This one goes out to those of us who walk into bookstores, scan a book’s barcode, then buy it for less on Amazon.

Via on Apr 2, 2011

Borders vs. Amazon (Amazon ftw).

Borders recently filed for bankruptcy. But before they did, this Chicago store had a message for those of you who walk into bookstores, scan a book’s barcode, then buy it for less on Amazon.

The sign is a prank, of course, as are the messed up dates, according to an employee.

“Sign of the Times,” via Daily What.

I talked with a good friend of mine in Boulder, recently, who founded and still runs one of the leading independent bookstores in the country. He said his bookshop, The Boulder Bookstore, would be gone within five years. If you care, click here for action. If you don’t, keep shopping at Amazon: our money supports whatever kind of world we give it to.

All that soapbox talking said, can’t remember the last time I read a book: now I read online, and netflix at night. The times they are a’changin’.

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31 Responses to “This one goes out to those of us who walk into bookstores, scan a book’s barcode, then buy it for less on Amazon.”

  1. Keith says:

    The Boulder Bookstore refused to help me promote my first book, saying that even though I was a local author (and not self-published), I could only do a reading there if I guaranteed them 40 sold books. My next book's reading will be held at Barnes and Noble in BOulder. And my book sells just fine on Amazon.

    • Keith says:

      PS: the Tattered Cover was much better … allowed readings, prominent display of my book, allowed me to put up posters, etc. So maybe I'll do my reading there :-)

  2. clockworktomato says:

    I might have a little more sympathy if they hadn't so consistently and ridiculously marked up their prices to an extent that was difficult to justify even when I had a gift card for the place! Last week, I went to one of our local Borders stores that is closing (and, thus, that has items "marked down" 20-40%). One book that I picked up — a popular fitness book — was still, after "discount," selling for *twice* as much as yes, Amazon, but also more than the book was selling directly from the author/publisher's website.

    I love and support my local independent bookstores as often as I can (particularly our wonderful pre-loved bookstore), and I understand that overhead and shelving/stocking aren't free. But Borders has been nothing but an overpriced disappointment for me since the first time I entered one, and I'll be glad to see *it* go.

    • clockworktomato says:

      Just to be clear, I'm referring to Borders, not The Boulder Bookstore. :)

      • Yogini5 says:

        I gave back to Borders, though. They had been a browser's paradise; they would remove shrink wrap from books upon request (normally they did not shrink wrap where B&N did everything they could get their hands on). The cafés even in NYC did not have that chase-you-away feeling if you hung around (Less so for the Dean and Deluca ones in the Borders ..) The sales people didn't stalk you. This had been back in the days when I was involuntarily leisured (= between jobs) When I had coupons and rewards, and finally a job; I did not care about the pennies …

    • yellowpeartomato says:

      I have to say that I am not all that surprised, nor unhappy at the demise of Borders (if you have to go to monster chain bookstore, i have always found Barnes & Noble to have a vastly better selection). And it's true, i do buy a lot more books through Amazon, or better yet, Better World Books (but their selection is much more limited), or Alibris. As the above person mentioned, I can't really justify spending 18$ (with tax, that is what my most recent purchase (at an independent bookseller ironically) on a first-run paperback book I will read in two days. And I can't justify spending $30 on a hardback which is unsellable (most second hand stores i've encountered are extremely reluctant to buy back hardback copies).

  3. Val says:

    So … Netflix instead of the locally-owned video store = fine, but Amazon instead of the locally-owned bookstore = egregious sin? Did I not realize that Netflix was a non-profit or something?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Great point, Val. We've written about Netflix vs. indie video stores before on elephant, you can search that and I ask similar questions. ~ W.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Joel Fish Actually, that's exactly what I do. Scan the code, and if it's significantly cheaper on Amazon, I buy it there. If it's only a couple dollars cheaper, I go for Borders/B&N. It's simple economics.
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    Peter Aitch meh, 10 years ago borders *was* amazon. i know at least 3 bookstores in my city that closed because of the big chains. and it's not such simple economics – local and specialty bookshops offer services that online retailers don't, and having a *choice* is a benefit that belongs to a system rather than to one or another of a set of competitors.

    #
    Andrea Kollo We have destroyed our own economy right along with the corporate types and wall street. Just about every mom and pop shop in my area is gone because 'some' people absolutely needed and couldn't live without a Walmart or a Home Depot or a Chapters. Its the end of an era, that's for sure.

    #
    Connie Livingston-Dunn I like to see the book, and if I drove and used gas to get there, is it really cheaper on Amazon with shipping?

    #
    Holly Jones Honestly, at my local Borders, even if I drove 35 miles to the store, paid for parking, drank two cups of coffee while I was there, spent two hours searching for the book, purchased a special acid-free transportation vessel for said book, had a gift card, and took advantage of closeout discounts then, yes, the book would *still* be cheaper on Amazon.

    And, for that matter, the book would still be cheaper on Amazon even after I ended up buying two *other* books that I didn't exactly need, but just had to have to reach the $25 free shipping threshold. ;)

    #
    Sandi Strong I agree that Borders WAS the Amazon of books, my town's lack of independent bookstores is an example of that, AND Amazon is the Walmart of books, and becoming the Walmart of almost everything. This is NOT a good thing for anyone.

    #
    Liz Brown Morgan a lot of books can be bought directly form the publisher's or author's websites. why not check em out on amazon and then buy them from the source…

    #
    Waylon Lewis of elephant's response to evolotus, Peter via twitter: Oh I hav little luv 4 Borders, nvr shoppd there. But if they're gettg hit > Amazon, imagine indie bookstores. http://bit.ly/eCeUJR

  5. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    I think that as someone in the facebook comments pointed out, it is indeed simple economics. All businesses, including us writers, need to get on with the times. I recommend reading "The Thank You Economy" to get a sense at how fast and how things are changing, I believe this author in his first book even had suggestions on how small bookshops can survive.

    What I read in the first comment here however, that is a big NONO. Not letting a local author promote? hmmm… it points to me that maybe there are "ideals" set in front of "reality".

    I don't like it any more than the next gal, I am as affraid of things changing as anyone else, but things are changing, it is what it is as the Buddhist (thankfully!) taught me.

    We need to re-invent and keep moving…

  6. marilee r torres says:

    shop local-save your neighbor's job!

  7. Colin Wiseman Colin Wiseman says:

    Am confused by something here. You are all saying that borders and other local stores over priced their books? Do books not have the price on them? And the store can only put the price down? Remember Amazon only works as it buys in massive bulk and can knock the distributors markup down to pennies thus selling to us at a massive discount!

    I think books stores will be a thing of the past, just like libraries – or libraries will change to be something else as the can offer a lot more than book stores. Will I be sad? Well in these times when my pay needs to be stretched further every time my government decides to give people more benefits…no I won't.

    (that could be another great post – the rise of benefits vs the fall of the book store??)

    • clockworktomato says:

      "Am confused by something here. You are all saying that borders and other local stores over priced their books? Do books not have the price on them?"

      I presume you're referring to a publisher's "suggested retail price," in which case, no, not every book has the publisher's price printed on/in it. It tends to be more common on the dustjackets of hardcover books, but much less so in paperback books.

      In my example targeting Borders, I noted that the particular book I looked at was not only double the price that it is listed for on Amazon — because I do know that Amazon has special cases of low overhead from not having a brick and mortar location, of being able to rapidly adjust pricing, of being able to buy popular titles in bulk, etc. — but that the book was, yes, priced higher than the publisher's price for the same book. And this was after the book had been "marked down 20%" in the Borders "store closing" sale.

      (As an aside, it's not at all uncommon for me to find books at my local used bookstore that will have a major book retailer's clearance rack or closeout sale price sticker still on them, yet the used bookstore's price is higher than that closeout price sticker indicates. However, I don't really consider this an example of "markup," as that price sticker isn't an indelible indication of the perpetual value of that particular book. Books do go out of print, become hard to find, and just because one store had the item on closeout doesn't mean that it's only worth $5.99 until the end of time. So I'll give special leeway in cases like this. What I can't justify is anyone, whether Borders, Amazon, a major retailer, or a used bookstore, ever charging more than the publisher charges for a new copy of the same edition of a currently-available book, a practice that I had seen at Borders enough to have specifically led to me refusing to waste my time there.)

      And just to add another random wrinkle to the story: I work in the publishing industry. My work and my job are definitely being impacted by the requirement to keep up with changing technology and to adapt to low-price expectations, e-publishing, and the like. And yet, nope, still can't feel any sympathy or loss over Borders. Good riddance to them.

    • 32000days says:

      Libraries are a thing of the past?

      I go to my local public library pretty much weekly and it's more vibrant than ever before. Complimentary internet access, students using the space for studying and doing homework, new books arriving constantly, people using community rooms, programs and special spaces for kids.

      While the bookstore may perish as a retail channel, the public library creates a non-commercial community space that can't be duplicated. As a philanthropist, I'd do as Carnegie did and endow public libraries all over…

  8. Andy says:

    I heard a great piece on NPR recently about local bookstores, and how eventually they are going to be community centers for people who love the written word, but they won't be making much money from selling books. They'll be like venues for author readings, sell coffee, have book groups, be run by volunteers, and maybe sell a few books, but they won't be sustained by those sales.

    Actually that is pretty close to how they are now.

    As much as I love the Boulder bookstore, the owner is right, and there is no stopping it. I hate to sound defeatist, but this train has left the station. Me buying books from there every day until they close is not going to save it.

    Did you know you can get an Amazon app that allows you to buy with just one click? How can the BB ever compete with that?

  9. jaltucher says:

    Horse & buggy went out of business also. Industries change, people change. Books won't be dead forever but bookstores need to figure out how to change (other than charging people more money) in order to entire customers to stay.

  10. Wayne says:

    I used to shop at local bookstores as long as they existed. Amazon is less of a threat than people not purchasing older books and shopping at Walmart, Target and Costco. Those are the businesses that killed our local bookstores. Currently the only bookstore nearby is a Barnes and Noble that is 20 miles away. Borders closed all their local Waldenbook stores in 2008. B. Dalton closed before that. The independents? The last one closed in 1998. I live in a region of Southern California which has 400,000. We have one bookstore, half of which is toys and movies. However we have 5 Walmarts, 3 Targets and a Costco. They are planning on building another Target and two more Walmarts. There are rumors that someone is going to open a bookstore in our new downtown district but the rent there is over $3.00 a square foot and the businesses are struggling to stay open. I'll shop at a new bookstore but I don't have hope that they will survive.

  11. [...] Now let me talk about sex. I haven’t been fucked properly ever, probably. But I do watch porn, and fantasize sometimes. I do have a very deeply feeling girlfriend/boyfriend recently, but they still haven’t texted me back and I’ve looked at their Facebook Wall and they’ve added three friends, one of whom is a girl/boy I think they like. I use that pain instead of rejecting it—thanks to this book by Pema Chodron that I read the back cover of (I didn’t buy it, I scanned the barcode and got it 30% off on Amazon, it’s in the mail)…. [...]

  12. kids gifts says:

    Lisa- I love the Community Playthings catalog, which is the place in Camphill you mentioned getting the blocks from. Fabulous people, and an incomparable product.

  13. Joshua Plant JoshMPlant says:

    This is so bad, but so true. I will not do this if it is a local store (my favorite is Three Lives & Company), but B&N and Boarders can bite me.

  14. Chris says:

    I go to the library, garage sales or Half.com and buy used…I can't afford pricey fancy books. Sorry authors. Got groceries to buy, kids to put through college and gas tank to fill…

  15. Auki says:

    Where I live in southern CA all the locally owned bookstores have long gone out of business. It's either Amazon or Barnes & Nobles and they are both big corporations… so I shop for convenience… meaning Amazon.

  16. dagi says:

    I often browse amazon (for reviews and content/topics) and then order at the local bookstore. But, if I can get a used copy I’ll buy that on amazon – which is more eco-friendly imho. The bookstores will have to go with the flow I guess. Mine delivers the next day, for ex. Better than Amazon!

  17. Elien says:

    What kills the small bookshops (and how I love them, and buy there too) is a change in education and general knowledge…less focus on literature, less people who read. People who actually value a good book will value a good store. I can get lost for hours between the racks of my favorite store, all those stories waiting on the shelves for someone to open them up and awaken the characters, so many worlds to discover…When I see the top 10 bestsellers, it makes me sad, for all places are taken up by cookbooks, diet – and health books and rubbish like Fifty shades of Grey. People who buy and read stuff like that don't care about the smell, the texture of a book, they don't know about their value as companions during travels, how they can warm your heart on cold winter nights or offer a break from the trials life throws upon us…books mark the endings and beginnings of every important episode in my life, they remind me of loved ones, of places I have visited (Paris will always be Hemmingway, in San Francisco I fell in love with the city and Steinbeck..) They are my most valuable possession.

  18. Elien says:

    Reading to our children and learning them to treasure a good story, to work with their own imagination instead of placing them in front of the TV, would already help a lot…And keep on supporting local stores with passionate owners! Only they understand that it's not just paper and words..

  19. Clara says:

    How do I keep from shopping at Amazon? Easy…I don’t have an Amazon account. It doesn’t exist to me. It isn’t an option. Bookstores are.

  20. Clara says:

    Also…shop used books here: http://www.powells.com and find more online and or local bookstores here: http://www.indiebound.com

  21. ken says:

    The way of high technology, compete or close. It is that simple. Lower your prices to meet or beat Amazon and you'll do fine.

  22. melvin moten says:

    Many [not all] of the Amazon Sellers actually are mom-and pops. It's easy enough to do a bit of research on who's who and once you find ones you like, stick with them [or even buy directly].

  23. ARCreated says:

    so true… just becase something was good before doesn't mean it has to last forever…I am a combo girl myself, I love my paper books AND my kindle.

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