To Amazon or not to Amazon, that’s the question

Ever since Amazon became, well, Amazon, there have been furious calls asking buyers – especially book buyers – to boycott Amazon.

Some claim the online retail giant doesn’t pay taxes; there are in-depth stories and reports of worker exploitation, especially at Amazon’s fulfillment centers; and of course, there’s the high-profile bankruptcy of a number of large bookstore chains like Bookworld and Borders in the US. Closer home, there was a public outpouring of grief when the iconic Delhi-based independent bookstore Fact and Fiction shut shop a few years ago.

Yet, where companies like Borders and Fact and Fiction folded, those like Barnes and Nobles and Delhi-based independent chain Baharisons continue to grow from strength to strength.

While there are a lot of factors that account for the success and failure of bookstores, as a reader, what is one to do? After all, it is our purchase decisions that play a significant role in the success of an independent bookstore!

It’s true that nothing beats the sheer joy of walking into a bookstore, spending an hour or so browsing through books, getting recommendations from the store owner, and peeking into the book basket of fellow book lovers {ahem! Surely I’m not the only one who does that?}. It’s also true that buying books, especially for book nerds, is an expensive affair. And not all of us are rolling in cash!

So when you get significant discounts online, it is quite natural to just order books off of Amazon.

But maybe there is a middle ground we can adopt?

Personally, I go to Amazon for all my international book purchases (via Amazon India) and for second-hand books that are harder to find, as well as for ebooks, of course. I also buy some of the more expensive books on Amazon if they are discounted by more than 20%. For everything else, I walk into the bookstore and almost always walk out with a bag full of books.

Where do you do your book buying from? And what do you think about the online vs offline debate?

Posted in Book reviews.

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  1. I haven’t closed my Amazon account, as I have a Kindle and enjoy the often lengthy free samples available, but I no longer buy from them, for a myriad of reasons (the ones you mention, and also I don’t like how they hold my card details [how secure is that, really?] and it is simply too easy to buy without thinking). I buy books from Blackwells online (free postage), as we have NO local bookshop or library 🙁 Whenever we travel, I head straight to the nearest bookshop – truly there is nothing better than whiling away an hour, or four, surrounded by books in the company of fellow booklovers 🙂

    • Ah yes, security is another aspect to think about when it comes to using Amazon. And when you have no local bookstores or libraries, online retailers are a boon! I hadn’t heard of Blackwell’s, though I think Wordery and Book Depositary offer free shipping world-wide, which is great!

  2. Quite honestly, I’ve stopped buying books because there is no place to keep them. Also as you said they are quite expensive. So my friends and I exchange books. I believe there is nothing like browsing in a book shop but equally it is frustrating to make the trek all the way ( in Mumbai even crossing the road to the bookshop can take all of ten minutes and lot of skill to avoid being killed by the traffic or falling into a pot hole) only to find that the book you want is out of stock or not in their list. So in that case, browsing the net is far easier and more comfortable.

    • Oh yes, space is definitely a problem. Though I still do try and squeeze more books into my groaning shelves. And I get that it’s an extra effort to go to the bookstore. But I still like to make somewhat regular visits – nothing beats browsing the shelves of a store, at least for me. 🙂

  3. I absolutely love book stores, Shinjini. And even though I do frequently order from Amazon as well (saves me money when they are discounted!) mostly for my Kindle, I still make it a point to visit book stores whenever possible, because nothing beats the joys of browsing and smelling books and spending hours doing what one loves best.

    • I agree, the discounts on Amazon are unbeatable sometimes. I strive for a balance – I wouldn’t want bookstores to go out of business, so I support them. And I don’t want to go bankrupt buying books, so I order via Amazon when it makes more sense to so. It’s all about a balance, isn’t it?

  4. I buy a lot on Amazon, mostly because space constraints and now convenience make it easier for me to read on my Kindle. But nothing beats the feel of a book store.Have I shared with you that it’s my dream to have a book store, Shinjini?

  5. I love book stores and the fact that time is well utilized at a store. But over many years, I have moved to Kindle and hence all my buying is online. I live in a very small house and I reached a point when I had no space for books. I still don’t have. Having a kindle helped me buy and read without worrying about where to keep them. So I am biased towards online.
    Your post made me think, Shinjini! Good one!

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