Buy Where You Shop
Subject:   Shop bricks 'n mortar, buy online from same chain
Date:   2003-07-31 21:54:11
From:   anonymous2

I recently read your editorial in the Spring 2003 O'Reilly catalog regarding buying books where you shop. It was thought provoking and I agree with the point you were making.

I would like to solicit your thoughts on a common practice of mine: I will go to my local Borders bookstore, browse, then go to (I know, they're teamed up with Amazon now; you could substitute Barnes & Noble for sake of example) and order the book(s). The main point here is that I buy at the online store of the brick and mortar bookstore I visited. In my case, that is almost always Borders (since they use Unix) as opposed to Barnes and Noble (which uses Windows). Please also note that I do not purchase online exclusively; more often than not my wife and I walk out of Borders with something under our arm.

Why do I frequently buy online after shopping at the local bookstore? Two main reasons. First, I save significant money because the book is typically discounted online, I don't have to pay sales tax, and I buy enough to get free shipping. Second, I get to thumb my nose at the idiots in the Tennessee State Legislature who want to impose a repressive 9.25% sales tax on me because they're too stupid (and cowardly) to fix our tax system.

What I'd like your thoughts on, since I don't have a lot of knowledge about the publishing industry, is am I really harming Borders (or Barnes and Noble) by this practice? I would think that the major chains would realize that I'm not the only one doing this and therefore "subsidize" the brick and mortars with the profits from the online store. Am I wrong about that?

I certainly see how I would be harming a local Mom and Pop bookstore if I browsed there, then went to to buy, but I don't see how buying at the online store of the brick and mortar I browsed at harms them. Please enlighten me if I'm wrong...

Kevin Buterbaugh - Systems Engineer

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  • Tim O'Reilly photo Shop bricks 'n mortar, buy online from same chain
    2003-08-01 08:23:39  Tim O'Reilly | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    I'd say that this is a fair compromise on the issues I raise. You're making sure to patronize the store whose services you use, but choosing their lowest cost channel. This seems entirely legitimate to me.
    • Shop bricks 'n mortar, buy online from same chain
      2003-11-25 06:41:37  anonymous2 [View]

      It's not a good compromise at all.
      Though you do indeed support their business, the store itself will end up in the red and in the end be closed or scaled back to sell other things only.

      Or do you make a note in the comments field on your online order that you noticed the book in their real store in XXXXX and liked it so much (and then hope someone actually takes note of that)?
      The net effect is still that physical stores are loosing business due to web orders, a loss that will translate into reduced floorspace and manpower and in the end closure of those physical stores.