a queue) at the tills. Much as I love independent bookshops the joy of that big Borders was it was lovely for all the family. I find my reading choices are now a bit hit and miss. However cynical it is having a table of 3 for the price of 2 it does mean you are reading books you can talk about… this of course is one of the reasons I enjoy 101books blog. And in answer to your question: Amazon (shame on me).
    Nicola homemadekids.wordpress.com aroundbritainnoplane.blogspot.com

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • We had Borders here in the U.S. but all of the ones around me have closed. Seems like Barnes & Noble is the last chain standing.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  8. There’s a time and place for everything: independents, libraries, b&n, and even (shudder) the-internet-giant-who-shall-not-be-named. But indies really do provide incredible benefits to communities large and small (Details available upon request. Lots and lots of details). If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookstore in your community, you should give them at least a piece of your book buying budget or they will be gone and your community will be much poorer for the loss.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  9. Most of my books come from on-line sources, either B&N or Amazon. I really like the wish-list feature on both web sites; it’s cheaper to put a book on a wish list than buy it and hope I get the time to read it sometime. But I often go to a local B&N, where the pleasure of browsing the shelves and selecting a book to read on the spur of the moment certainly beats browsing a web site. There’s something about picking up a book, feeling its heft, looking at the typeface, paging through it a little, that one cannot obtain from an electronic source. And yes, I much prefer a physical book to an electronic version.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  10. I’m with you – somewhere in the middle. I love our local used book stores, but the I can’t generally afford new books at the full price markup. If I’m buying on Amazon (new or used) and I can buy it from someone selling it local I make an effort to do that. I try at work if we need to order books for gifts I force work to order them through local bookshops rather than B&N.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • And don’t forget THE LOCAL LIBRARY! They’re a great resource. I try and get as many books as possible from there, especially if I can’t find a decent used copy or don’t want to go through Amazon. It supports the local community and it’s even more convenient they’ve increased their ebook selection.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
      • Absolutely! Libraries are fantastic and I love going to my local one. Let’s not forget the libraries. 🙂

        Like

        June 22, 2012
  11. I get most of my books from the thrift store. Any bestseller eventually finds its way there. Books that I REALLY want I put in my Amazon wishlist and wait for my birthday. I also borrow E-Books with my Amazon Prime membership.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  12. I do like second hand book shops. Most stock what they feel people need, along with what they can get, rather than what people want. Fadedgiant.net and biblio.com are ok on the net. I like the idea that there is a person in the bookshop that knows a wee bit about a books content, as opposed to how to unpack and shelf books quickly. That bookshop owners task is difficult. A book published every 17 minutes and your supplier of new books competes with you on the highstreet and net? I have arrived at the point where I will sometimes ask for a book and then wait for them to get it. What of cost – compared to anything index linked, broad swathes of books were never cheaper (and possibly more poorly put together). If I can afford a pound or a euro or a dollar more every now and again for that feeling while standing in a good independently held bookshop, I will pay it. Is any reader aghast at this? The extra I spend there adds up to a pack of smokes a month. I used to smoke, so I know how easily an extra pack can be consumed. When was the last time anyone was recognised as a good customer and welcomed? Great feeling. Anyone been to Hay on Wye?

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • Very true. I think that’s a huge plus for local booksellers. I used to work at B&N in college and it’s just so impersonal, and you’re right…most of them don’t know much about the books they sell. Amazon is totally faceless. But the local stores can usually offer you great service on a personal level. That’s the same reason we frequent local restaurants.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  13. Come to think of it, the only way the local bookstores would always win over Amazon is by hiring really hot staff. 🙂

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  14. Hi. TGIF? I never buy from a chain store. Barnes&Noble who can afford the prices? I buy either one of two places. A used book store downtown Chambersburg, PA called Northwood books who travel overseas to obtain some very nice first or second additions. However,I love best that they have a labyrinth of shelves with literature that I’m still going mad to read. The other book store is in Hagerstown, Maryland called Wonderbooks I swear it’s one acre of used books at the most decent prices. It presents one problem: I pass three hours in that store and I’m late for my own eulogy (lol). When my partner and I travel I never give up the chance to look for the local book store. Gettysburg, PA also has a very nice local new and used book store. If I must I use Amazon, but I buy used. I realize the author loses out in any situation. I’m a writer, I think often how to make ends meet without sacrificing all my dignity. Hey, for another rainy day topic. Have a good one.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  15. We have no independent booksellers in our area, so that’s out. I buy the majority of my books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Better World Books. On occasion, I’ve ordered a few books from independent booksellers online.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  16. I confess that I usually buy my books from Amazon too. It’s cheaper and convenient. I care a lot about the demise of independent bookstores. But I live on a tight budget and when I can buy a book for around 30 – 40% less at Amazon, I can’t afford to pay the extra and buy it from an indie bookstore. I occasionally buy books from my local indie store but generally, Amazon is my first choice.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  17. Siuon #

    English books in where I live are very expensive (around 30 to 50% more expensive than the original price), so I buy every single English book from Amazon.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  18. I’ll buy books from anybody. I’d buy books from Hitler. I’ve bought books at Target and Sam’s Club–not that I’ll go there specifically for that, because there’s no selection–but I will if it’s there and I want it. My town has a few of the old-fashioned independents left, and every now and then I’ll throw them some money mostly as an act of charity, but everything is more expensive there and I don’t have a lot of money to throw around.

    The Amazon Marketplace, as far as I’m concerned, is the happy medium here. You get the ease of the Amazon interface, but the actual sale happens for some independent somewhere, and it’s cheaper than new.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • Hitler had one called “Mein Kampf” if might want to sell you! Haha.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  19. I am completely biased as I work for an independent bookstore, but I will say that you may be surprised by what your local indie store offers. Our store (for example) will order a book for you if we don’t have it in stock and even ship it to your house. We also carry a lot of signed copies, which is a perk Amazon rarely offers.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  20. For years I swore I wouldn’t buy electronic books (e-books, kindle books, etc)… and now I do exactly that! I normally pick up a few cheap (or free) books on Amazon to download. If I find I love them, then I’ll see if I can find the actual book. Or, if I “discover” an author I like, then I’ll keep an eye open for them if I roam a bookstore. I prefer the used book store shopping experience. Romanticism at it’s best. But many times its just not a good option either financially or time-wise. When the shopping experience isn’t important, then Amazon it is! I’m one of those people who hate that technology it taking over real-world experiences, but my practical side will often win the mental argument.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • That’s exactly it. Practical often beats out ideal for me too.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  21. Teresa #

    I love the chase and so I am always on the lookout for books at garage sales, our local library’s excellent store, thrift shops, used book stores (including Powell’s when I traveled to Portland 2 months ago — the very best!), independents — if it’s a new book, B&N if the Indy didn’t have it, used on-line like Abe’s and then if all else fails, Amazon.

    I only wish I could still add Borders’s to that list. As a U Mich alum and longtime Ann Arbor resident, it broke my heart when they closed.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • Speaking of Powell, he’s killing me. Book 6 a little more entertaining than book 5 at least.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
      • Yeah, it gets better as they get into the war years. Well, you made it through An American Tragedy … I had to raise the white flag. Could not get through that dense writing. Maybe I’ll try again. Maybe not.

        BTW: I found a contender to unseat both Dance and Mrs. Dalloway from last place: The Golden Notebook – even I went stiff from boredom. I suggest Spark Notes when you get to it 😉

        Like

        June 23, 2012
  22. I am a library kind of girl. I can get pretty much anything I want there, and, if they don’t have a book I need, one of the lovely folks behind the counter will get it for me from another library.

    If I want to buy a book, I walk over to Barnes and Noble. Amazon is too impersonal – I buy books as gifts and like to browse the shelves for the “perfect” tome.

    When I want something REALLY special, I visit Persephone Books in London. Since I’m in the UK every 2 months, I like to stop by there to see what books they have printed. They reprint rare out-of-print books. The look and feel of the books is heavenly – and the stories within the binding are wonderful treasures.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  23. I’m a librarian, so I get most of my books at work. It’s really interesting to see what people borrow and hear them talk up a great title that might not have received adequate promotion when released. When I really love something, then I’ll buy it – usually from Amazon or Chapters / Coles (local chains that are part of the same parent company) because there aren’t any independent booksellers in my town. When we go on a day trip to places with great bookstores – towns like Paris or Stratford (Ontario), for example – then I take home a book as a souvenir.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
    • I love libraries. But I like keeping the books I read, or else I tend to forget I read them. I’m old that way.

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  24. I don’t shop online, that’s for starters 😀 as for where I buy my books, it depends on who has something I want or would like to read. Sometimes I buy from stores here (in Egypt) that have many branches, and sometimes I buy from the stand around the corner (it’s a bit larger than a stand but it’s outside, no door, roof or walls). . .

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  25. I worked at Barnes and Noble for a year and a half, and would have loved to work there longer if I could manage a part-time job with my full-time one. Because of my loyalties, I prefer to buy from Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores. The feeling of being in a bookstore for me is so much better than screen shopping. I try to only buy nook books online. I understand the appeal of Amazon, and I do buy from them when I can’t find what I’m looking for from BN, or elsewhere, but I just can’t let the “novelty” of book shopping go.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  26. The library is my friend. I actually belong to three different libraries (only one public) and they keep me very well stocked. In addition, I belong to a book swap. Finally, many classics are available as free downloads and my Kindle is ready, willing, and able. There is no shortage of available books.

    I do keep a large collection of digital books on a portable 500 GB hard drive, but physical books as few as possible.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  27. Books are a commodity, like gas or beans. To compete a company needs to provide either a) best price b) speedier delivery or c) some insight or detail about a book that is useful/valuable.

    With that as a backdrop, I have never found a local bookstore that can compete, mostly due to the arrogance of the employees. In fact, my experiences with the local shops have always left me feeling like I was too stupid to shop in their store.

    I like my books used…it’s a green-y thing.

    I like my books through Amazon Prime for their speed, ease and information. As Jack Welsh once wrote, “Get better or get beaten”.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  28. My used-paperback store allows me to order new books. So that is where I go.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  29. I have too much stuff, too many books, not space for any more, and I have started giving them away. I still love buying books. I have switched almost exclusively to Kindle books – they are also easier on my eyes.

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  30. I rarely buy books. I’m a library person. Someone recently commented to me on how “small” (and therefore limited) our neighbourhood library is. I replied that I hadn’t read all the books there yet! If I hear about a good new book, I put my name down on the waiting list, and wait my turn. Here is a good article from the Globe and Mail on “The Cult of Books.”
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/im-no-longer-bound-by-my-books—but-im-reading-more-than-ever/article551916/

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  31. Amy #

    At one point, I used to love book shopping for hours at Barnes and Noble or wandering around to find new favorites in my library. Then I had kids, and now I have a Kindle. I read so much I just love the convenience. I do get Kindle books from the library or from the Amazon lending library as much as possible to save money. I would really love to support local bookstores, but just can’t bring myself to take three kids under four in any store that doesn’t have a cart I can strap them into (the two older ones, anyway). If I buy a book in a store, it’s from Target (which is the stay-at-home mom’s dream getaway store, by the way).

    Like

    June 22, 2012
  32. Well, let’s see, I am an International English teacher and I LOVE books. I usually pack 4 or 5 of my favorite books that I study or enjoy reading over again when I travel to a new country. I usually give 2 or 3 of them as special gifts to local teachers or special students. I am living in a very small town in a very small former soviet country, the Republic of Georgia. I was thrilled when I moved from a remote village and found the biblashvili (library) and realised that the books were all in Russian or Kartuli. We do have a bookstore that carries a tiny selection of books in English. They are reprinted somehow and copied in black and white paperbacks. I have accumulated a dozen books and I try to stop myself from correcting them as I read. LOL Many of the other teachers who come through this country have kindle book thingies and ipods and end up spending a lot of time looking for places to charge. I am fortunate to have Internet access and electricity…most of the time and 101 Books to keep me company in a pretty much book-less world. Thanks!
    btw, I was just given an incredible book for my birthday: Shakespeares’ Sonnets, beautifully bound, in English and Kartuli

    Like

    June 23, 2012
  33. First: McKay’s Used Bookstore (all my fellow Tennesseans will know what I’m talking about–and if you don’t, you are really missing out!). It is a local business, but it has expanded to three locations (Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville). It’s a buy, sell, trade store, so everything is used (but you can find many books in ‘like new’ condition). They also sell movies and music. Also, did I mention it is cheap?!?
    (no, I don’t work for McKays–I’m just a very loyal customer!) The only downside is that they don’t have the ambiance of a traditional bookstore (coffee, comfy chairs, etc). It’s more of a warehouse environment–but with as many books as they go through in a day, you can’t have that.

    The majority of my bookshelf is from McKays, Amazon Marketplace and Half.com. So most of the book purchasing I do online is from independent sellers. I just buy wherever is cheapest–my budget can’t afford otherwise.

    Like

    June 23, 2012
  34. I’ve been working at Barnes and Noble for almost a year now, and I must say that I truly enjoy the environment there. Yes, it is a corporation trying to make money by promoting certain books, products, etc., but who isn’t in this rat race? Plus, we promote popular books, and books that the employees enjoy–isn’t that what people want, recommendations? I think it’s a worthwhile experience for people to shop at bookstores (not only B&N but independent bookstores as well) because not only do customers get to see what they’re about to buy, but as a bookseller, I can say that we try really hard to recommend books based on your interests.

    Like

    June 24, 2012
  35. Great question! I buy my books from Barnes and Noble on my Nook. If I actually buy a hard copy, its either because it’s not an ebook, it was at a used book fair, or I was out at a book store with my husband on date night and saw something. When I am looking for a new book to surprise me, I go out to an independent book store. This said, I love browsing the sale section at BN. Also, for nonfiction books that I know I want, like the 2012 writer’s market, etc., I use my Amazon Chase card points on Amazon.com. So, I do it all, but my favorite is still going to the store to find something off the beaten path.

    All in all, I find the Nookstore is convenient, Amazon has the best prices, and independent bookstores are the most fun, especially if they have a cafe and support local writers.

    Like

    June 25, 2012
  36. Carly #

    My local library has a used bookstore in the basement. Most books are only 50 cents each and there is a huge selection. I rarely buy books from anywhere else

    Like

    June 25, 2012
  37. I buy them everywhere…used bookstores, university bookstores, amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, garage sales, etc.

    And then I get my fair share at the library.

    Like

    July 7, 2012
  38. I used to buy almost exclusively from Amazon and half.com (convenience and price). However, in the last year I’ve used several other means: e-bay (great for book lots/recognized authors), abebooks.com (similar to half.com and Amazon marketplace), used bookstores. We don’t have any used bookstores near me (eastern NC), but when I get out and about, I love to find a local bookstore. Recently, my wife and I went to Asheville, NC, which had several great used bookstores (which probably took up 6-7 hours of my trip collectively). I still use Amazon but mostly the Marketplace; I actually try to find the used books that Amazon still fulfills so I can get the free shipping. To cut back on how much I spend there, I use a change jar: when I get enough money, I take it to a Coinstar machine and get an even rate if I opt for the Amazon gift card. I only “window-shop” in chain bookstores.

    Like

    July 14, 2012

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