Should Writers Buy Books at Bookstores?

My answer is: If they want to.

The thing is, though, I don’t always want to.

In the wake of the news that Barnes & Noble’s CEO resigned, the future of our last remaining big-box bookstore remains unclear, and what I want to know is: Is this my fault?

I am, after all — hold onto your bookmarks! — a big Amazon devotee. I buy books from Amazon all the time. (I’m an Amazon Prime member, which gives me free, expedited shipping.) And I have been criticized by other writers for doing so. (Porter Anderson recently discussed how writers have been criticized just for LINKING to Amazon on their websites. Oy vey.) And I don’t understand why.

Does this also mean I should be buying my groceries from small little markets rather than supermarkets? Should I be patronizing neighborhood hardware stores instead of Home Depot? Should I be paying more for my books as I do for my eggs, which are cage-free? How did the demise of Barnes & Noble become my doing?

The way I see it, isn’t it inevitable that bookstores will eventually go the way of, say, record stores and video stores. Books — like music and video — is heading digital, whether we like it or not. Is Amazon really to blame for this? Am I to blame? I mean, I’m all for paying an extra dollar or two at a bookstore — be it a chain like Barnes & Noble or an indie — to keep it going, and to support all the great things that they do, but sometimes the price differential is significant — like 10 bucks per book. And when you buy as many books as I do, and make as little money as I do (starving artist, anyone?) we’re talking hundreds of dollars that I’d rather see go to cage-free eggs than the same exact book that I can buy for much less on Amazon.

I guess I just don’t understand the school of thought that says writers should be going out of their way to buy at Barnes & Noble. (BTW, as a self-published author, I can tell you that Barnes & Noble — and many indies, for that matter — aren’t going out of their way for me. Not that I’m bitter. Just sayin.’) Shouldn’t bookstores be finding ways to attract US? Shouldn’t we WANT to shop there? And not out of guilt?

What say you, writers? Am I a bad person?

(Note: Immediately after I pressed publish on this post, I discovered this link to a story titled, “Bookshops Stay Relevant, and Viable, as Centers for Public Discourse.” Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about! If bookstores want to attract book lovers, they should become a cultural center! I may not be hell-bent on buying Exploring Diabetes With Owls at your store on any given day, because chances are that it’s five bucks more than what Amazon wants me to pay, but if you’ve got David Sedaris giving a chat and signing books, I’d certainly pay an extra five bucks — if not more! — for that.)



4 thoughts on “Should Writers Buy Books at Bookstores?

  1. Bookstores are a bad business model now. It’s nothing “personal.” I grew up working in record shops and have many fond memories of those times, but I know why they went away. They were no longer viable from a business standpoint.

    I loaded an album of music I wrote and recorded up to amazon for free, where people can buy it and I will make money. That’s more than any record store would have done for me. It’s just the reality that times change. To expand on your examples above, should I pay $20 for a half gallon of milk so a milkman can stay employed? Should I refuse to patronize any company that uses automated text, because it put typists out of work? Should I not go the shoe store because the cobbler can’t make a living? Times change.

  2. I’m of the same thinking as you on this. I love going into bookstores (I’m a HUGE book sniffer when I buy one) but I’ve had problems finding some older titles and even some newer ones in stock. I do feel bad about Barnes and Noble and other stores suffering, but the sad fact is B&N have no one to blame but themselves. They trusted in people wanting to go into a brick and mortar store despite hearing calls for digital books. They didn’t react and amazon did. If I can find the titles I want and they happen to be cheaper, I’ll go to that store or site. It is what it is, as sad as that sounds.

    • Yep. I think Barnes & Noble tried to lure shoppers into stores using those little Nook kiosks, but electronic books are not the reason people head to Barnes & Noble. I think B&N could learn from some innovative indie bookstores out there who are finding a niche and creating “cultural centers” for book lovers. We can’t be expected to just “pay more” because we love bookstores. The bookstore’s model may be outdated, but I’m hoping B&N can find some way to make it work. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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