On Amazon, Overstock, and surviving as an independent bookstore, part 1

by Erin

It’s probably not common knowledge among readers that Amazon.com and Overstock.com are each engaged in a battle to undercut the other on hardcover book prices.  However, this is a big deal for booksellers like me.  These titans of industry either don’t realize or don’t care what they’re doing to related small businesses in America.  And from one perspective, that’s understandable.  It’s not their job to make sure that Main Street, USA survives and thrives.  It’s not their job to keep their small, independent competitors above water.  Their job is to make money.*

So, what do we indies do to stay afloat?  It’s our responsibility to show our customers that there’s more to a bookstore (and really, more to a book) than the sticker price.  We just can’t beat Amazon’s prices, and that’s not going to change any time soon.  And not to be state-the-obvious girl, but we have overhead (you know, those pesky things like rent and utilities) that we have to cover as well.  Still, as an independent bookstore owner I want to show my customers that there’s value beyond good prices to their patronage of my shop.  The people who work at Books With A Past are committed to providing our shoppers with an excellent experience.  Yes, we sell used books, and yes, we have price-conscious shoppers.  But we also remember what those shoppers like and what they’ve already read (with the help of our handy-dandy point of sale system); we can recommend new books and authors with a great deal more personalized knowledge than Amazon can.  We are not selling tomatoes.  We are selling knowledge, experience, and fun!  (Not to mention some really spectacular books.)  To answer my above question, what we strive to do is provide a much better experience for our customers than any search algorithm ever could. And we’re always looking for new ideas. Is there more we could be doing to make a trip to Books With A Past worth your time?  We want to be your independent bookstore of choice for many years to come, so we’re always open to suggestions!

*This isn’t to say that we support Amazon’s questionable methods of avoiding paying sales tax, and we certainly don’t condone the working conditions in many of its warehouses.  If you’d like to make your voice heard on the larger regulatory issues, please visit http://www.bookweb.org/advocacy.