Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When Bookstores Suck

I love bookstores. Always have and until lately always thought I would. But of late I'm beginning to believe almost all of them suck. And suck royally. We have a Borders in our small town (~50,000 in the surrounding area) and another about 10 miles away in Tacoma. Not bad, or wasn't bad. But with the book buying public habits and the recession, they've changed.

The local one has reduced in stock books about 10%, maybe more. They're almost out of CD's anymore as I understand Borders is getting out of the music side of the business, only selling top selling or popular CD's and slowly depleting the inventory of other CD's. But with books they're also reducing the numbers, cutting the size of sections, like photography, computers, etc. and keeping popular ones, mysteries, self-help, fitness, etc.

In short, they're trying to survive in a market where e-books are the trend and they can be downloaded from the company's or other Websites. The local store hasn't caught on to this because they only offer one small space for e-readers and little help to those who want to get them or download books. They're missing an opportunity to add customers with service.

Anyway, my complaint is that I like to shop for books. I always walk in with a list of ones I want to see, maybe sit down and puruse some, and probably buy one. I would in the past have either bought them without reading or buy 2-3 after reading. Now, on an annuity, I buy one. But I can't buy that one if it's not there.

I don't buy books anymore without looking at them (scanning it) or reading parts of them to see if it's worthwhile. I can't do that if it's not there. And the on-line inventory these days sucks. Borders' on-line inventory is rarely accurate, and only for popular books. Barnes and Noble's isn't, meaning they don't offer a way to see if the local one (about 20 miles away) even has it.

This is what I don't understand. The technology is there to provide near-realtime on-line inventory. Most national chain businesses have done this for years if not a decade or more. Hell, even the big department stores have been doing this where you can find any merchandise anywhere in their chain of stores. And they can get the latest inventory to replenish or add items sold the day before.

But apparently not Borders or Barnes and Noble, at least not for customers. They clearly have it for the managers to order. If you want to see a book that isn't there, you have to order it, but when you order it, you have to buy it. That's my bitch with this. I only want to see if I want to buy it, I'll buy it if it's worthwhile. I don't want to order and buy a book I won't use or don't want.

And that's what's sucks. Both do this as do most small bookstores. When you pay $30-50 for a book, you certainly want to know if your buying a book you need or want. But anymore you can't do that. You have to buy it. That's it. Nothing else. The odds are good I'll buy it, but only after holding it, scanning it and reading parts to know it's one I want.

I know I could easily order the book on-line from almost any seller and even the publisher as almost all of them offer on-line sales. But what happened to bookstores having the book for you to hold, see and read? I like going to the local Borders, partly because they have a good cafe, but over this last year or two, I don't go as much because they it's not a place to wander and shop for books anymore.

That's because they don't add new books beyond the popular titles. They're slowly reducing their inventory and becoming an order first, buy second and then puruse the book. You want to hold it, you buy it. That's their new policy. And that sucks.

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