Books: to stand in line or shop online?

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Sophia Hosford

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With the options to shop for books at local bookstores like Politics and Prose and online through Amazon, the consumer is constantly faced with the question of which avenue to choose.

In a local bookstore, a customer walks in and is instantly met by an abundance of books and people. They make their way through the rest of the store, notice employee reviews next to the bestsellers, rediscover an author they’d forgotten about, and maybe see a friend or two while in the checkout line. There’s even a feeling of contribution to the community because the only way to maintain these local businesses is to buy from them.

That being said, a local bookstore like Politics and Prose isn’t always ideal. Searching for parking, discovering that the needed book for English class is out of stock, and having to pay an extra few dollars is too much of a sacrifice for some people, making Amazon an easier and more affordable option.

“People really like that personal connection, and the time that I’ve worked here, there’s customers here who I see on such a regular basis who, we chat all the time, we talk all the time, and not just about books, but about what’s affecting them, what’s going on in their life,” said Politics and Prose Floor Manager Michael Triebwasser as an explanation for why some people make the trek to a physical store when Amazon can ship books directly to their doorstep. “I think people like that personal connection. It’s hard to replicate online,” Triebwasser said.

Amazon prides itself on quick delivery and is known to have a wide selection of books available ready for purchase at any given moment. It generates suggestions for the shopper and is typically cheaper than buying a book locally, which Triebwasser said is due to “not paying for a brick-and-mortar store like this… and they are not paying for staff the same way that we are.”

Both Amazon and local bookstores like Politics and Prose have their pros and cons. Amazon promotes an easy book-buying environment, but does not facilitate social connections and the human aspect like local bookstores do. A local bookstore is a welcoming place where you can see old friends and discover new authors, but you have to be willing to leave the comfort of your home and hope that your sought-out book is in stock.