February 3rd, 2012

Book Buying

So I bought a book on Amazon. I would have much preferred to buy it at a bricks-and-mortar store, but, well. Firstly, my local Barnes & Noble didn't have it. To buy it at an indie would have involved a drive, which I might have considered, but they didn't have it either. 

But of course the most important reason was money. It's a $26 book (Skirmish by Michelle West). I got it for $16. Yup, a whole ten dollars less. And I didn't pay for shipping or for sales tax because a good friend of mine is an Amazon Prime member. 

Did Amazon sell the book at a loss? No one knows. Certainly an indie store would have been selling it at a loss at that price, or at least at a margin so slim it wouldn't have been worth it to order the book in. So here's the thing: until publishers address the disparity in prices, there's really very little a physical bookstore can do. It's all very well for Ann Patchett to take the high road and say that if you want to continue to shop in a physical bookstore, you should pay 40% more for the privilege. Most people can't really afford to make that choice. At the moment, I can't.

I could, of course, have gotten a copy of the ebook for $13 pretty much anywhere. (Paper, printing, binding, warehousing, & shipping--does it really add up to $13 per book?) Lots of people will tell you that soon I won't have the choice. That may well be true, and the price disparity is certainly helping that very bleak future along.