The economics of buying books online versus visiting a bookstore

Barnes and Noble


I don’t live around the corner from a bookstore.  Many of you may, but I live in a rural section of East Texas.  If I want to visit a brick and mortar bookstore, I have two options.  Either one I choose involves a fifty to sixty mile round trip and two or three hours of my time.

When I get to the bookstore, I find paperbacks for fifteen dollars and hardbacks for twenty-five to thirty dollars.

If I go online, I find a much bigger selection of the identical books in ebook-format for half or less than half of a paperback price.  Plus, I save those three hours and several gallons of almost four dollar per gallon gasoline.

That’s why buying books at bookstores doesn’t make economic sense. When you add the functionality of ereading devices with adjustable fonts, backlit screens, note-taking capabilities, there is simply no comparison in the two delivery systems. To be sure, I can’t get a cup of Starbucks coffee online or sit in an over-stuffed chair while I thumb through a magazine or two.

That’s a trade off most people are willing to make, especially readers who have collected books all their lives and now have no more space in their homes or apartments to store them.

A lot of folks my age are trying to find ways to eliminate clutter in their homes, not add to it.  That’s just the way it is.

What it comes down to is that the people who hope to sell books will do it online, not in the future, now.  They will do it by bringing bookstores to people’s computers, tablets and phones.

Again, that’s just the way it is.

At Caleb and Linda Pirtle we have several projects in the works that address the reader’s ability to buy books online.  We will roll these out in the near future and make lateral adjustments on the fly, always attempting to make things easier and better for readers.

In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think about a couple of book buying options.

Are you the member of an online book club?  Do you find it an easy method of buying your monthly quota of books?  Do you receive occasional emails that contain offers of discount books?  Do you open the emails or drag them into the trash bin?

Please drop me a note in the comments and let me know.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author.)



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