Traditionally, to buy a book, you’d go to a bookstore. Bookstores are great, aren’t they? Aisles, shelves, stacks, filled with books. The smell of the paper, leather, binding, it’s intoxicating. The bright covers. The smooth leather with gilded impressed titles. The words on white paper. So many stories. So many places books can take you. Bookstores that sell second hand books are even better. You never know what treasures you will find.
Books can be bought many places, of course. Even the corner gas station often has a rack of paperback books. The airport and train station both certainly always have several, so that travelers can wile away the hours waiting for and sitting on their journeys. Books are a staple of second hand stores and charity shops. Department stores, grocery stores, “big box” retailers like Costco all have book sections.
And the internet, that world wide web of possibilities, is where readers have an endless and nearly infinite choice. I think Amazon was the first big internet book retailer (I may be mistaken but that’s how I remember it) and boy, did it take off! There are now Amazon sites all over the world. It’s really quite mind-boggling. Amazon also now carries a wide variety of items and independent companies also sell things through Amazon. There are other book retailers, companies that have “real life” bookstores that then extended their business to the virtual world (Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Waterstone’s, just to name a few of the English retailers.)
Amazon was one of if not the first to sell eBooks with their reader, Kindle. Apple and Google both have their own e-book sites but I think Kindle is still King. While I don’t have a Kindle, I do use the Kindle app on my smartphone because sometimes you can get a really good sale on a book from Amazon. I use a Kobo ereader that is less restrictive and in some cases, will even allow me to read a Kindle-format book. Best of both worlds!
Recently, I discovered two online book retailers. These are for real books, not electronic books. The first is BookOutlet (that link is for .ca (Canada) but I believe they also have a .com site, too). BookOutlet sells discounted books and the deals there are amazingly attractive. They also carry “scratch and dent” sales, selling slightly damaged books for an even deeper discount. Their bog-standard shipping costs are reasonable, with the price for shipping rising depending on how urgently you want delivery. (but orders over $100 are automatically shipped by UPS and require a signature) I warn you, though, you can get sucked in and spend a lot of money, even with/because of the discounts. You can also build a wishlist if you want to reign yourself in and spread out the cost so you don’t bend that credit card too much in one go.
While the prices, if you’re in Canada, do show in Canadian dollars, they are an approximation based on the current exchange rate if the original book only has an American price. I think they are actually a Canadian company and there is an actual store in Southern Ontario. They also take Paypal in addition to the standard credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express).
The other is Book Depository. That one is based in the UK. You can see the prices in your home country’s currency. You do get some discount but it’s not as radical as BookOutlet. However, they ship internationally for free! That can be quite a saving if you’ve bought a lot. I find that the selection is more extensive here as well and I’ve seen books and authors here that I don’t see on Canadian sites. For instance, on BookOutlet, I saw books 4 and 5 of a Fantasy series called Throne of Glass. On Book Depository, I can get the whole series from the start. I was looking for adult colouring books today and, as you can see from this picture here, I found one that reproduces Norman Rockwell posters! How cool is that?
Why? Because, according to their website, BookOutlet sells new books that were returned to the publishers as excess inventory or returns in addition to the slightly damaged books. They aren’t like a regular site or bookstore that has everything from a publisher. Does it matter? Not in the least but you might not find what you’re looking for. If you do, you’ll save money. Book Depository might be where you want to go to find it. It doesn’t hurt to compare, though. Check against Amazon or other online booksellers for sales, especially the ones that have free shipping over a minimum purchase. Comparison shopping online is just as important as on the street.
Book Depository accepts Visa, Mastercard, Visa debit, Paypal, American Express, Delta and Maestro for payment. For me, I’d check BookOutlet first and then Book Depository if what I wanted wasn’t available. I have to say I rarely buy a book in a bookstore anymore, though I do still love to browse in one. I get ideas on what’s newly released and I like the gift sections. I mainly buy ebooks for reading but there are other gems I can only buy as “hard” copies, such as colouring books, children’s books, travel guides (because I love the colour pictures and they’re easier to flip back and forth and put sticky notes in or use highlighters to mark pages), and any kind of book with illustrations or maps. If a book is on sale or if it’s a kind of book that does not lend itself well to an eReader, then I will buy a hard copy.
A quick shout out to some local bookstores here in the Halifax region:
The main “big box” retailer is Chapters. (owned by Indigo). My mother and I enjoy browsing and we, along with my niece, always go after Christmas to spend our gift cards. There are several good second hand book stores, with John Doull’s being very good. He’s moved his shop to Main Street in Dartmouth where he’s got a lot more room than he had on the old Barrington Street, Halifax location. I’m not sure if Back Pages is still open. I think perhaps it isn’t. There is also Bookmarks on Spring Garden Road, a lovely independent seller of new books. They carry some great titles and have some good sales.
An excellent children’s book store is Woozles, on Birmingham Street, off Spring Garden. It’s Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore, apparently. I notice they have a home delivery service one evening a week. That’s convenient. Schooner Books on Inglis Street in Halifax is another long time independent retailer of rare books specializing in Canadian, Atlantic Canada, history and rarities. Read about them here.
One more mention, this on the west coast of Canada in the town of Sidney on the Sea, Vancouver Island. There are a number of unique bookstores here, most in the general area of Beacon Street or just off it on a couple of side streets, including one I’ve been in, The Haunted Bookshop (second hand, antiquarian). There’s a website and you can see a bit about each shop. I’ve got Sidney on my list for an upcoming trip to Victoria this November. One of the bookshops specializes in Military and History books. I may not have mentioned that history is one of my interests!
Tell me about your favourite local bookstore or online book seller.