The lost art of bookstore browsing

Last month's column on the lost art of browsing through bookstores generated a whole lot of positive feedback from you - lots of memories and stories of your favorite bookstores, past and present. Thanks for letting me know and taking the time to do so.

I made the distinction between physical, in-store browsing and online browsing, pointing out that new and special discoveries are more common by the former, and apparently my observations are born out by actual research into the book-buying habits of readers.

According to a recent study published on Salon.com, approximately 60 percent of current book sales, both print and digital, are made online. Most of these online sales are not through Amazon as one might expect, but rather directly through author, publisher and bookstore web sites.

Be that as it may, only 17 percent of these book buying decisions are made from online browsing - new books and authors are discovered by online browsing only 17 percent of the time. Interestingly, that statistic drops to 6 percent for Amazon customers.

Most of the other 83% of online buying decisions are made by new discoveries in physical bookstores! Good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar bookstores.

The good news, from my perspective, is that readers do indeed browse through bookstores to find new and interesting books that they may not have known even existed before the browsing experience. The bad news is that many people don't buy these books from the bookstore in which they were discovered, but rather buy them online.

It's called "show-rooming" and it has become common in our brave, new, digital world, not just for books but for many consumer products. Go to a physical store, find out what you'd like to buy, then go home and buy it on your computer.

Kind of hypocritical, don't you think?

And, with the added cost of shipping in many cases, the sales tax equality between physical and online retailers, and the sometimes fallacious perception of online discounting, the consumer isn't usually saving much if any money by buying a product online instead of purchasing it locally.

Personally, I'm a hopeless browser. I love to browse local shops, including bookstores, wherever I go. And, I always buy my new discoveries where I find them.

Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or books@wellredcoyote.com.)

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