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Seattle Bookstores Embrace Amazon.com

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the keep-your-enemies-close dept.

Books 83

An anonymous reader writes "Even though many independent bookstores around the country blame their closing on competition from Amazon.com, bookstores in Seattle are booming thanks to Amazon's growth. It turns out many of the thousands of new workers at their downtown headquarters are avid readers who prefer shopping at the local stores. '"A lot of our customers work at Amazon," said Tracy Taylor, the general manager at the Elliott Bay Book Company, one of the city's largest independent booksellers. The store, about a mile from Amazon headquarters, last year earned what Ms. Taylor called the "first substantial profit" in almost 20 years, enough to even pay employee bonuses.'"

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I prefer to browse real bookstores (5, Insightful)

danbuter (2019760) | about 7 months ago | (#46743987)

Amazon does have tons of books I might not find otherwise, but I still love just wandering around in a bookstore for hours, just browsing. I've found a number of great books that way, that I likely never would have seen just searching a website.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (4, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | about 7 months ago | (#46743999)

After you browsed through the real bookstores, where did you buy them?

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

danbuter (2019760) | about 7 months ago | (#46744033)

From the bookstore. I like to support the locals. Also, Pennsylvania charges sales tax on any internet orders, especially stuff from Amazon, so there's not as much benefit that way.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744137)

Meanwhile the rest of us use the barcode scanner in the amazon app.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46751083)

I use the barcode scanner all the time in the bookstore... to check reviews. I still buy from the local store.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46745663)

> Also, Pennsylvania charges sales tax on any internet orders, especially stuff from Amazon, so there's not as much benefit that way
There never was. I don't buy stuff from Amazon because I save 6% sales tax. I buy stuff from amazon because it's regularly 33-50% the sticker price of in-store purchases.

Example: Way of Kings Paperback. B&N: $8.99 vs Amazon: $5.44. That's a huge difference in price. I don't give a fuck about the sales tax. Going from 42% off to 33% off on a lot of books STILL puts local stores under a gun.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46749647)

Internet says the B&N price is $5.82. The list price is over $20. It is obviously not selling. (it might even be a popular book, but just that the over-sized format paperback was over-printed)

Local bookstores have a bargain bin, too. The timing on individual failed books might be different though, with the local stores being slightly later as they're making more monthly and weekly decisions.

Even when the B&N has it as a failed discount online, when they mark it down in the brick & mortar might depend on how many other failed titles they have in stock at that time. But if you regularly shop brick & mortar, you'll still see the same titles in the discount bin, and at similar prices.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

JanneM (7445) | about 7 months ago | (#46744129)

After you browsed through the real bookstores, where did you buy them?

I usually both browse and buy at real bookstores. In fact, I sometimes browse on Amazon (the ratings are very useful), then buy at the bookstore.

Why? Because even when the price difference is large, the absolute price is still quite low. Besides, these days the price difference often isn't actually very large anymore, once you add the cost of shipping. The difference may be that of a plain cup of coffee or less for a book I may spend weeks enjoying. And I can get the book right then, right there, not have to wait for shipping and schedule a pick-up time.

I work and I have disposable income. I don't, however, have a lot of free time. I can buy far more books than I will ever have time to read without making much of a dent in my personal play money. The limit is not money but time. Books I can't find elsewhere I order from Amazon or Rakuten, but otherwise I prefer the physical store.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46744179)

Welcome to the minority you share with the employees at Amazon HQ.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

JanneM (7445) | about 7 months ago | (#46744263)

Welcome to the minority you share with the employees at Amazon HQ.

What minority? Most people do work or have other income sources (even though unemployment is alarmingly high the world over). And my income is slightly less than the average for people my age where I live.

My point was that books are not an expensive indulgence; not in absolute terms and not compared to other everyday extras ranging from movie tickets, coffee-shop coffe or music buys, to weekend beers or tobacco.

I'm not saying the price difference doesn't matter for anybody, or for any kind of book. I am saying that for many people the limit for book buying is not how many books you can afford, but how many you have time to read. And after all, if you're hard up for cash, used book stores or the library are excellent sources for reading material as well, and cheaper still than Amazon.
 

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46745367)

The minority who buy books at book shops.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

jkauzlar (596349) | about 7 months ago | (#46750171)

I was recently at Powell's in Portland (which just had major renovations) and it was crowded on a weekday afternoon. In Seattle, Elliott Bay and the University Bookstore are often hard to browse due to all the people. It's not just Amazon employees, but a lot of people just enjoy browsing books. On the other hand, the cashier lines at any of these places are not as long as they'd been in days past.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46751469)

Yeah, people like browsing book stores.
Not so many people like buying books at book stores.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744433)

In the past I've actually made it a point not to shop at several of my local bookstores because the owners were some of the biggest slumlords and had questionable labor practices for "Apprentices" aka High School students under 17 with working papers.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46749681)

In my city the local bookstores are owned by multi-generation locals with strong connections to the community, and most of the employees have been there for decades. I've never seen a HS age kid, that would be funny... the bookstores here expect workers to be broadly well read and be able to assist customers with questions.

Also in my community if teenagers are working, it is assumed to be a good thing.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 7 months ago | (#46744569)

I have money to spend and little time, but I'm not sure how I would save myself time by driving to a bookstore when the mailroom guys will drop it by my desk tomorrow, and all I have to do is sign for it. I can't get to the stairwell in the time it takes to sign for a book. Maybe you drive faster.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (3, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | about 7 months ago | (#46744947)

I wasn't considering the time spent shopping for books, whether on an online site or in a store, but the overall time I have to read. Besides, browsing the store is part of the fun, not a chore. I basically count that as part of my reading time.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 7 months ago | (#46748375)

That's reasonable, if that's what you enjoy. If I'm near a really great bookstore for some reason I love to browse too, but they are increasingly rare, and living near Powells Books in Portland, Oregon for a while really raised that bar for me. So yeah, it's seldom worth my ever shrinking free time to do. But it depends on how much time one has and how much joy it brings one, I can see that.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46749705)

A lot of people already leave the house other than for work, so they're already near the bookstore while out doing other things. So they don't have to drive to the bookstore. They just walk in the door.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 7 months ago | (#46750745)

Yeah, I go out places, I'm more about reading the book than wandering around in the store; in fact I love my paper white Kindle for the convenience it provides. When I want to look at books I go to a used book store like Powells or a public library. Much more interesting. As the cute Asian girls say, "up to you".

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

nabsltd (1313397) | about 7 months ago | (#46746551)

Besides, these days the price difference often isn't actually very large anymore, once you add the cost of shipping.

I always have plenty of stuff in my "buy it when I get a chance" list that I never pay for shipping from Amazon.

I used to wander through a lot of bookstores and book sales from colleges/charities/etc., but I don't any more, since I can pretty much always find exactly what I want by searching Amazon. In addition, I don't have to puzzle through the bookstore category system to figure out where a book might be. A great example of this is that I pretty much like everything that Isaac Asimov has ever written, but finding it all in a bookstore is painful. On Amazon, it's a simple search for his name.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 7 months ago | (#46744045)

Same for movies too, sites like Amazon have a huge catalogue but I am just browsing then it's hard to beat an actual store.

Interesting (0)

Arker (91948) | about 7 months ago | (#46744087)

I far prefer an online shop. The difference between 'it's on the shelf there' and 'we can order it quickly enough to deliver it to you on time' is not something I care about. Wide selection is. Supposedly I am their target demographic.

Unfortunately Amazon as a company is pure evil, and every penny given to them is potentially a penny in the fund for lawyers to subvert our system. I never gave them a penny and, barring rather unlikely and shocking events, I never will be.

I prefer to browse the local library. (3, Interesting)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 7 months ago | (#46744093)

I tend to browse the local library rather than the bookstore. My local library even
has a coffee shop inside now. So I can browse at the library and if I decide I later
want to own the book, I buy it at amazon. I tend to only use the local bookstore
anymore for buying gifts.

Re:I prefer to browse the local library. (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | about 7 months ago | (#46748301)

I do the same with gifts (usually because it's a last-minute thing), but lately I've been looking at AbeBooks before Amazon. In most cases I'm looking for books that have been out for longer than a year and it's amazing how many almost-recently-published books are available for the cost of shipping (around $3.50 USD). I make sure I'm buying from a bookseller that's relatively close to my location and things arrive quickly, too. We did a lot of Christmas book shopping that way last year and I have zero complaints about the book quality. Amazon holds my main wish list and I still buy a bunch of stuff there, but if I can support a smaller bookseller and reduce waste, that's a bonus. Plus the recent Amazon Smile thing kind of upset me with its de facto stinginess WRT Amazon's resources vs. Amazon's claims of great social contributions.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 7 months ago | (#46744273)

I preferred the large Canadian bookstores.

Small bookstores typically just don't have the selection, and American big bookstores seemed...standoffish? It can be really hard to describe just in what way it was less pleasant. Part of it is a structure that encourages you to read lengthy passages in the store back home that I haven't seen in a larger bookstore in the US. I fully admit I haven't travelled the length and breadth of either country; I'm just going with the places I've been.

I go to Amazon for something that I knew I wanted ahead of time, which is relatively rare but if I accidentally start reading an unfinished book series it will happen and Amazon tends to be clearly the best option. And with the stores I like closing down, I now go to Amazon also because it's the best available.

The "World's Biggest Bookstore" (that's a name, not a description) in Toronto, as seen on the movie Short Circuit 2, just recently closed and that is probably the thing that will shift me over to using Amazon near-exclusively.

Although interestingly a lot of the long tail books aren't directly available from Amazon itself, but are available on Amazon.com via its partner re-seller programs, some of which are also big warehouses but some seem like smaller businesses that are just supplementing their incomes. Usually these are out-of-print books with "used - like new" tags as I try to complete things that I read as a kid from the school library, which was incomplete either because they didn't buy the full series, or they did buy it and a kid wrecked one, or the series wasn't completed ~15 years ago when I would have read them.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744353)

IMO if you're after IT or business books try the Chapters on John & Richmond. Its close to the World's Biggest Bookstore. I think it has almost as good a selection and possibly the best in the city.

Bookstores are notorious for not having "the" book you absolutely need so online will be the way to go at some point. Amazon is also nice with having the book preview feature and the recommendation system - something missing from Chapters.

I'm an avid reader and I too am going to miss the larger bookstores. I don't quite like ebooks/tablet reading yet though I'm trying different setups. Trying to do the standing desk setup so I'm looking for right monitor size and resolution.

If I'm going to get books from the public library, I'm going to have to move to ebooks instead of physical books. Too many times I have found dirty, smelly books.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (2)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 7 months ago | (#46744313)

Amazon does have tons of books I might not find otherwise, but I still love just wandering around in a bookstore for hours, just browsing. I've found a number of great books that way, that I likely never would have seen just searching a website.

While I find books that way, too, I tend to find a LOT more stuff I like because of the recommendations on Amazon. Those algorithms are scary good nowadays.

Re:I prefer to browse real bookstores (1, Interesting)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46746475)

I've found Barnes & Noble to be stocked with whatever they can find that's made of paper and glue, mostly garbage of no note, or stuff that was a top-seller 50 years ago. It seems to be a random selection of whatever sells, like a scifi compendium called "Ultimate Dick" carrying the works of Philip K. Dick because you know people will buy something called "Ultimate Dick" ... right next to some 3rd-grade-reading-level pulp that costs a dollar on Amazon and was printed by Del Rey, the go-to publisher for printing five million copies of the toilet paper you wiped your ass with this morning. They even carry graphic novels, usually a random pick from the middle of a series (typically not #1, and they don't track or change week by week).

Brick-and-mortar stores carry what looks like it has a nice cover and can sell to idiots. There's nothing worth buying in any of them.

Price Matching (1)

Luciano Moretti (2887109) | about 7 months ago | (#46747881)

Last time we were at Barnes and Nobel, we looked at a number of books (we promised my son a new book if he behaved well on our mall trip, which he did).

We looked at several books, but they wouldn't price match Amazon so we left with one book (a cheaper one) and added the rest to my son's Amazon Wishlist instead of buying 2-3 more expensive books.

Enough to pay employee bonus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744053)

Forgive me if my first cynical thought is, how has the employer's bonus been doing before this?

Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744075)

and stop actively campaigning with her CONservative friends against the modest $15 minimum wage proposal here in Seattle. They hate minorities and want them to starve so her and her friends are fighting hard against requiring reasonable pay. If she can't afford to pay it, like she claims, she shouldn't be in business.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (-1)

Arker (91948) | about 7 months ago | (#46744097)

We do not 'hate minorities and want them to starve.' FFS many of us are 'minorities' ourselves.

We simply want to be able to give nice people who are not currently skilled enough to justify $15/hr a chance.

Why do you want them on welfare instead?

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744115)

give nice people who are not currently skilled enough to justify $15/hr a chance.

Except that you don't. Admit it: you wouldn't hire a homeless bum. You just want to pay the "nice people" who are currently skilled enough wages so low they can't afford housing, then fire them when they end up homeless, just so you can tell them to their faces it's their fault for making poor decisions (yeah, like working for you).

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744733)

I'm a Republican, so personally, I adore hiring minorities, calculating what they need as a "living wage", and then paying them less, just because I can. Then I can fire them for being homeless when they can't make rent. I have quite a collection saved up, panhandling outside the front door of my shop.

I'm actually trying to render people destitute in alphabetical order of their country of origin. The first was an Albanian, then someone from Barbados (fucking niggers), then Cambodia. I'm at 'H' right now, but I'm still looking for a Haitian that doesn't smell like shit. The funniest thing is, they're all absolutely wonderful people, and it just tickles me pink to see them volunteer at the soup kitchen, and then get in line for the fucking free soup!!!

Yep, they all made shitty decisions, and I believe that, because that's simply how stupid, evil, and soulless Republicans are. My ancestors were only worthy of staying because they bootstrapped themselves up to be able to enslave the immigrants that came after.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46751933)

See what these people are like? They play games like "fire a nigger" with our lives. Republicans are horrible people.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744475)

Why do you want them on welfare instead?

What do you mean instead? Wal-Mart's HR helps employees sign up for government assistance because they know the paltry amount they pay employees isn't enough to live off of. The only people making $7.25/hr and not on welfare are going to be teenagers who only have the job because their parents wouldn't buy them a car.

If you're looking for the modern "Welfare Queen" that's abusing the system, skip the single moms and look no further than the companies raking in huge profits while not paying a living wage and expecting the government to make up the difference.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (4, Informative)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 7 months ago | (#46744943)

$7.25/hr does not qualify you for welfare unless you have kids, probably several of them. It's not even below the poverty line for an individual. I can assure you, I've made as little as $10,900 in a year and did not qualify for any forms of government assistance -- not welfare, not foodstamps, not anything.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46752425)

How is this informative? I'm a resident of NY and my income is currently $12,000. I would qualify if I weren't married and have a wife that makes pretty decent bank.

So take this post with a grain of "which state do you live in" salt.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (2)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 7 months ago | (#46744925)

$15/hr is $31K/yr. That's not modest. It's more than double my annual income, and I live alone and own a car. A minimum wage that high is bound to increase unemployment, so why send people into actual poverty by mandating that they must either be living in luxury or unemployed?

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (5, Informative)

paul.hatchman (958948) | about 7 months ago | (#46745089)

Plenty of other countries have a higher minimum wage and low unemployment. e.g. Australia's minimum wage is AUD 16.37/h or AUD 20.30/h for causals. Unemployment is around 5% and unemployment benefits start at about AUD 250p/w. Which means you'd probably be better of living in Australia and looking for work than being employed on minimum wage in the USA.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746049)

Plenty of other countries have higher prices, higher costs, and pay more taxes, too.

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46746499)

You see?! We need basic income, not minimum wage!

Re:Maybe now she can start paying a living wage... (1)

camazotz (1242344) | about 7 months ago | (#46751239)

I suppose it depends on the industry, but in the field I work in $31K a year is a bit low for the minimum income an employee I might hire is willing to work for....and I'd be concerned about the quality of work I'd get out of someone who would settle for less.

Big company moves into town, sales soar... (4, Insightful)

Kittenman (971447) | about 7 months ago | (#46744089)

Whether it's Amazon or not is irrelevant. In any large company, there's going to be a percentage who like the dead tree copies of the book. Got to a restaurant when the staff are on a break, you'll find some folks eating Mackers/KFC/their own sandwiches.

Where you work doesn't dictate where you shop.

Re:Big company moves into town, sales soar... (3, Interesting)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about 7 months ago | (#46744307)

Whether it's Amazon or not is irrelevant. In any large company, there's going to be a percentage who like the dead tree copies of the book. Got to a restaurant when the staff are on a break, you'll find some folks eating Mackers/KFC/their own sandwiches.

This. The greater the population, the more people will wander into your store - even if it is just to get out of the rain. Sudden showers also drive traffic to your store. Is rainfall your new ally?

OTOH, I find it silly that people talk about Amazon being the enemy of your company. The true enemy of your organization was that you were relying on physical constraints to force customers to your store due to a lack of choice - especially now that Amazon is charging tax in many states. If you provide a service to your customers that Amazon cannot duplicate (being non-physical) then there will be a sizeable segment of the population that will flock to you. I visit my public library and stores because they offer a benefit that Starbucks and BitTorrent do not - a special of the day, an illusion (and sometimes real) friendliness, and an update on local events that I don't get from a vending machine. If you claim Starbucks is driving you out of business, you would have gone out of business by a bunch of vending machines.

Yes, amazon can run at a loss much longer than my local bookstore owner can - which is why she is friendly, holds book reading events, and takes an effort to ensure her customers leave the store happy. She doesn't compete with Amazon on price - she does it on service. When my Kindle DX malfunctioned long after the warranty expired, Amazon customer service replaced it without hesitation. Best Buy would charge me a restocking fee if I changed my mind five seconds after I paid.

Re:Big company moves into town, sales soar... (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about 7 months ago | (#46745845)

This reminds me of another, somewhat offtopic issue that bothered me in Europe.

I found European stores very unwelcoming in Finland in part because of the lack of public restrooms. In downtown Helsinki, pretty much only Stockman's had a public restroom on ONE floor and it was a 15 minute wait if you wanted to use it. My girlfriend says this is fairly common around Europe. I found that during a day of travelling, I had to plan my day around my urge to pee, which was very annoying. In the US, you can go into pretty much any store and ask to use the restroom. Twice, something has caught my eye and landed a purchase, simply because I came in the store to use the restroom.

I'd think this would be a pretty straightforward thing for stores to adopt to increase impulse customers. Is there a specific reason for Europe's aversion to this? Is it because the staff is unwilling to take on that responsibility, culture, etc?

Re:Big company moves into town, sales soar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746735)

Some nice cities are having major problems with junkies shooting up in bathrooms. If that was all it was, maybe it wouldn't be an issue. But as it often goes they end up passed out on the floor, with a needle still stuck in their arm. It is also a problem in libraries.

I wish I was making it up.

Re:Big company moves into town, sales soar... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46749943)

A coffee shop I used to frequent had that problem. It isn't just that they might OD. It leaves an awful smell, and sometimes there is even still heroin vapors in the air. It makes the restroom unusable for hours to anybody who realizes what the smell is, and doesn't want to do that drug. Business very suddenly went way down... until the owner started physically catching them inside the front door, and hauling them back outside. As soon as one fought back and got arrested, word got around the junkies not to use that restroom anymore, and the problem was solved.

In SF in the tourist areas they have coin-op one-seaters. The junkies still use them, but less often.

Amazon raised prices for printed books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746007)

When you include the S&H, many times times the book costs more than list on Amazon. So, if my local B&N doesn't have it, they order it for me and I get for list without S&H - cheaper overall - and I think Amazon includes S&H when calculating tax because the numbers don't add up otherwise.

I think Amazon just wants all of us to do Kindle - they are trying to kill printed books.

Re:Big company moves into town, sales soar... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744519)

The unstated part of the equation is Amazon's explicit core value of frugality that keeps them from offering employees a discount when buying from Amazon. If Amazon were like Google and gave employees Kindles whenever they released a new model, they'd likely see more of them buying eBooks instead of the dead tree versions. If they offered an employee discount on stuff bought from amazon.com, they'd probably see employees buying their dead tree versions from Amazon. But because they cheap out on employee perks, employees feel no obligation to be loyal.

It's one thing to be frugal and another thing to be selfish and Amazon seems to cross that line when it comes to employees. If you're frugal so that you can share the spoils with employees, that's reasonable. If you're frugal so that you can share the spoils with investors and drive down margins to put competitors out of business, that's greed.

don't blame amazon (1)

fermion (181285) | about 7 months ago | (#46744205)

Although not in Seattle, from what I can see most people who do not shop from Amazon shop at Powell's. I guess they think Powell's is cooler. But here is the rub. I often order books through Amazon from other book dealers. Amazon gives these bookstores the online infrastructure and allows them to reach an audience outside of the neighborhood, and an Audience, that, like me, hasn't spent hours in a bookstore going through books, at least has not done so in a decade or so. I read the reviews, and but the books. So it is good that the Amazon sweat shop pays enough so people can buy books and helps the economy in this way. I am sure it helps the economy in other ways. That does not mean that bookstores have any long term potential. it simply has to do with stock. New stock is too expensive as publishers have always punished the independent bookstore with higher prices. Used stock is going to become increasingly hard to come by.

Wrong. Amazon profit from abuse of min. wage cont. (1, Interesting)

leftie (667677) | about 7 months ago | (#46744265)

Amazon only is profitable by lying claiming the people in Amazon warehouses filling Amazon orders in all those Amazon boxes aren't amazon employees.

Care to elaborate? (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 7 months ago | (#46744303)

I'm genuinely curious. If they're doing the whole "Hire Contractors to dodge taxes" thing that really only works for a few of the most undesirable jobs (auto part runners come to mind) where they can take advantage of ex cons. For anything else sooner or later the IRS notices and drops the hammer.

Re:Care to elaborate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46745003)

Reclassifying as contractors is more about evading labor laws, not evading taxes.

Re:Wrong. Amazon profit from abuse of min. wage co (1)

fermion (181285) | about 7 months ago | (#46749103)

Not sure what this has to do with anything, even though it is true. I order through amazon from independent book dealers. The books appears to come from the dealers, packed by the dealers, often with a nice note from the dealers.

The article states that the workers in the amazon warehouse are frequenting the book sellers in the area. Whether they are treated badly, these workers have the disposable income to buy a book. I am big book buyer, but there have been times in my life when I went to the library instead of a bookstore. So as badly as these employees are treated, they are paid, though probably not as much as they should be, enough to have some expendable income.

And honestly, no matter what no independent retailer can compete with the big box or online stores. I used to pay extra just to support the local book and music dealers. Ultimately there were just not enough of us and they went out business.

Re:Wrong. Amazon profit from abuse of min. wage co (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46750161)

In my town, regardless of industry, warehouse workers are mostly employees of temp agencies, and usually only get hired on at a company after working there as a "temp" for over a year.

There is nothing sinister about it, these jobs have high turnover, from all causes, and generally they would have to hire multiple HR people just to manage them. The temp agencies are in a better position to manage workers who often don't last in an assignment. Maybe Joe Worker does fine the first 3 months, but then starts to have "personality conflicts." The temp agency can actually still make good use of this worker, and can reduce the overhead costs by avoiding assignments that require a lot of training. An in-house HR department isn't in that situation with these workers, so even if they spend the extra money to manage them, they just have to fire them anyways. It can be literally "impossible" to have a well-managed in-house warehouse workforce, because you can't evaluate, hire, train, and fire, workers fast enough. So you choose between being under-trained, or under-disciplined. The temp agency doesn't have to evaluate, hire, fire every time. They've abstracted out the different parts. So they can provide higher quality low-level workers than you could hire on your own. And when you want to change one out, there aren't a bunch of rules and red tape; nobody is getting hired or fired. You're simply ending an order on temp number #999999, and requesting a replacement, who will show up on time in the morning. And if it was some BS reason, or a "personality conflict," or somebody that got bored after a few months, that worker will call in every morning and probably get another assignment shortly.

Re:don't blame amazon (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46750065)

My town's largest independent bookstore, 100+ miles from Powell's, is still doing good business at both their traditional locations. They mix new and used copies on the shelves. They also give 10% discount off cover price on all new books; they can do that because many of those books will be sold back after being read, and can be sold again (and again) as used.

Multiple book super-stores have opened and then closed outlets here. The premium new-book superstores, which are not independent, just can't compete. They're hit from both sides; amazon is more convenient, and convenience would otherwise be the superstore's advantage over locals; and the locals carry both new and used, so they beat them on price and in some ways on selection, in that even if you want the new book, there are multiple price points on the same book to choose from.

Bookstores are unlikely to ever have the percent of overall retail sales that they once had, but I don't see any trend that implies they don't have long-term potential. The lame local stores who were poorly run and only survived based on location already failed, and we've seen chains fail too, but the independents with good service and balanced offerings are doing fine.

Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enough? (3, Interesting)

adityamalik (997063) | about 7 months ago | (#46744415)

I'm a voracious reader and used to buy from bookstores on a weekly basis. Over the last few years I switched almost entirely to getting books online, and of late, more and more, that means buying them on amazon. The reason for the shift has primarily been availability of the books I want to read in stores. Now I understand that there are millions of books out there with thousands more getting added everyday, so decentralized bookstores are inherently at a huge disadvantage to centralized means like amazon. The amount of unproductive working capital tied up in store inventory will ensure this, leave alone rent, staff and utilities of a brick and mortar establishment.

But, assuming many other people have a similar story, what continues to surprise me is how little or how poorly bookstores seem to have adapted to this. If I were a bookstore owner I would try one of these things, none of which I have seen evidence of any bookstores here trying in a meaningful or impactful way:
1. Aggressively analyze traffic and tweak the assortment continuously
2. Track what I read, suggest books, inform me when they get related stuff in-store
3. If they don't have a book I want, promise to send it home the next day or later the same day
4. Reward my loyalty and value to them meaningfully. By that I mean that if I'm the kind of guy who buys regularly and from a predictable set then invest a significant portion of their margins on my purchases back into growing their relationship with me
5. Start 'membership programs' that help me get control over my spend on books
6. Make bookstores a really pleasant place for me and my family to spend time in
8. Support the physical book ecosystem.. start a program to take back books and free up precious shelf space in my home
9. Specialize.. trying to keep all the books relevant to everyone is a recipe for disaster imho, will end up keeping a bare minimum in any area and leave everyone dissatisfied

To folks in the bookstore business and slashdotters in other countries (I'm in India) - Do you feel nearly enough is being done?

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (4, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 7 months ago | (#46744503)

Um, you pretty much described EXACTLY what Barnes and Noble tried to do, and it didn't really work out all that well for them(the execution may have left something to be desired but). They aren't doing horrible, all things considered, but they aren't exactly booming either. If they don't have a book you want you can order it on line and have it sent to where you live, they have a loyalty program, they have added cafes and play areas to their stores etc.

It doesn't work largely because it's very difficult for them to compete on price, and the explosion of smart phones in the past half decade means that it's really easy for me to find the same book online, either e-book or dead tree. Before the smartphone explosion they weren't doing terrible in spite of the same disadvantages in terms of price and selection, largely because people did not want to go to a bookstore, note down which books they want then go home connect to the internet and order them. So people were more willing to just buy it there, and maybe grab a coffee at the cafe while they read. However with smartphones it doesn't matter how inviting you make the place, I can still order the same book online and be out of there in less time than it would take to wait in line at the register. It's going to be very difficult for brick and mortar stores to compete in the age of smartphones. Maybe if they could figure out how to adapt 3d printing to books, i.e. if there is a book you want to read in dead tree, you can order it on your phone, go grab a coffee and have a copy waiting for you when you leave. Then maybe the brick-and-mortar places could compete, since they wouldn't have to have nearly as much capital tied up in books, but until then they are doomed.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744555)

The last time I tried buying a book from a real book store, was at Borders. I noticed the book I went there for was around 10% more expensive in person than on their own website. I told the sales rep and expected them to match the online price. She said they would not match the price, because in the store you are paying for the convenience of getting the book immediately, versus having to wait a few days. So if I didn't need to the book immediately, to buy it online and wait. So I did buy it online, from Amazon. That was the last time I ever went to a physical book store. About 4 years ago.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (3, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 months ago | (#46744859)

You do realize the sales rep was probably being honest?

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 months ago | (#46746321)

Well, he's using the only sales argument he has from the customer's point of view. From the store's point of view though they won't sell it at the same price you get online because they need to pay for location, staff, deal with shoplifters and books that go stale and unsold that need to be taken off the shelves again. It's better for them not to take your business rather than open up Pandora's box and have people coming in expecting to be price matched, taking up sales rep time and getting angry if they're refused. And if word got around you could get it cheaper just by pointing to a webpage on a smartphone, other people buying it at normal markup could feel cheated and generate a lot of negative publicity about you. As sales pitches go it's a honest one, but it's not the real reason why they won't price match.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746745)

They're thick then.

You should price-match to your own online presence, at the least, if you have one. This denies a sale to the competition. There is also no reason to have your physical stores 1:1 in volume with online, and a lot of niche retailers are doing exactly that. Have a small physical footprint as a flagship and for those customers who want to touch before buying.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (2)

egranlund (1827406) | about 7 months ago | (#46747097)

From the store's point of view though they won't sell it at the same price you get online because they need to pay for location, staff, deal with shoplifters and books that go stale and unsold that need to be taken off the shelves again.

I have had the same experience with Barnes and Noble where the same book is listed as cheaper on their website than it is in person.

I find it just a little dishonest because in general you assume that if you visit the website of a store that the price listed on the website will match what you will pay in the store. I don't think they would "open pandora's box" if they changed this policy, though I suspect that they maintain it to have it both ways: beating Amazon on price online and charging whatever they want in the store. When those two collide I'd bet the majority of people just suck it up and buy it at the retail price because they already drove out to Barnes and Noble.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46745103)

The last time I was in a physical bookstore, I saw a tantalizing stack of copies of a book I really wanted to read. Wow!

I walked over to their cafe, got a nice hot latte, sat down with my tablet and logged into the bookstore's free WiFi. Promptly opened my Kindle app, bought the book in ebook format from Amazon, and was able to start reading it before my latte got cool.

I felt bad about screwing the bookstore, but it was just too easy!

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 7 months ago | (#46744609)

Um, you pretty much described EXACTLY what Barnes and Noble tried to do, and it didn't really work out all that well for them(the execution may have left something to be desired but).

Other big-box book retailers haven't succeeded at that, either. [theonion.com]

But TFA seems to be talking more about independent bookstores than the "brick-and-mortar" chain bookstores that gave the independent bookstores trouble a while ago.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46744629)

> Maybe if they could figure out how to adapt 3d printing to books

I must be getting used to idiots on the internet. I almost missed your sarcasm & irony there !

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46745645)

Problem with BN is that cover prices for books are jacked up so online stores can offer 20-30% off, but BN stores sell the books at full cover price. Do they not see the problem? Why would anyone overpay for an item when it's cheaper online? BN offers a membership, but it's a pathetic 10% off in an era where 30% is normal. The 10% discount basically cancels out sales tax, and you're still paying full price for a book. Until BN addresses this issue, people aren't going to buy books in their stores. What I've noticed is BN has "addressed" this issue by emptying out my local store - less and less inventory each year. Are they just going to close down?

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 7 months ago | (#46750225)

My local independent bookstore offers 10% off cover price on ALL new books, all the time, no membership needed. They have the used copies on the same shelf, too. (and no sales tax in Oregon)

Cover prices are generally set by the publisher, not the retailer.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

normaldotcom (1521757) | about 7 months ago | (#46746051)

There is some technology akin to 3d printing for books, such as the Espresso Book Machine which can print an entire book in a couple of minutes. Some universities have these machines, but I'm not sure if they will ever have much popularity outside of an academic setting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... [wikipedia.org]

JIT Printing FTW. (3, Insightful)

Luciano Moretti (2887109) | about 7 months ago | (#46747797)

I'm surprised more bookstores haven't embraced JIT Printing: Don't see what you want on the shelf? We can print & bind it for you in 10 minutes. Make it have the ability to choose paper weight, cover (hard or softcover), font size, etc and you may be able to add enough value to sell it at a higher profit than a mass-market printing. Just being able to offer a back-catalog or out-of-print options is a huge win IMO.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46746505)

It doesn't work because my modest library has more good books than their entire multi-level megastore downtown!

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 months ago | (#46746907)

This. As a former bookstore owner, the parent grasps what the grandparent is clueless about.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (2)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 7 months ago | (#46748689)

Maybe if they could figure out how to adapt 3d printing to books

It's called "printing". It was pretty much 2D the last time I checked, but it worked.

Joking aside, this model is used by publishers and is called "print on demand". It sucks mostly because the quality of the print varies enormously. I've had both very good and horrible experiences. On the other hand, I would expect professional grade printing equipment to cost way more than shelf space, so I doubt that such an idea could save the traditional bookstores.

Bookstores should also order requests for their cu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46745137)

Bookstores should be able to order books that their (potential) customers request. I have been told many times that "we are too busy to place individual orders" or "we do not handle Amazon Create Space titles" or "your request is too specialized". When bookshops actually were busy, and they were busy making money, they honoured every request, no matter how specialized or difficult - and then charged accordingly. Now whatever they are busy at, it is not busy making money or success.

Re:Bookstores - are you trying to change hard enou (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746019)

If you're going "Big Box" then you are choosing to compete on price and selection. Unless there is something that strongly favors in-person pickup, like the exact avocado you want, critical timing, or outrageous delivery cost, then online is almost always going to beat big-box. They get to minimize physical plant costs and aesthetics in ways you just can't do if you have to interact with your customers.

If a physical store is going to compete with the internet-big-boxes, it has to offer something unique and personal that individuals are willing to pay a premium for. They can't stock everything but they can stock most of a genre. They can't compete on price, but they can have friendly, well-read staff who recognize you as a human being, can talk about books you've both read, and make more intelligent recommendations than Amazon's "this author you've read before has a new title."

Human interaction is the core of physical stores. Knowing which of your customers like to joke around a little, which prefer to be left on their own until they have a question, and recognizing when they come back are skills that will keep you in business. No one has a 'relationship' with Amazon, but you can have a relationship with your local bookseller. Of course, success still depends on their being enough warm bodies in their market area. For most purchases, most people seem perfectly content with finding their own way, completely devoid of interaction with a pimply-faced, minimum-wage, store drone. Or maybe they're willing to take the machine interface in favor of interacting with a pimply-faced, minimum-wage, angst-ridden kid. Which means that among the set of all book-buyers, those who go to the kitschy shop and chat up the sales staff are going to be a minority.

BSEOD ?!? (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 7 months ago | (#46745549)

Book Store Embrace Of Death!

Great for them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746033)

They can enjoy paying more for books at local bookstores. I'll continue to save significant money not buying from bookstores when I can help it.

they'll change their tune... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46746495)

when amazon rolls out same-day delivery in seattle..

Re:they'll change their tune... (1)

jkauzlar (596349) | about 7 months ago | (#46750319)

I doubt it. People who go to Elliot Bay probably aren't looking for the most popular books, as it's not the kind of place you'd find stacks of Twilight novels, and Amazon is not going to have a very large inventory in Seattle to acommodate every purchase. And we might be at the point now, where the people who go to bookstores are always going to go to bookstores, no matter how convenient online shopping gets.

RTFA Ratio 0.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46757951)

The headline is more or less NYT waving "hello" to WaPo. The article itself is about physical retailers having a place in the future, when even the makers of e-readers prefer physical books.

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