Holiday Book Shopping… Amazon vs. the brick-and-mortar Book Stores

As NPR’s The Takeaway noted this morning, before its interview with author and screenwriter Richard Russo, Amazon does not have a physical store you can step into, no clerks at any tangible desk, no special display shelves or any sense, really, of regionalism or nuanced personalization.

Yet, with Borders already gone, they’re certainly fulfilling their role in shuttering brick-and-mortar book stores, whether they’re small town independents, or bigger players (like Borders, or Walden-before that).

And now there’s an even deadlier app  in Amazon’s arsenal – potentially, anyhow.

The online retail giant has installed “price-check” scanners inside a number of physical book stores nationwide and is encouraging shoppers to scan items, check the prices (online vs in-store) and then, as Publisher’s Weekly reported, giving participating customers who find better prices the chance to receive “up to $15 in discounts to those who scan prices of products at different stores.”

This is further encouragement of something many shoppers already do, a practice known as “show-rooming,” where you swing into physical shops, check their prices, then head home to hunt around for online-only deals (i.e., often, through Amazon).(Or, perhaps they do it already, in-store, via their SmartPhones, as the New York Times noted).

“As frustrated bookstore owners see it, the practice allows customers to take advantage of the stores’ careful selection of books, staff recommendations and warm atmosphere — all while spending their money elsewhere…” -reported NYTimes’ Julie Bosman

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R.-ME) called this embellished “show-rooming” an “attack on Main Street businesses,” -as quoted via TechNewsWorld.

Indeed, the word “ruthless” was dropped during the broadcast on NPR’s The Takeaway. Amazon may be challenging “big-box” stores like Barnes & Noble, but they’re “ruthlessly” hurting the small businesses still surviving in today’s economy. Amazon doesn’t have to charge sales tax (at least in most states) and also are not burdened with having to lock-up some of their inventory, noted Simone Oettinger, owner of Maya Papaya & Tony Macaronyin Evanston, IL. Amazon, Oettinger said, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF Gate noted that a “significant amount of sales via manufacturer drop-shipping” (a transferring of orders/shipment details to  manufacturer or wholesaler who ships the goods directly to the customer). Amazon also doesn’t pay for store-front rent, Oettinger added.

Forbes, however says that no matter the casualties of small business, this is the future, an inevitability, at least in “an age of mobile tech,” (like SmartPhones, or iPads).  Notably, on the issue of “bad-press” (or any press is good press), Forbes reporter E.D. Kain noted “Amazon is basically getting free price-gathering information from customers and free publicity from the media who rush toward controversy like moths to flame…”

In response, Little Independent, a Chicago-based online marketplace for sale items at independent retail stores (from down to New Mexico, and up to Wisconsin), started the “Buy It Where You Try It” campaign, reported here-in the SF Gate. It’s a rallying cry, self-explanatory in it’s encouragement to support small businesses; a reaction against the “show-rooming” effect.

You can listen to The Takeaway’s radio interview here.

Thankfully, no threat comparable to “show-rooming” exists for Public Libraries – only, those swayed by their new E-Books or these hot “ruthless” Amazon online discounts might turn their attentions away from Public Libraries this holiday season. That’s to be expected. But—
–don’t forget, we’ve got eBooks that you can “lend/download” onto your reader, also – with your library card! It’s called OverDrive (at least…for Ferndale patrons).

~~~~Be Advised – our ~Holiday Hours~

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