Why I Don’t Buy Books From Bookstores

I want to make this crystal clear: I love bookstores. I love going to them and checking out the bookshelves and the magazine racks, and finding some good things to read. I discovered a bunch of books and magazine because of bookstores, including the .net Magazine, the best web development magazine out there. That being said, I find more and more often that I go into bookstores and leave empty handed. Here’s why.

Let me start off by saying that even though I have a Kindle and read magazines on my tablet from time to time, sometimes there is just no substitute for a real, physical book. This is especially true of programming and web development books, which I tend to reference a lot so I prefer the physical copy to its digital counterpart. I also have a pretty nice bookshelf that would go to waste if I didn’t keep buying print books. So I truly enjoy going into bookstores in hopes of finding something new to read, whether it be a coding book, fiction, or a new magazine. But as I said in the intro, I tend to go into bookstores with the intention of buying a book, and end up leaving empty handed. The culprit for this is technology as a whole, specifically smart phones, the Internet, and e-readers.

My Smart Phone, the Deal Finder

Smart phones are wonderful things. I can access just about anything I want from just about anywhere I want. And the apps…the apps are incredible. I have an app for my grocery list, an app to keep track of my TV schedule, and even an app to browse Amazon. As it turns out, the Amazon app allows me to scan barcodes and upload photos of book covers, which will show me that book as it appears on Amazon. I can then compare prices, add to my wishlist, or even purchase the book right there.

The Amazon App for Android

Generally when I do this, the price of the book on Amazon is 15-30% cheaper than the book in the bookstore, that I’m actually holding in my hands. While shipping can possibly be a factor for some, I have Amazon Prime (at the academic rate), so I get free two-day shipping on all items I order. Unless I need a book right that second, Amazon is the obvious way to go. But the Amazon app isn’t the only app that does this.

There are countless apps, including Google Shopper, that do a more comprehensive searches of multiple online retailers to give you the best deal on the Internet. Speaking of which…

The Internet Gives Me what I Need

The last couple of times I went to a bookstore looking for something, the store didn’t carry it. Hey, there’s not even a good bookstore in my area anymore because it went out of business. The obvious route in this case is to take to the Internet to find what I’m looking for and as long as it exists, I find it. Specifically, I was looking for the latest copy of the aforementioned .net Magazine, which is a UK-based magazine and generally hard to come by in the States. It seems most bookstores have stopped carrying the magazine, so I was forced to check online for the magazine, where I was able to find the latest issue as well as subscribe.

A lot of times, either for convenience or to just cut out a step in the product search process, I’ll check online straight away. It’s faster (to find the item), and as I pointed out before, cheaper. These two positives are usually worth the trade-off of having to wait a few days to get the book (or any item) I want. But even that trade-off is quickly disappearing because of the main reason I buy from bookstores less and less: the e-reader.

E-Readers are Changing How we Read

Whether you have embraced e-readers or not, there’s no denying that they are changing the way we read. They are more portable, they can carry hundreds (even thousands) of books on one device, and e-books are usually offered in a way that’s cross-platform. As a Kindle owner, I can read Kindle books on my Kindle, tablet, smart phone, or right from my browser. I don’t need an actual book with me to read it, as long as I have a device that has it downloaded or has the ability to download it.

The latest Kindle family

A lot of times when I discover a new book in a bookstore, I’ll see if there is a Kindle version available first (the exception being reference or technology related books). If there is, I’ll add it to my Amazon wishlist or order it right there and be done. I’ll have the book in a matter of seconds, it’s likely cheaper, and I don’t have a lug around an actual book while I shop. In this case, the benefits far out-weight the drawbacks, which as far as I can tell is just the preference of having a “real book.”


As someone who has embraced e-readers, I rarely find myself purchasing from brick-and-mortar bookstores anymore. While I do enjoy a physical book from time to time, I love my Kindle and can get books cheaper and instantly 99% of the time. Even if you don’t have an e-reader, having the ability to price-check and even order books from a smart phone makes it really hard to justify spending the extra 15-30% just to get the book that moment. While I do like shopping at bookstores, because of technology, more often than not I’m going into them, finding books I want, and then ordering them online either right from the store or when I get home.

What do you think? Do you still buy books from bookstores? Is it different in other countries (I’m located in the United States)? And have you ever found yourself comparison pricing other items, even larger items like kitchen appliances, only to find you can order it cheaper online?