Why the bookstore chains are dying

Two of my favourite authors have published new books this year and I’ve been waiting to read them for some time. The books:

Last man in the tower by Arvind Adiga, and
River of Smoke by Amitava Ghosh

I ventured into the Waterstone’s store 100m from my house with an intention to buy the books. They had only the hardcover versions (expected) priced at £20 & ~£18. I wasn’t willing to pay that much for the books. Checked a few other books around, paperbacks all. None was cheaper than £7.99. Didn’t like anything much, so walked out.

Came home and checked on Amazon – the £18 book was priced at £8.99 while the £20 book was available for £11.99 – new copies in hardcover. Immediately ordered the £8.99 book and added the other to wishlist for ordering after I’ve finished the current book and the ordered one. By then that book may be available in paperback too.

P.S.: If the chain bookstores, with their scale, centralised buying and logistics networks can’t come close to competing with Amazon, how can the little, standalone guys survive? And frankly, I’ll miss the small, standalone neighbourhood bookstores a lot more than the likes of Borders and Waterstones

23 thoughts on “Why the bookstore chains are dying”

  1. I surprised myself with how much I felt I had to say on the subject. :D I will limit myself to expressing my ardent curiosity at the future of the book world. Lots of developments rocking the publishing side; which way will the buying side ultimately go? TBH, today I’m really okay with a future without printed books or stores to buy them from. But even a couple of years back, I would have never imagined myself espousing this ‘blasphemy’.

  2. ooops… didnt mean ‘I had seen enough of Europe’ – meant, i had had enough of Europe for now after 2 back to abck trips…

  3. hey – i seem to have lost ur uk number… ping it to me sometime, and ask R to get on to whatsapp too please? how is corsica plan for aug shaping up.

    1. Even I’m not on whatsapp anymore since I lost the android phone. I’ll have to set it up on her droid and then she’ll use it. Gimme a day :)

      Corsica plans cancelled. Everything on the island was either booked or way too expensive. Changed that to Ireland but now even that is out after some work came up for R in that week.

  4. I agree… but I worry more about the hole in the wall libraries, with their musty smell of paper, gives me a high just to be in there…this is why in india, Amazon may still not do too well…. unfortunately, not many small neighbourhood bookstores here.

    howz u? how was R’s b’day?

    1. Also – did u read hungry tide…? havent read his other works yet… but this was brilliant (IMHO). loved the darkness of the sunderbans and the interplay between the lead characters.

    2. That was the 1st one I read. Loved it. Then read the Glass Palace, Calcutta Chromosome, Circle of Reason, Shadow Lines, and most recently Sea of Opium. River of Smoke is 2nd part of a trilogy that started with Sea of Opium.

      His earlier three books are quite different from the later (Glass Palace & later) works. Anyway, I like them all… suggest you try Glass Palace next and if you like it too, then the others.

    3. ahhh. i read that book, and I WANT to go there. i loved Pia’s character… at some point growing up, i did fancy becoming a cpnservationist or something like that, and look where i am today.

      a friend told me some of his books are depressing, so wasnt sure what to pick up nxt.

    4. I won’t call them depressing but most of his books do have heavy shades of grey, much like life itself. If you want something lively, R can suggest a few chicklits ;)

    5. I’d say go with Glass Palace. It’s set in Burma, Ratnagiri (Konkan) and Calcutta.

      After that you can dip into one of his earlier works… Calcutta Chromosome or Circle of Reason. If by the end of it you still like him, read anything and everything else he’s written :)

    6. Ahmm… let me check if R will sponsor my return tickets. I’ll assume you’ll take care of all acco :D

    7. That was quick!

      Hole in the wall libraries? Never used them. But even the bigger libraries are disappearing. The town I grew up in had 3-4 big libraries. 2 are already closed, one is surviving because of being govt owned while the last one is connected to a big school so has nowhere to go. All of them dying thanks to apathy towards reading amongst the majority.

      Amazon hasn’t been doing in India because they didn’t have a local presence. So, everything was priced in USD/GBP and shipped from abroad including customs. Success of flipkart has proved the model and now that Amazon is setting shop in India, things may deteriorate drastically for Indian bookshop chains too!

    8. yes, i am one of those who subscribe to email alerts for ur posts…:D. couldnt get my mind to work in the morning today…. yea, libraries used to be the way to get my hands on books growing up… the one in chennai was Murugan – quite famous, but even they have become haughty now that they have ‘a/c’ and ‘computerised catalogues’!!!!!

      Agree – flipkart is doing well, but i guess books are in general quite cheap in india right? so, i may still go to crosswords or odyssey…

    9. They are cheap for you and me, not for ordinary folk. Moreover even the crosswords, odyssey and landmark are only in the top few metros. Further down, even availability of books at a town/city’s bookshops is a doubtful affair. This is where flipkart might bite. This is also where the big libraries could’ve been great given they can (and do) carry a much wider range than any shop.

      The consultant in me like what the flipkart and amazon are doing – weakening and dis-intermediating the gangs of middlemen with a stranglehold over almost all traded goods in India.

    10. agree… :) i like landmarkonthenet too… ordered a few from there.. and odyssey/LM are hardly the cute quiant bookshops we enjoy.

    11. I’m ok. Where’ve you disappeared? Haven’t heard from you in ages other than the SocGen PdF a few days back.

      R’s birthday was ok. She was away in Madrid and reached back only late evening. Went out for dinner, cut a small cake. Think she was happy. Or drunk. :)

    12. haven’t disappeared lah. just a lot to do, work, trying to meet people so i wont shrivel up into a lonely woman in a buzzing city… and am sleepy for the most part with trying to get in to work by 7.30AM!!! other than that, been to borneo, bali, KL, tioman (:) :) )on the cards for next weekend. fotos on FB, i know u dont go there… but do!

      Madrid – work i presume? sounds like a nice b’day :) she probably was drunk!

    13. Hmm.. that’s quite a bit of travelling. Let’s swap places after a couple of years. Then you can go exploring Europe while we go around SE Asia :)

      FB… even if I wanted, I couldn’t go there. I deleted my account way back in 2008 and have no intentions of creating one.

      Yup, Madrid was on work. Btw, I hear you ditched me and are instead going straight to US!

    14. yes, lets swap… thought i had seen enough of Europe, but not so it seems… ! BTW, i know i am not a fan of museums, but happy to tll R to see some. loved the one i saw in Rome!

      what is this about me going to the US straight? I am going nowhere that side unfortunately….

    15. R told me you gals are planning a get together in US (LV, I think) later this year.

      Where did museums come in from?

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