Friday, August 5, 2011

Scan it Here, Buy it There: Bookstore browsing with intent to buy elsewhere

I saw an article today on Shelf Awareness discussing how book sellers can discourage people who whip out their electronic devices and scan bar codes of books in the store when they are obviously doing so to search it online and buy it for cheaper.  Honestly, I shop in a lot of different places for books and I don't recall ever seeing anyone do this.  In fact I had a Barnes & Noble employee come up to me one day after seeing me carrying around my list and tell me it would be much easier if I had one of those portable scanners so I could just scan the bar code and make my list that way and it would be much easier to organize.  Maybe I'm just in my own little world when book shopping and this does happen but I don't notice it.

My second thought after reading the article was "I wonder if employees of those places think I am one of those people?".  When I shop I usually take a blank piece of paper and a pen with me.  I have a mental list of what is on my WL and as I'm browsing I write titles on my list that they have available on one side and new titles of interest on the other side.  After I've done the whole store I'll sit down and decide which ones I'm going to buy for that particular trip.  I've never had any bookstore employee approach me to ask what I'm doing but now I think I might be a tad paranoid about it.  I do know if someone came up to me and accused me of making that list with the intent of buying online, it would probably ruffle my feathers a bit and I would probably be reluctant to return for awhile.  I am also the crazy lady that compulsively straightens all the books that were carelessly put back so they should be happy for my visit anyway.

My first question is does this happen often in places you shop and if so are book sellers doing anything to discourage it?  On the one hand I think bookstores should discourage this because they can't stay in business if people are looking there but choosing to buy from Amazon.  On the other hand they risk offending customers who may not return. 

I really feel for the Indie bookstores.  I try to shop my Indies as much as I can because I don't want them to go away but I am also guilty of shopping at Barnes & Noble because they are closest to my house (and I get discounts with the card) and every once in awhile placing orders at Bookcloseouts.  So my second question is: which matters more-the price or helping the underdog out?  I'd like to say my choice is the latter but I have limited disposable income so that isn't entirely true.  As usual I'm nosy curious about the buying habits of others. Thoughts?


  1. I will admit. I am an amazon-er. I can find books way cheaper than at Barnes and Noble, etc. I have discovered a small second hand book store that sells books for $1 each at times. They catalog their books online, so I purchase them online and then go pick them up to avoid shipping costs!

  2. I visit my local bookstores frequently (large chains) and have never seen this done. I don't have an issue with it myself since I often take my phone out to make note of book titles I'm interested in - and, yes, I'll often later purchase these titles online since they are cheaper. But, in many cases I'll use the online version of the bookstores I visit so the company is still getting my money anyway. I still buy in store when the mood strikes me-which I admit is often- and the staff at the bookstores I visit recognize me as a frequent customer.

    That said, I'm also a big user of since the prices can be significantly less than they are elsewhere and the free shipping is a big bonus. Price is a factor for me since I buy all of my books, so online bookstores are my preference, but I still buy in store since I love the feeling of walking out of bookstore with a few new books :-)

  3. If they were going to approach someone with their electronic gadget out it would probably be me. I have a list of 400 something to be read books on my list on Goodreads. Now with the goodreads app I pull out my phone and look for those titles when I am browsing. I would think it would be common for someone to be browsing a bookstore with a list. I know I cannot remember every detail about every book I'm interested in taking a peek at.

    Rarely do I pass up the opportunity to buy if they have the book I'm looking for. I have turned to online shops when they don't have what I want and can't order it.

  4. I haven't done this, but I don't think it's wise for them to confront customers about it. First of all, they can't know if you are texting someone or looking at your TBR pile on Goodreads or ordering from Amazon without being in your personal space and I don't think they have a right to ask.

    Money is tight for a lot of people. I recently went to a Borders that's closing because I don't have money and my mom agreed to buy me some books because they were 20% off. I buy a lot from Amazon with my gift cards (and when I had money, I used that) because I have a Kindle and they are cheaper. I've used Book Depository before as well. I don't know of any decent indie book stores in my area or else I would try to support them, but I, like a lot of us, am not made of money and I don't think it's wrong for us to buy what we can afford. Tons of people buy their food from a chain grocery store or a Walmart rather than a Trader Joe's or something similar and more expensive, you know?

    The Musings of ALMYBNENR

  5. Allison-we have 1 second hand bookstore here that has their inventory online and I love it.

    Melissa-I note the titles I may want later too. No way I'd be able to purchase every book I wanted from the bookstore without looking elsewhere for at least some of them. I guess the article just struck me kind of weird because I would never go in a bookstore and scan a big list of books and then walk out. I would buy something from that store before I left.

    Teresa-If I ever decide to step out of the dark ages and own a cell phone again I think I would love that app. Handwritten lists take forever.

    Amber-Maybe not confront them directly. I can see that ending badly for some hapless bookstore employee. If they did something like the stores that are putting up the subtly worded "buy from us and we'll stay in business" signs that would be ok. I guess I just don't get why people would go in bookstores and scan away and not at least buy something to help that business out. Like with your example you don't go to Trader Joes to figure out what cereal you like and then go get it at Walmart-you just go straight to Walmart. I agree there is nothing wrong with buying within your means. I'm a big fan of Goodwill and FOL sales for when $ is running low :)

  6. While I have no issue with scanning or writing book titles down for your wish list, I definitely agree with you Holly that it is weird for someone to go to a bookstore solely to scan titles if they have no intent of ever buying from the company.

  7. This is slightly different, but I often pull out my Kindle to check my reading list if I'm in bookstores, especially used bookstores. This way I know what I've read, but also I keep a lot of sample chapters on my Kindle so I know which books I want to buy. My husband is always horrified when I do it, but I've never had a salesperson question me about it. And if they did I doubt I would buy anything there.