Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Story

Recently a friend recommended to me the book 'The Loser Letters" by Mary Eberstadt. apparently they originally appeared in National Review. My mother used to subscribe to NR back in the day, but I gave up political magazines a while back. In the late 80's I used to read NR, Mother Jones and the New Republic just to have some idea of what was going on. It's an approach I follow to this day with websites, but the magazines have gone by the wayside (except for Garden and Gun). Anyway, I digress.

I very much want this book. It sounds like a good read and I'm starved for good reads right now. My first thought was the public library. I'm a member of a very large county system. No joy. They do not have the book. My next thought was an independent bookstore near me that carries a decent selection of religious books. Again, no joy. I then tried the big box retailers, Borders and Barnes & Noble. The book is available online, but not in a shop. as you might expect, I've ordered it through Amazon.

The publisher is a religious press. But all of the bookstores mentioned carry books in their shops published by Ignatius. The library was less of a disappointment as they almost never have any book that isn't a bestseller these days. I think it's a function of a limited budget and playing it safe with the book buying budget.

My point is this. I was willing to purchase the book for the cover price, $13.95. I bought the book for $10.04 through an online retailer. I have free shipping with Amazon and I did not pay sales tax. Someone locally could have sold me that book and pocketed $13.95 less costs.

This has happened more often than not recently. Multiply this by the number of book readers in the country and I think you can see why the local booksellers are hurting. I'm not complaining. as a book buyer, while I prefer to buy local, I will not prop up a local establishment that guesses wrong. I have absolutely no qualms buying online.

It's a pity that the library can't configure itself into gratifying long tail demand rather than the popular items. Of course if they did that, they'd likely ignore my interests of history, economics and Christianity in favour of knitting, hockey and Buddhism.

Addendum: Finished the book. It was well worth reading. Ten letters written from the viewpoint of a young atheist to the leading lights of atheism. Very funny and very sad with a neat twist at the end. I especially enjoyed the mystery of the German lessons.


Zana said...

I worked in a Bog Box Bookstore as well as managed a small Christian bookstore, and in both cases I made it a priority to order those books a patron wanted but we didn't have on the shelf. Indeed, it was easier at the small store, because I was "in charge" and quite willing to offer a discount for someone's business. I built quite a regional reputation before hubby and I left for colder climes. And then I always hated to order from amazon, because it seemed a betrayal of our local stores.

But now I, too, have the amazon mentality. I'd rather not support the BBS (now that I know how they operate) and there are no local bookstores in my area that I could harangue (but politely and friendly-like, of course) about special orders. So my amazon list grows and grows...

And you're right about libraries. Most public libraries now have horribly tight budgets, so they have to go for the titles "most likely to circulate" and though I imagine many of them would *like* to order more off-the-beaten-path titles, their hands are tied in more ways than one.

Jefferson said...

I'm glad that we left metro Atlanta behind. Out here in the lovely countryside of Georgia we have access to PINES -- the network of all the smaller library systems in the state. Chances are high that someone somewhere gave a small library system the book I'm looking for. We can order online and get it shipped for free to my local branch. It doesn't work well for obscure religious books, but it beats Atlanta, DeKalb, and Gwinnett.