Bibliophiles fear the day when brick-and-mortar stores are phased out and e-books rule the market. Those of us addicted to collecting paper books and maintaining our bookshelves know that the age of the book is not dying; rather, books are fast moving to the digital sphere. And we don’t like it. Regardless of the benefits offered by technology, our nostalgic hearts yearn for the smell of worn pages and the sensation of flipping through a thick volume – neither of which can be fulfilled by e-readers.
I am not alone in that I still prefer a printed, paper book to the now popular e-book devices (Kindles, iPads, or Amazon Readers). Though the industry is quickly shifting from paper to electronically based products and transactions, the book is not dying.
Publishers are receiving as many, if not more, submissions than ever before. The digital age has made submitting as well as obtaining texts easier than ever. There are now multitudes of ‘free’ catalogs and databases online, where students can access classic books, poems, and even sometimes textbooks for free, or for a fee.
However, with the advent of e-books, and with Amazon’s competitive pricing, local and independent bookstores suffer. As bibliophiles, we must continue to support local bookish businesses and authors.
“The traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore simply can’t survive in the age of online book selling.”
Barnes and Noble remains one of the only brick-and-mortar giants in the literary industry that is still able to compete with Amazon (having pushed out the Borders chain in 2010). Barnes & Noble is holding its own against Amazon with their books-and-more strategy that relies on the sale of toys and educational games, despite their falling sales and rising debts.
Compared to online retailers, bookstores present a frustrating consumer experience. A physical store inevitably offers a smaller selection, can present no customer reviews, and require physically searching individual titles yourself or with a salesperson. Even though shops typically catalog their books in a search engine, customers must know exactly what they want – there are no ‘similar recommendations’ in bookstores. On the other hand, Amazon can suggest books to you based on others you’ve read, and even memorizes your preferences to tailor your experience. In the past, the advantage that bookstores had over online retailers was that you could read any book before you purchased it. But in the age of the e-book, digitization commonly allows online customers to sample the first chapter or selected pages.
Amazon has made it easier for unknown authors to have the opportunity to publish or self publish their books, however, with the multitude of self-published e-books, many get lost in the masses. Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, runs a more exclusive publishing program. However, if one can jump through the hoops, anyone who is published and promoted through Barnes and Noble is bound to sell-out. As a former employee, I can see benefits and drawbacks of both the major publishers.
Local bookshops offer something to the community that Barnes and Nobles’ corporate chains overlook: local engagement. Whereas Barnes and Noble corporate makes decisions on who to publish and what to advertise, in store and online, local business owners have total control over what they stock in their own independent stores. At Barnes and Noble, corporate policy mandates each store to be a cookie-cutter version of the flagship. Across the nation, book displays are the same, meaning that those who make it to the top are bound to be seen and purchased in-store, but other authors are shortchanged. Local sellers have the ability to make their own rules, which fosters better engagement on a local level and allows for more variety in-store.
Below, we have compiled a list of some of the best and brightest Bookshops in San Diego. With the sad closures of some of our favorite local shops, Fifth Avenue Books and Nina’s Books, we wanted to take a moment to shout-out some of our favorite local bookshops. Thanks for holding it down.
An independent bookstore specializing in theology (religious texts), philosophy & history, along with many other subjects. The store offers a large selection of American History and Western Americana, Military History, Literary Criticism, Shakespeare Studies, Art and Architecture, Mystery and Science Fiction, Jewish Studies, Eastern Religions, and Cook Books. Only a fraction of our inventory (less than 10%) is cataloged for online sale and browse-able through their website. One of the highlights of Adams Avenue Bookstore are the cats: Bartlebey (left) and Felixia (right) roam freely throughout the stacks, looking for pets while you browse. 3502 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 | Wed. 12–8PM; Th-Sat. 10AM-6PM; Sun. 12-5PM; Mon-Tues. 10AM-6PM | (619) 281-3330.
A “brick-n-mortar” REAL BOOKSHOP since 1967, Blue Stocking Books intends to carry on the full-service neighborhood bookshop customs and traditions: where magical life-changing books are discovered, toddlers squeal in delight at the sight of a book they recognize, old friends strolling together find common loves in literature & history, true loves meet and dogs sit politely for a treat. They stock mostly used books and are happy to order both new and used books upon request.
Footnote Books has been dedicated to buying and selling book-ish ephemera since 1991. Selling premium used books Carry a selection of most subjects; History, Military History (hundreds of Osprey titles) Social Sciences, Cooking, Art, Photography, General and Classic Fiction, Science Fiction, Graphic Novels, Poetry, Drama, Literature, Paper Ephemera. Located at the former site of the legendary comic shop Comic Kingdom started by Comic Con co-founder Richard Alf in 1975.
Kobey’s outdoor market is a place to find bargains and unique items. As San Diego’s biggest outdoor market, it is bargain-hunter’s paradise drawing more than 1,000 sellers and 20,000 shoppers weekly. Kobey’s is a great place to find affordable, used books. With multitudes of vendor booths to sift through, it is hard to leave the swap meet without having found something of interest. Every week is a different experience, and vendors are constantly bringing in new finds. You can always print coupons for $1 entry from home, or find them in the Free San Diego Readers. FREE Readers can be found at 7/11, AM/PM, Circle K, Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, Stater Bros., and CVS. Call us at 619-235-3000 for other locations.
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