Saturday, January 05, 2008

Browsing a bookstore

Is it wrong to browse in a bookstore and not buy? This was a question raised on The Simple Dollar. It really made me stop and think, because I never buy books at a bookstore. The person asking had read and article by a small bookstore owner complaining about people who browse but never buy.

Saying that many people would come in and browse, write down titles, then go online and order the books. Or others would go the library to borrow the books, I tend to fall in this category. Anyway, though the owner was complaining about the loss of business.

And people responded that if they didn't buy books, they did use the coffee shop in the store. And that many went online to the same larger book retailer. But for small shops, they didn't have any answer.

Do you think it's wrong to browse and not buy books? And specifically walk out and either borrow the books or buy them online later?

What a moral dilemma. The frugalite in me says it's not wrong, but now I do feel bad for browsing in the bookstore. I love books, and am a passionate borrower from the library. I also do paperback trade, and usually if I do buy a book, it's used and online, never new. So I feel terrible now, but I also don't ever go into a small bookshop. I only go to the conviently located Border's or BN.

But does that justify my browsing? DH loves to go and listen to CDs, but again he'll either buy it used, online, or I'll get it from the library.

So is browsing in a bookstore not frugal, but morally wrong and actually cheap?


Anonymous said...

What a silly comment for the bookstore owner to make! There's nothing wrong with browsing without buying, just as there's nothing wrong with going shopping for clothes or browsing in a hardware store or any other retail shop without buying something. Sometimes you find what you want, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you just want to see what's out there!

I've been a member of The Book-of-the-Month Club since about 1974. I can't tell you much many thousands of dollars I've spent with them over the years and how many thousands I've spent at my local bookstore. These days, however, I rip out the pages from the BOMC monthly bulletin and add them to the folder of books I plan to take out from the library. There are still a very few books I'll buy, but these days I'm wearing out my library card not my wallet or budget.


I'm Grace. said...

While I understand the small bookstore owner's frustration, it is also true that you provide traffic in his store which makes it more appealing to other customers. Plus there's always the chance you will break your rule because something about the book, his price, or the way the book is presented will call to you, and you will part with some of your precious cash. He's lucky you were in the store, whether you buy or not.

Living Almost Large said...

I can definitely see Barb1954 point especially about browsing for clothes. How many people will try on 10-20 different shirts to find the perfect shirt? And is it wrong to browse, or should they be more selective beforehand?

Interesting parallel.

Fabulously Broke in the City said...

I agree with Barb because it's not because you stepped into the store and are going to DEFINITELY spend money. It's just browsing... like trying on clothes.. :P

MEG said...

Every small retailer is bound to feel that way--of course you want to make sales rather than watch people peruse your merchandise and then walk out! I used to work at a very upscale (read: expensive) retail store and was continually amused at the store owner's frustration when someone would come in and not make a purchase. How absurd! The customer shouldn't feel bad for not purchasing anything!

Small bookstore owners are bound to be frustrated with browsers, but the truth is that you aren't going to have anyone in your store at all if you discourage the practice. Book-lovers love to browse; that's why we go to bookstores in the first place rather than just ordering online. That's also why most bookstores have cushy couches and sell food and beverages. Sure, sometimes you get people in who don't buy anything. But overall you'll make more sales.

And I seriously doubt many people browse bookstores for ideas and then go home just to order the book online or get it at the library. Some might, but they're certainly the minority.

PS - I make a point to go to the bookstore, order a coffee, and read a pile of magazines for free once a month or so rather than having a lot of expensive subscriptions. I spent plenty of money there throughout the year though.

Anonymous said...

What about reading magazines while you are waiting on line at the grocery store? How do you feel about that?

Living Almost Large said...

I try to checkout asap. So I usually go to selfcheck out and it doesn't have a line. So I don't have time to read magazines in line.

But seems like a lot of people take offense to the bookstore owner not wanting browsers.

I like browsing, but yes I rarely buy. And I usually do the library, but I do order online as well. So I'm in the minority.

But I definitely browse when clothes shopping because I hate ordering clothes online to find they don't fit. But I never feel obligated when clothes shopping to buy just for browsing.