Thursday, June 09, 2011

How Has Your Bookbuying Changed?

The discussions lately in Australia have not been so much about ebooks, but about how online bookbuying is killing bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Readings has launched into offering their own ebook option for buying. Amazon has been offering Kindle ebooks here for a while (depending on what territory rights have been sold). But the big panic now seems to be about how many people are buying physical books online. Borders and A&R have now gone into full receivership and it looks like all Borders stores and many A&Rs will close. Is online buying the problem?

I had a think about what I buy these days. I am buying less in the bookstore, for sure. Why? Because I have less money! Like many people in the past couple of years, what they call "discretionary spending" (stuff that is not rent or food) has shrunk for me and my husband. Not just because of the GEC but for other reasons, too. Such as my royalties shrinking (I guess that's GEC-related...) and the fact we have less income for other reasons. So I'm using my public library a lot more. Thank goodness for libraries! But I do love my local indie, the Sun Bookshop, and try to support other indies as well.

But when I looked at my online bookbuying pre-2010, not much has changed. What I buy online are mostly the kinds of books I can't get in bookstores here. Here is a list of what I tend to buy, and why:

* Writing books (like Plot vs Character that I bought recently after hearing about it from a friend) - for a while, Borders stocked a lot of these and then stopped.
* Poetry books (most bookstores here, even Borders at its best, had virtually no poetry I was interested in; Collected Works usually would have to order in, but they are the best).
* Old children's classics that I need for study.
* New children's and YA books that I know either won't be published here or will arrive here in about a year's time.
* New Zealand titles - Australian booksellers are terrible at stocking NZ books!

If I want a crime novel - my favourite recreational reading - I'll buy the ones I want to keep from bookstores and borrow the others from the library. The library is also great for trying out new authors. Who knew JD Robb's crime novels were set in 2060? Not me until I picked one off the library shelf. That's how I also discovered PJ Tracy.

But most of my online bookbuying is of books I can't easily buy in a bookstore here (if at all). They're overseas titles, or out of print. These purchases aren't taking anything away from my local booksellers. Yes, I do use a lot of the time, for the same reason. Australian online booksellers often don't have what I want, either. I go where I can get what I want, quickly, at a reasonable price.

Actually, my current gripe with Australian online booksellers is their freight costs for overseas customers. I've given up recommending any of them (Fishpond, Boomerang, Nile) to friends and interested readers in the USA and UK for Australian books, because they all charge between $20 and $30 postage! Our books are already more expensive than overseas. So a copy of Meet Rose (one of my titles from Our Australian Girl - Penguin) would cost my US friend $48! Can you blame me for buying a copy down the street and posting it to her for $3?

So how has your bookbuying changed? Are you into ebooks yet? Are you buying from overseas sellers, or sticking close to home?


Linda Wyrill said...

I don't buy as many books as I would like to either, Sherryl. When I do buy a book I buy from local bookstores and tend to buy the work of Australian writers. Mainly as I love the experience of visiting a "bricks and mortar" bookshop. (And I love the work of contemporary Australian writers.) Online / on-screen reading doesn't cut it for me. I admit to a bit of a book buying frenzy lately, inspired by my panic that my favourite bookstores might be, as you say, killed by online bookbuying!

Sherryl said...

There's nothing like wandering through a good bookstore and finding something new or a new author that you then love! That's where bookshops come into their own - staff who can recommend. Amazon reviews aren't quite the same.

Onesimus said...

I would prefer to buy my books from a book store. I love looking through the shelves. But clearly my tastes are too obscure because the books I want are rarely stocked.

I recently started ordering on line where I can obtain most of the books I want with no fuss for much cheaper.

I've written about my introduction to online buying on my own blog, and also give my thoughts on a big reason for the Borders and A & R troubles.

Nardia said...

I find this topic a fascinating one as I often find myself on both sides of the fence.

On the one hand, I am a massive fan of good local indie store and second hand book stores however a comment that someone said to me recently has turned me away a bit from second hand book stores - that comment was 'writer's never see any royalties from the reselling of their book in a second hand book store' - I must confess I hadn't thought about it before, but as an aspiring writer it made me stop and think.

And then is my love for online shopping. I too love bookdepository and agree that Australian online bookstores charge an extraordinary amount for postage but seeing what has happened to Borders and A&R is really heartwrenching... especially for rural areas where I live... to lose our local A&R and Collins bookstore would be tragic - which is why I've taken to going back and supporting our local bricks and mortar stores....

I'll still use online bookstores for all the reasons that everyone else has mentioned - ie for overseas books or special orders, and I'll continue to trawl through second hand bookstores for my first edition Enid Blyton's and Rex Dixon Pocomoto books :)

I haven't taken to ebooks yet as I think I'm of the old school mentality where I need to have and feel a book 'in case it gets lost'. That said, I'll buy CD's from itunes so go figure.

Thanks Sherryl for posting on this topic :)

Sherryl said...

Onesimus - that's where online comes into its own, doesn't it? The out of print and obscure books that are out there somewhere - finding a site that sells exactly what you want is such a bonus!

Nadia - I know what you mean about secondhand books, but I think libraries are the same. If you can try a new author for free or for a small amount of money, you'll often then go looking for their newer books and buy them.
I was in my local indie today and saw a heap of Enid Blyton's on their classics shelf - I guess they're the reissues.

Nathan Luff said...

My buying habits are in the process of change.

If I want to read something but I know I won't want to keep it or reread it, I will purchase an ebook version. If I really want a book and it is not being released in Australia at the same time as overseas, I'll look for it online (I'm a very impatient person when it comes to things being out and other people having the opportunity to read it before me!)– but this rarely happens. And finally if it is a must have book I'll be there at my local indie on the day it is released, with my tongue hanging out.

This whole online debate for me has nothing to do with cost – I consider the rrp for books to be reasonable. If you compare the price of a new release to a night out on the town where money just disintegrates in your hand, it's really not much for a whole lot of entertainment and (depending on the author of course) not much of a headache afterwards.

Sherryl said...

Nathan - me, too. I also want to buy ebooks when it's not something I plan to keep. But I haven't coughed up for a decent ereader yet. The iPad is tempting but there's more competition now and Android is catching up.
I think when I buy the device, my ebooks purchases will increase.

Anonymous said...

As an ex-Aussie, the news about A & R came as a shock - they were always a good sponsor of Gold Coast Writers Assn competitions. I still like curling up and page-turning with a good glass of wine - the ebook seems a little impersonal to me. But I am one of the very old school. In a little town called Petersfield, close to where I live in Hampshire, there is a bookshop in a very old building. Both the two elderly ladies running it admit they have no idea how many books they have or what they have. It is operated on an honesty system - books are lined in many old bookcases outside the shop, too. And that's where they stay, all day, all night, and whenever the shop is closed. There's a list on the wall of what you should pay for the books (anything from 10p). Strangely enough, taking into account today's 'modern' society, no-one steals the books, and the little tin is always full of money when the ladies open shop again. Inside and upstairs, their collection would make you drool, ancient naval history books, old books about mid-century music, and naturally, Mrs Beeton's Cookbook. I don't think 'the book' will be an extinct species for a long time, yet. Interesting comments, though.

Sherryl said...

I want to come and live there! What a wonderful bookshop. I'm very envious!