Bookstores: For Buying or Showrooming?

In Global Trade Talk by Dennis Abrams

Amazon once famously encouraged customers to "showroom."Kasmira Jeffords reports that the number of people who browse a bookstore before going on to buy online has grown to almost two thirds of shoppers, according to new research.

A report by the Booksellers Association (BA) looked at consumer spending habits and showed that 63% of shoppers admitted to so-called “showrooming” — which is what happens when customers look at a book in a store, and then go online to buy it cheaper.

The survey of 2,045 UK book buyers found that while young people felt (or at least admitted to feeling) guiltier than older shoppers about using bookstores as showrooms, they were actually more likely to do so. (Almost 76% of 16- to 24-year-olds said that they browsed a brick-and-mortar bookstore before buying online, compared with 51.7% of those over 55 who confessed to doing the same thing.)

Even so, UK shoppers still place a high value on bookstores, with 68 percent of consumers saying that they are still the best place to discover new titles.

Along the same lines, in The Times of India, Madhubanti De, looked at how the digital revolution is also changing reading habits among the young in India. Not only are reading choices evolving (one 19-year-old from Bangalore noted that while she used to read a lot of Enid Blyton (really?!), “my juniors prefer Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games and other books.”), but the increasing costs of books “has even veteran readers vouching for the fact that e-books, or PDF’s of their favorite books are a better option.”

For this new generation of Indian readers, cost and easy availability are the factors “that push buyers to go digital.” “I don’t get most of the books I want in local bookstores,” said software professional Swati Krishnan. “With these e-book readers, everything I want to read is just a click away.”

But according to De, all is not lost. There are still, he writes, “a few who, despite the increasing number of ebook readers out there, still prefer buying books the old fashioned way.” “I still prefer going to a bookstore and browsing through the myriad options,” said one 19 year-old girl. And there are those who appreciate bookstores for very specific reasons. One girl, speaking out on a social networking site, updated her status about a second-hand bookstore. “Show me one Kindle,” she wrote, “that smells like this place.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.