The foolishness of not buying from AmazonPosted: July 10, 2011
Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I stumbled on this recording from BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this afternoon:
Arts Correspondent Will Gompertz talks to Penguin’s John Makinson, The Bookseller’s Neill Denny and blogger Adrian Hon about the impact of digitisation on books and publishing. It’s an interesting listen, but the element that has stuck with me is the vox pop half way through, wherein we hear from a Foyle’s customer, interviewed on the Charing Cross Road pavement.
To paraphrase, she says that she was passing Foyle’s, and loves it, but normally of course she’d buy her books on Amazon, because of the price saving. This is very matter of fact; Amazon and the bookshop are no longer occupying the same mental space for this consumer. Amazon is the obvious, default place to buy a book – indeed, it’s almost perverse to go into a bookshop, but an occasional mad fling is OK. Thus the bookshop moves from an inclusive place for everyone who enjoys browsing and buying books, to the equivalent of an expensive boutique, or fancy cake shop- maybe you’ll go in there for a guilty indulgence, but it doesn’t make financial or any other kind of sense to visit too often. (And of course, she isn’t shopping at “an online bookshop”, she’s shopping at what might as well be “the only online bookshop”.)
I may be extrapolating a little too much from a snatched moment on-mike, but those who consume books, rather than fetishising bookshops, are likely to be thinking more and more in this way.
Which in turn supports the appearance of the Assouline shop inside Liberty on Great Marlborough Street. Like all department stores, Liberty used to have an eclectic book department which reflected its clientèle and their interests. There are still some gift books on tables here and there elsewhere in the store, but Assouline provides the mad fling or naughty treat – with prices from around £20 to hundreds of pounds. I like the Assouline offer, and I thought their second-hand section (branded “Vintage”, like a classic Yves St Laurent frock, and priced accordingly) was very cleverly done. But Liberty customers, like the woman outside Foyle’s, will get their bread-and-butter books (physical or digital) from Amazon. The book as a collectible or an extravagance, rather than a staple, moves another step closer.
Assouline photo: http://www.assouline.com