One of things customers tell me, on a regular basis, at the bookstore, is how much cheaper they could be getting these books elsewhere. They call on the phone and tell me this too. I’m not sure why. Particularly the best sellers.
Apparently, Costco is the place to go for discount best sellers. Because that’s where I want to spend my time. The cozy, friendly environment of Costco. Now, I’m not knocking Costco – it’s just not a bookstore, and it’s not designed around lingering. It’s designed to hold as much stuff as possible, and to keep overhead low to keep prices low. That means that they’re going to have the minimum number of staff they can manage, at the lowest pay they can get away with. They certainly don’t have anyone who has the time to be trained only on books, or the inclination to have chairs so people can read in-store.
Bookstores are funny things. Most of the time, the staff are there because they really want to work in a bookstore. Even if they don’t necessarily know all about every book in the entire store, there is inevitably a book you can mention that will awaken passion and enthusiasm, a glow you rarely see in people working in other kinds of stores. We get excited about hunting down books for you. We’re overjoyed when you loved a book we recommended – and will happily discuss it at length. We will help you find a book for every birthday on your list.
I have personally, not once, but many, many times, sat down with someone and helped them set up their e-reader, purchase books on it, and walked them through using it. And done it again in a couple of weeks when they forgot how to do something. I don’t have to do this, I want to do this. I love making it easier for someone to enjoy reading. I love it when the frustration on someone’s face turns to comprehension, and the device in their hand turns from a potential projectile into the coolest thing they’ve ever used.
I am definitely not the only one in my store who is this passionate about their job, and that’s just one store.
So yes, the purchase price of the book may be cheaper elsewhere. But in terms of value for your money, my vote is for the bookstore, every time.