Competition from online booksellers is one of the reasons being given for the problems facing the Whitcoulls and Borders bookstore chains.
I have to admit I have played a part in their downfall.
Reading is one of my passions and I buy a lof of books.
If I ever have time to spare when I’m in town or visiting a city I’ll go looking for a bookshop and I rarely come out empty handed.
But in the last couple of years I’ve also bought at least as many books from the online bookstore Fishpond as I have from book shops.
Price isn’t usually the main consideration – there can be savings but most bookshops are pretty competitive. It’s the range of books on offer, the convenience and service which makes buying books online so attractive.
They often have books not available elsewhere. When I was teaching Spanish night classes I found several children’s books, of the same title, in English and Spanish and I’ve bought lots of other books from Fishpond which I haven’t been able to find in shops.
I still love browsing in bookshops. Being able to touch, see and dip into a book which catches my eye will always be preferable to looking at a catalogue online. But if I know the book I’m looking for it’s often easier to get it online than wait until I’m in town with enough time to visit a bookshop.
I was in Dunedin yesterday and called into Whitcoulls. It was busy, as it usually is, and the staff were as efficient and helpful as I’ve always found them. I said to the woman serving me that it must be difficult for her, not knowing if her job was secure.
She replied that the worst thing was not being able to tell the customers what was going to happen because the staff didn’t know.
With staff like that who smile and put the customer first in spite of the uncertain future for their own jobs, there is hope for the company.
Convenient as an online bookstore is, it’s hard to beat face to face service from people who are interested in what they’re selling and care about their customers.