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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Great Book Debate (And Picks For Christmas)



I have a dilemma. I buy all our books at a certain bookstore; a famously beautiful bookstore. I love this store. It has a mezzanine (always the most glorious part of a library), plus lovely, chatty staff and well-curated titles on the front tables each week. I travel all the way across town to buy books at this store, despite there being a closer bookshop within walking distance of our house. The beautiful bookstore has also supported me beyond anything I could have imagined. (They sold more than 170 copies of my Paris book alone: 100 of which I signed for them.) I shop there because I like supporting bookstores. But buying books at this store means I spend three times more than I would if I used Amazon. So the question remains... Is the cost of loyalty becoming too great? {Image above via House & Garden, November 2002, photography by James Waddell.}


Here's the other thing. Last Friday I spent an hour at this store picking out $200 worth of beautiful books for Christmas gifts for our family. When I returned yesterday, the assistant had forgotten to put them on hold, and they'd all been sold. Most were the only copies. "Did I want to order them in again?" the new assistant said. "No, that's okay," I said, trying not to show too much disappointment, as it was indeed A Very Good Bookstore.


So I'd like to ask you this: Do you all still frequent bookstores? Or have you all defected to the Mighty Amazon?


As my partner explained to me last night, if we bought through Amazon, we could potentially buy three times as many books for that money. But as I argued, bookstores would go out of business. The other thing, of course, is that Amazon is slowly hiking up their prices. Once they have a monopoly, they will be able to charge what they want, as the competition will have disappeared. But, oh, how they've lured us all in to begin with! {Image above of Goyard's trunk for Assouline for $20,000}

What a tangled web we weave.

Where do you all buy your books? Online? At second-hand or new bookstores? Or do you simply go to the library? (I went yesterday. It was very cute. It still had the old card system and was staffed by two sweet octogenarians. I heard one say to the other: "Have you heard anything about this Facebook thingy?")


Here are some of the new releases I had put on hold for Christmas gifts before The Beautiful Bookstore reshelved them.  Oh well, looks like our family will be getting gourmet food baskets instead this year...


















31 comments:

  1. Dear Janelle
    Was having this conversation only last week with a fellow guest at a wonderful lunch to launch Tessa Kiros' latest book Limoncello and Linen water. The lunch had been organised by everyone's favourite bookshop in Canberra, Paperchain. I live in fear for this shop, that it will go the way of the others, now sadly closed.

    One of the other guests was commenting quietly that she'd bought some of Tessa's books on line as it saved her $5.00 a book. So I replied that $5.00 wasn't really a lot to save and if everyone did that our dear wonderful bookshop wouldn't stay in business for much longer. She looked very worried and agreed. Then I had to confess to buying some books on Amazon, particularly where the price differential is really serious, like 50 per cent or more and where they don't stock them at this store. So then I'm just as guilty. But we do try. Both husband (another big book buyer) and I really get as many of our new books as possible from them. They've always been so helpful and will order books in and have lots of launches and talks and give discounts to Friends of the National Library as well as running their own discount system. Very worthwhile. But I agree, it is a quandary. They also seem to be very efficient, unlike your recent experience with your Melbourne shop. Still the beautiful bookstore was very good at selling your own book!
    Love all your Christmas selections! Would definitely prefer the books to the hampers if I were a member of your family! Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. Well, I HAD planned to buy books for everyone this Christmas Pamela, as we're all book lovers in our family. But this incident put a spanner in that plan... I saw Tessa's new book. It looks lovely. I always loved the way she started out. She walked all around the Frankfurt Book Fair to find a publisher she liked, then she simply went up to Murdoch's stand (I know this as the publisher who was there told me the story; she's an old friend) and said she wanted to publish with them. I like a woman with a bit of bravado! Hope her book launch was lovely. xx

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    2. Dear Janelle
      She was such a nice person - she told us at the lunch that she sent her manuscript to 45 publishers and was rejected 45 times. So she self-published and then took it to the Frankfurt Book Fair (she lives in Tuscany), as you were told by your Murdoch friend. But she didn't have much luck there either until she met up with the Murdoch people. Greatly admire how she kept her courage and resilience. They're all lovely books - well deserved success. Yes, the book launch was just wonderful. The Italian restaurant where it was held used her recipes from the launch book for all the courses and paired them with Italian wines. The weather was perfectly lovely and the company over lunch was great. Best wishes, Pamela

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  2. Ah - yes, Avenue Bookstore is lovely, and I always loved their quarterly brochure. Their frequent buyer program was also great. I used to buy both there, and online. I use book depository though, rather than Amazon. I know what you mean - I waver between local loyalty, and thriftiness. Our books are ridiculously overpriced in Australia. One of the Architectural books I bought recently was $160 in my new local (lovely) bookstore, and it was $60 online. Online won I'm afraid. When we moved into Albert Park, what I loved about the village was the bookshop, the funny little old school hardware shop across the road (where they knew me and my children by name) and the cafes of course. If the little shops like that go, it really loses its soul. I think you can think of it this way though, if the Avenue had sold your books, then they are doing ok..... so buy online this time!

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  3. Ah, you guessed which bookshop it was Heide! I love Albert Park too, but it is changing. And yes, my partner suggested they'd done well out of me too. He said they'd perhaps made more money out of my book than I had! Such betrayal, but the bad service was the last straw. I'm now off to Amazon with my eyes closed in shame... xxx

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  4. I hardly buy ANYTHING in real life anymore-clothes books and cosmetics are all sourced online as is cheaper and I have to consider belt tightening in this economy etc.

    I do feel sad for book sellers though. Retail is a tough game.

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    1. I look up to you and your online prowess Ms FF. xx

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  5. Book Depository is good too - and free shipping! Good if you just want 1 book.

    I'm sad about book stores too. I worked in one while I was in uni, and has been by far my favourite job.

    Loving all your book posts! Just bought Bright Young Things {for just over $14} on BD thanks to you!

    Jasmin

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    1. Have heard of Book Dep. Is it really that better than Amazon? Bright Young Things looks good, doesn't it? There's another one with the same name; not sure if it's an earlier edition or not. The 1920s is def back in style, thanks to Downton Abbey and The Great Gatsby. Thanks for taking the time to comment Jasmin. xx

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  6. I try to mix it up,the big pretty fluffy books I buy online because they are much cheaper but still buy biographies novels etc at an actual shop also still buy from Heyward Hill and John Sandoe in
    London they have things in their catalogues you never see here and there is nothing more fun than a second hand bookshop.

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    1. Am frantically scribbling Heyward Hill and John Sandoe down in my 'London To Do' list now. Charing Cross Road also used to be fantastic for second-hand bookstores in the 1990s, but it's lost a lot of stores. Do you have trouble getting them all too? Such a dilemma. xx

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    2. Apologies. Meant to say "Do you have trouble getting them all home in your luggage, too?" Fingers not keeping up with the mind. Must be getting old.

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  7. What do I do to get on your Christmas gift book list? A delicious selection, I am off to check them out - online.
    Strangely, not yet bought any books online, I am late adopter, but when I do, enthusiastic.
    Don't feel guilty about buying the books online, you did offer the shop your custom and they failed to deliver.

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    1. Don't you worry Miss Claire, I'm sending all of the Library's long-time readers a special gift at Christmas. (Which is why I went to the bookstore.) In fact, I've been trying to find interesting books, such as those, above, to give people. That's why I was so disappointed when the store reshelved them. I'd gone to all that trouble to find them! But Christmas is still a little way off, so I have time for an Amazon order. Oh - I can't believe I've defected. I held out for soooo long too. xx

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  8. I LOVE bookshops....we have a fave in town which the whole family haunts...they know the names of all of my children and are always up for informative repartee yet the best thing is that I can bribe my children with ANYTHING with the promise of a trip either there or to the health food shop. However, if our bookaholic family actually paid full price for every book that we read we would be living in a tent, that's why I love the library. You can order titles online and they email you when they arrive. Oh, and after too many crippling fines, I have finally worked out how to avoid them....by borrowing on children's cards. Apologies to any librarians who may be reading.....Rx

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    1. Yes, I've just discovered / rediscovered libraries too Romy. They're fabulous, aren't they? Have you ever seen the State Library of NSW or the State Library of Victoria? They're the most extroardinary places. The architecture, particularly the ceilings and the mezzanines, are incredible. It would be so sad if libraries became extinct. We should all use them a lot more. xx

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  9. i use the library and 2nd hand stores.
    and i agree with your idea that as soon as amazon has shut everyone down they will raise their prices.
    wishing you a lovely day!

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    1. Love those second-hand stores too Janet. There were some fab second-hand stores in London. I love the old book jackets (covers). They were so beautiful back then. (Gosh, I sound so old!) xx

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  10. Its a real dilemna ..in Randwick where I live there is an amzing second hand bookshop with cafe I do pop in there now and again . I use the library,because libraries should be supported I think.

    All the books shown look fantastic. The blue cover (third Tim Walker book) is very reminiscent of old children's books. He's the man isn't he.

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    1. You would have loved the Tim Walker exhibition. It was incredible. Everyone was just enthralled. You could have heard a pin drop as you walked around.

      I wanted to buy the book but had already bought Robert Polidori's 3-book set of the restoration of Versailles. A whopping 5 kilos to try and get home in my carry-on. Couldn't do Tim Walker as well! xx

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  11. I always check the price of the book in the book shop and also on-line - if the difference is just a couple of dollars I buy at the bookshop, but often it's a significant difference and I buy on-line. It's a pleasure to browse in a beautiful book shop and I want to support them, but I also want to be able to afford the books. Whenever I go to Readings in Carlton or Hawthorn, the shop is bustling and lively and full of customers buying books, so I assume they are doing well. I know this is a bit off topic, but recently I needed to buy a beater blade for my Kitchen Aid mixer - $56 here, $18 on-line.

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  12. Usually I buy at Book Depository. I have found that I can get the titles I need and of course it is cheaper. We do not have good bookstores where I live and it seems that everything needs to be ordered in anyhow! I do always buy at Rosetta Books in Maleny when I am there and I have purchased all of your books Janelle at book stores! It's a real shame as I love wandering around the stores but the staff seem increasingly disinterested...and I do love a parcel in the mail.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Chrissie. I'm so touched.

      I loved Maleny when I lived on the Sunshine Coast. It's a beautiful little town.

      And yes, parcels are wonderful things. I've started making my partner buy our Amazon books (I give him the list) because it makes the parcel, when it comes, seem like more of a lovely surprise.

      So glad you took the time to comment.
      x

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  13. I have always loved wandering around bookstores however I am finding that the staff in the stores where I live are increasingly disinterested and ill-informed. They are always saying that things will need to be ordered in so I just order it myself from Book Depository. It is nice to find books that wouldn't normally be on the shelves. Also, I do love a parcel in the mail. I do, however, always buy at Rosetta Books in Maleny when I am there and I have purchased all of your books Janelle at bookstores!

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  14. I use all forms for buying books - retail stores, online Book Depository (which I prefer to Amazon- use Amazon for research and then buy from BD as no postage cost) and e books on my Amazon Kindle. But I buy most of my books from The Hill of Content in Bourke St Melbourne. It is one of my all time favourite shops - great books, really nice staff and they are about to celebrate their 90th birthday.

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    1. The Hill of Content is a fantastic bookshop. The architecture is as beautiful as the books. x

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  15. Oh Janelle, such an interesting poser. I adore the same bookshop frequented by Romy. But I must confess to buying most books online nowadays. But I trust you've heard of Booko? If not, zoom there, post haste! You'll never turn back ☺. J x

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    1. Everyone's talking about Booko. You book-loving lawyers are better researchers than journalists! xx

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  16. Many thanks for your interesting and timely article, Janelle - it's a constant dilemma for many of us book lovers!!!

    Readers may not be aware that AMAZON owns BOOK DEPOSITORY too!!!
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/amazon-swallows-the-book-depository-20110705-1h00b

    In my experience, FISHPOND, an online Australian/NZ online bookstore, often has the cheapest prices and free delivery: http://www.fishpond.com.au

    If you are shopping around - BOOKO, an excellent Australian search engine, compares prices for major bookstores and online sources: http://www.booko.com.au

    Loving your blog and looking forward to learning more about your garden tour soon,

    Jenny Williams (teacher and librarian)

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    1. I love librarians. And teachers too! (Have to say that as my parents are both retired teachers.) I'm rediscovering libraries at the moment. We have a lovely one where we live. It's run by two darling old women. I'm rather scared of them though. I'm now in Paris and my books are due back and I'm sure the admonishment for being late with them is going to hurt as much as the library fine!

      Didn't realise the connection between Amazon and Book Dep. Fishpond is great. But Booko seems to be the go, judging by the comments!

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  17. The thing is amazing makes it sooo easy to just click click click. But then I remember that they don't pay people and dock pay for loo breaks and these people work in huge buildings where going to the loo can be a 15 minute walk alone so I think what I am going to save 6 quid and then in five years browsing in a bookshop will be some antiquated notion like the days before mobile phones? So I stop price comparing and get my ass to a bookstore preferably indie.

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Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

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