The Problem with Online Book Sales


All my "new" books I've been reading are coming from: 1. my library on Facebook - yup the Kitsap County Library is very active on the Facebook. 2. what my friends all over the country are posting about on GoodReads. and 3. all the new year online articles about what's good coming out this year by literary magazines. And actually now that is linked to my library account I can search there and it automatically tells me if the book is at my local library.
Paul, I hear you on this and I know you were a bookseller. But you are flogging a dead horse. People don't necessarily need a paid employee of the book industry to recommend books anymore than they need a hipster in a record store to tell them what is cool.
Well when I generally read new authors, I get new new books because of Boing Boing or John Scalzi's blog. I read older new books because of Kindle Daily Deal or a best of list like I09 publishes. And then the rest of my reading is just keeping up with established authors who's work I liked before.
I actually like browsing in a real brick&mortar bookstore.
I've never related to this idea. I'm a writer, a former publisher, and I love books. But I don't like dealing with sales clerks period, regardless of the business, and the idea of getting a book recommendation from a clerk is just bizarre to me. This is always trumpeted as a value of indie bookstores but it's never been relevant in my life. I like indie bookstores because of their interesting selection, not because I want an awkward encounter with an eager employee.
Frankly, I don't use random recommendations or real bookstores to find what books I'd like to buy. I look for stories in the Stranger or on C-SPAN's Book TV, or I listen for an interview with an author on CBC's The Sunday Edition or The Seattle Channel, and then go buy those.

This is because a random suggestion isn't going to tell me a whole lot about the topic of the book, but a more in-depth discussion of it will. Some authors are just better speakers than they are writers (Thom Hartman, e.g.), so this doesn't always work. It does 9 times out of 10, and I can always donate the one out of ten I didn't like to the library.

For example, I ordered and read The Wisdom of Psychopaths after the Stranger did a piece on the book. Judging by the author's 1970's style tinted sunglasses and mullet, i would never have taken him seriously if I saw his picture on the flyleaf of the book at a bookstore. I still can't believe that a guy with a PhD can't afford a more updated look than that. Still, the book was good, and I knew it would be, because I tend to trust the Stranger for book reviews.
I haven't been inside a book store in years! And yet in the past year of owning an e.Ink Kindle I've spent a few hundred dollars on ebooks.

I only buy the books based on what I see and read online, either from Amazon, at Barnes and Noble (I read those books using the PC reader) or at the King County Public Library (which has an extensive e-book selection that is Kindle compatible).

Many of my ebooks come from the $3.99 or less "bin" at It's just so tempting to pick off the 3 or 4 books that interest me for around $10 and fill up my Kindle that way.

Right now, I'm reading the ribald and scandalous Paradoxia by punk girl Lydia Lunch.

He should have never let me drive. I had just turned thirteen. I promised to pay him off in pussy. He turned around. Told me to go home. He’d call me later. Maybe. I shrugged and slunk out. I knew he would. I had him hooked. Hooked on my pussy.…

Lunch clearly rivals the new journalism mixed with sex styles of Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, but she is a chick who actually lived this stuff, so it's like real-er. And it's only $2.99 !!…

Well, I'll be damned if Bailo isn't more of a tech-savvy hipster than I am! (seriously, apparently)

Also, I have to pretty much go along with @5 in saying that, while I regularly browse the shelves of used bookstores, I can't remember the last time I bought a book because of a recommendation*from a clerk. I see it happen to other people while I'm there, so I know it's a thing that happens, but I just can't relate.
Hey thanks. Somewhere between Vinyl and Mp3 I forgot about Lydia Lunch. Reacquanting myself with her music now. Again: thanks.
Nothing in that excerpt suggests those brick & mortar goers are getting their recommendations from live people. I bet most of them are just browsing, like to flip though books to preview them (instead of relying on reading the table of contents, introduction, and some random pages), and then order it online for 20% below MSRP.

...that reminds me - need more Churro Waffles and a copy of The Human Division, Episode Two: Walk the Plank is Live!

Thanks, sisyphusgal.
Thanks for trying, Paul. People are going to continue to treat brick and mortar bookstores like their personal bitches right until the end of physical bookstores. Once they drive out the few remaining chains, they will start trashing the small independents who can't afford to have merchandise destroyed and won't last more than a few years. Oh, yeah, then Amazon will double physical and ebook prices and that will be that. The public will be oh, so sorry, and say, gee, I miss Barnes & Noble. Oh, sure, you do, when was the last time you bought anything from B&N? Or do you just go in and complain because there is was nowhere to sit with your stack of magazines and art books you have no intention to buy but every intention to USE?

Yeah, whine because bookstores are selling more stuff than books. Why is that? because you aren't buying their books, you are using the merchandise until they are so shopworn no one wants to buy them. So, say good bye to comfy chairs and benches and hello to puzzles and games and impulse crap that may keep the bookstore on life support for a few more years.
Bookstores sell 39% of books but are only responsible for 20% of discoveries. What's the problem? Sounds like most discoveries are by word-of-mouth, which is how I've made most of my discoveries.