Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Indies' times of sharing...

It's not surprising that a study found Cambridge, MA to be the most "well-read" city (in America, I'm assuming, since all the cities on the list are American). Cambridge has Harvard. It has MIT. It has a lot of people who just really love books. But think about who conducted this study and what data it used. Here, "well-read" means "in possession of, or having given gifts of, reading materials purchased on Amazon."

Here's the thing: Cambridge has no shortage of independent bookstores, and it also has plenty of libraries. I don't have the sales or circulation figures for these institutions, but I know they're still there and still vibrant places. That's not to say that all the new technology in the industry isn't taking a bite, and some stores and libraries certainly have felt it. (Even in Cambridge.) But I think we can coexist.

Lots of customers will come to our Brookline store before looking online. Some of them need the book right away, some want to support us, and some just love browsing. If we don't have what they need, we encourage them to order it through us. But if they choose not to, we've just lost a sale, not a customer. It's on that assumption that I'll continue to give book advice even when it's become clear that the book will probably be purchased elsewhere.

Most customers are going to make plenty of book purchases in their lives. As in any industry, it's easy to look at the competition with an "us versus them" mentality, but to customers, every purchase comes with a set of options. There are lots of places to obtain books, and that's because books are worth obtaining.

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