Online Bookshops Vs Bricks and Mortar

So what are the pros and cons of buying books online and buying books via the old-fashioned high street (or side street) way?

Online Bookshops: Why Buy?

Cheap. Amazon and other online bookshops are nearly always cheaper. Even with postage, and often by a third of the price. It’s nearly ridiculous…but also quite fantastic.

Search. How much easier is it to find stuff on a computer than in real life? I tried to ‘Control F’ an odd sock in my bedroom the other day. I’m a very confused man. The point being is that when things are stored as data, they take a nanosecond to find. And are much easier to find than socks.

History. Most ecommerce book sites know what you should buy far earlier than you will. They know what you’ve purchased and what you’re about to, via all sorts of incredibly personal data. Even if you accidentally just once clicked on ‘The Expert’s Guide to Autoeroticism’, books associated will appear on that website’s homepage, and may even be emailed straight to your inbox that your partner also regularly checks.

Choice. It’s endless. You can get anything. Anything. Even if it doesn’t exist yet, you can buy it, and they’ll take your money for it (although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing) from anywhere in the world. If you pay for it, it will come.

Bricks and Mortar: Why Buy?

Tangibility. Pick it up, touch it, read it, rub it, taste it (don’t…). What’s the weight like? Just right for the train, too big for the tube? You can’t partake in that sort of obsessive weirdness online. Well, you can…

Smell. Bookshops smell wonderful. Even if I never read it, I will smell it. I’ve smelt my way through countless volumes of classic literature. Go on, get stuck in there. Get your nose in, don’t worry about the grumpy fart behind the cash desk staring at you with hatred in their heart – they’re probably worried about stock depreciation. They won’t say anything – they’re one up from a librarian; they hate people and can barely talk…

Staff. The staff of bookshops (and libraries) are wonderful and friendly people and know a world of stuff about books that the ‘Recommended for You’ on Amazon doesn’t know…like how to read. And breathe. Chat them up and see what they recommend. Don’t call them grumpy fart either, as it’s not very nice. How would you like it?

Instant. There’s no fake delivery lead time to get angry about. Just take it home and enjoy instant gratification without adding to the world’s supply of corrugated brown paper.

Daniel Marsh

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