Long live the independent bookshop!

In the spirit of Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, I’m going to make a prediction: independent bookshops will survive and Barnes and Nobles will cease to be (like an ex-parrot). I walked into Joseph Fox’s Bookshop in Center City Philadelphia today, which is my favorite independent bookshop and immediately found a series of interesting books. It’s not to say that I couldn’t find these books in another store, but constraint breeds ingenuity and with the limited shelf room at Joseph Fox, more interesting books seem to float to the surface.

But I didn’t buy a single book. Instead, I noted the books with my phone and added them to my Amazon wish list. So, Mr. Hypocrite, how do you explain yourself in light of your prediction? First of all, Joseph Fox is a book lover’s bookshop. Featured in NY Times travel and various blogs, it’s a place where customers can chat up the clerks about which Da Vinci biography is best, as was the case today. But Joseph Fox also has business savvy. It has adapted to the times by becoming the exclusive provider of books for the Philadelphia Library author events and has focused on its kids books. Apparently, tech-savvy parents want their kids to read a fair portion of real books.

The three books I added to my wish list, Both Flesh and Not: Essays, Religion for Atheists, and Inventing the Enemy: Essays, were over thirty percent off at good ‘ole Amazon.com. If I were to buy a used copy, which I often do since I like the hardcover versions and my hunch is that many hardcovers are not actually read by those returning them…, I could save up to sixty-eight percent. So, do I like Joseph Fox’s? Well, not according to my buying habits.

As much as I like Amazon, I do have some issues with them. Not as much as Richard Stallman though, he really dislikes Amazon. My issue is with the Kindle. Now I do have the first generation Kindle and I admit, it’s very convenient. I sometimes read up to a book a week and even more while travelling and having an eBook reader makes for light packing. But the DRM on the books is very annoying. Amazon can, and has removed books from Kindles without warning. Also, while there are numerous free books around, some of the free copies are not well formatted which makes for a horrible reading experience. That and I believe eInk to be a more natural reading experience than backlit LCD screens. This matrix of eReaders looks interesting and I may switch over to a more open platform. The problem of course, is finding a supported format.

So, I’m part of the problem. Maybe I should just get a library card? But then I’ll never have a bookcase like this. Either way, the choice seems to be Amazon, with all of its evils, or the independent book store for all of its price-is-on-the-back-of-the-book gulps. Unless Barnes and Noble is the only bookstore around you, I’m not sure they have a horse in the race anymore.

2 thoughts on “Long live the independent bookshop!

  1. ooh, more to add to my list!

    come to think of it, i wish i had been better about supporting the independent bookshop here in durham. now that i know we’ll be moving i will have to find a cool one and make a point of buying books there once in a while. i think i’m almost ready (maybe) to accept going to mostly kindle books, but there are some (murakamis . . . to add to collection, cookbooks, kids books, etc) that i still want in paper form!

    1. Despite the popularity of eBooks, I think there are a lot of people who prefer the dead tree version (myself included). Maybe when A. drools on the paper book it isn’t as bad as drooling on an iPad? šŸ˜‰

      I’ve also been following ZH advice about email. I’ve switch pretty much everything to gmail now and I’m using the keyboard shortcuts. I made a few filters to move email directly to the label (folder) and bypass the inbox. So, my inbox gets very little mail and most of it is filtered for me!

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