Book stores: What would we do without them?

Posted on by Mike Evans

We live in a blessed age when most high streets in the land offer one or more stores filled with wonderful books. There's nothing quite like browsing a book store and the book chains have brought a living display of books to every small town. Unfortunately this state of nirvana won't last the decade. One by one these book superstores will follow the record stores and video rental chains into oblivion. Then we will have nothing between specialist bookstores dealing in rarities and collectibles and the mighty online presence of the likes of Amazon. 

It's sad but inevitable. Only yesterday I spent half an hour wandering around my local branch of Waterstones. My attention focused on one book I wanted to read. It was at full price, £9.99, but if I bought two more volumes (which I hadn't chosen and didn't have time to choose) I would get one of them free. This is all well and good, but the absolute maximum discount I could expect would be 33% - and often less because it's always the cheapest book they give free.

So I fired up my iPhone and found the same book, Alone in Berlin, in the Kindle Store for £4.49. I bought it then and there, right in front of the display in Waterstones, and left the shop with a downloaded book already on my iPhone and an extra £5 in my pocket. I probably wouldn't have bought the physical book even if it had been the same price, but it serves to illustrate my point. Book stores are on the slippery slope and the pressure will become unbearable in the next few years.

The iPad may not be the ideal book reading device but it has highlighted the possibilities and benefits of reading electronically rather than cluttering up your home with expensive paper volumes. In this, Steve Jobs has done a great service to the book reading population.

In the meantime, we should all enjoy our high street book museums, with their marvellously helpful staff and well-stocked shelves, while the going is good.

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