Thursday, May 28, 2015

Buying paper books ... where do you get them?

Recently, I attended a book signing event as did my good friend, Bambi. We both bought books to be signed and this is what I want to talk about ... buying books, hard copy books to be specific.

For the last 15 years, I have been reading eBooks. I started off my eBook reading experience in the year 2000, using a Palm Pilot and buying books from what was then called Peanut Press. They had an eBook format called Palm Media. Peanut Press later became Fictionwise and then were purchased by Barnes & Noble, and then it all went downhill and they eventually shut. Fortunately for me, by then, Amazon and the Amazon Kindle was around and I switched. I haven't looked back since, except when it came to being able to convert my 500+ PDB eBook library to a readable format.

At about the same time, I realised that I had run out of room when it came to hard copy books and I needed to declutter. It was difficult getting rid of all my paper books and I ended up buying eBook versions of all the books I gave away or sold to a used bookstore. I only kept my favorites, collector's editions and signed copies. Today, almost my entire library is made up of just those books - favorites, collector's editions and predominantly signed copies.

But back to the book signing and buying books.

I don't buy many paper books now, but I will buy some if I am attending a book signing and I want to get particular books by a favorite author signed. For the book signing I attended recently, I had a few choices of where I can get my books. From a local bookstore, Amazon, Book Depository or at the book signing where the books were going to be sold by a major local bookseller chain, Dymocks.

After considering all my options, I eventually decided to buy my books from the Book Depository for two reasons, economics and book editions.

Living in Australia, postage is expensive. I could get the books I wanted from Amazon, but the price of shipping would be high.

I could get the book from a local bookseller but the price of the book would be high, not to mention, I might need to go to several bookstores before finding the book or having to ask that they order it in.

I knew the books at the book signing may not be the editions I wanted and they would be expensive, so I skipped that option too, which left me with the Book Depository where the books are reasonably priced and they offer free shipping worldwide. The free shipping worldwide is a huge incentive to buy from them, even if on a per book basis, their books are a little more expensive than Amazon.

Then there is the edition of the books I wanted. There was a particular edition of the book I wanted, a book cover by an arist I liked to match my existing collection, so I wanted to make sure that I got the right edition of the books.

Let me give you a more concrete example. Let's take one of the books I bought: Shield of Winter (Psy/Changeling Series Book 13) by Nalini Singh. I've only included a few of the versions available just to give you an idea of the price and edition variability.

AUD $19.99 (Australian Edition)
USD $7.89 (Amazon)
Hard Cover
AUD $41.99 (Australian Edition)
USD $16.77 (Amazon)
Mass Market Paperback
USD $8.08 (Book Depository)
USD $7.99 (Amazon)

The version I wanted was the Mass Market Paperback version as it is the one that I've got in all the other previous books in terms of size and style of book cover design. The local bookstores didn't have the Mass Market Paperback version I wanted, instead they carried either the Paperback or the Hard Cover version.

Then it came down to economics and it was between Amazon and the Book Depository for the version I wanted. The Book Depository was a straight $8.08 for the book including shipping. With Amazon, the book would have come up to about $13 with shipping. Since I was going to be buying another 8 or 9 other books, I wanted the best price I could get for the books. I knew the bookseller at the book signing would not have the version I wanted. As it turned out, the bookseller (1) was not carrying the book I wanted and (2) other books in the same series were selling for about $22 per book.

I know Amazon cops a lot of flack for killing the local bookseller whether they be small (a local mom and pop bookstore) or large (like Barnes & Noble) but for me it's all about the economics and availability of what I want. I wanted a particular version of a book and I wanted it at the best price possible. In this example, it was the Book Depository at $8.08 per book.

Fortunately for me, the book signing allowed me to bring my own books. My friend Bambi was not so fortunate.

Bambi recently attended a book signing for one of her favorite authors. She has a collector's edition of the entire series of books, however, the book signing event would not allow people to bring their own books. You had to buy the books at the event if you want to get the books signed. Talk about a captive audience.

The bookseller at the event was Barnes & Noble. For the book that she was getting signed, they were selling the book for $35. That was their Recommended Retail Price and there was no discounting. You either paid that price or you didn't get a signed book.

I've looked up the book on Amazon and Book Depository and here are the prices that they had listed.

 Book Depository
 Barnes & Noble at the event *
* I tried to look for the book on the B&N website but could not find it listed

They probably have their own reasoning for charging such a high price for the book but I can't think what it would be. It could have been a local franchise of Barnes & Noble or it could be the main Barnes & Noble, I do not know, but as a result of the prices, Bambi spent a lot of money for books she already had because she was not allowed to bring books to the signing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not against Barnes & Noble as a bookstore and I think that there is a place for a brick and mortar store for many reasons and for many people but for me, I'm voting with my wallet and I'm going where I can find the best deal. My resources are limited and I don't mind that I have to wait up to 10 days or more for the book because I'm not buying the book to read right away. If I want instant gratification with a particular books I'm wanting to read, I hit the Kindle store. There are not 3.38 Million books available for me to one-click and those books are cheaper than the paper versions.

When I told Steve about the $35 per book sales at the book signing event that Bambi attended, he was quite cross. He thought there was no reason for the bookseller to charge so much for the book and that they were taking advantage of their captive audience. Then he went into a rant about why large brick and mortar stores were closing and why Amazon continues to thrive.

I hope I've been able to provide a more rational reason to why I buy from places like Amazon and Book Depository rather than get ranty. For the curious, I buy about 98% of all my eBooks from the Amazon Kindle Store and 98% of all my paper books from the Book Depository.

Where do you buy the books? Are you driven by instant gratification or by economics, or are you willing to pay a premium for your books to continue to support your local mom and pop or Barnes & Noble store?

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