Best Book Shops
When it comes to investing in a new page-turner, there are plenty of options to choose from. While for some readers buying books is strictly about finding the right book at the right price, for others the experience of buying a book also counts.
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Latest review: Dymocks online has a great range of back list, new release and pre-orders. Most books ordered arrive quickly and if there is any sort of delay staff are in touch quickly to let me know a new
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Online vs physical book shops
Visiting a book shop
- In-person customer service means you can ask questions about books, get book recommendations, and let staff point you in the right direction
- Supporting local business and local jobs is an upside of buying books in-store, particularly for independent bookshops
- Returning or exchanging books is often easier (particularly if you shop at a chain store) as you don’t have to bother with going to the post office
- A sense of community can be created through shared interests. Bookshops often host events like poetry readings and author signings.
- No delivery costs as you're buying from the physical store
- More expensive than online bookstores, as books are usually always sold at the recommended retail price (RRP), and sales are infrequent
- Increased closures of physical bookshops means that there may be less available shops to browse in your local area
Benefits of physical book shops
There are plenty of benefits of buying in-store if you value a positive customer experience, interacting with knowledgeable bibliophiles in the form of well-read staff, and being able to read the blurb and flick through the pages before placing your new book over the counter.
Buying books online
- Cheaper prices are often offered, in the form of a permanent discount on the RRP
- Easy and convenient as you can browse and order books from the comfort of your home, even your bed if you like
- Shipping and delivery fees must be paid for the majority of online book retailers. With some online stores, spending over a certain amount waives the delivery fee.
- Time delay between ordering your books and receiving them means you have to patiently wait for your new volumes to arrive
- Customer service is limited to enquiries about transactions, not book-related questions or book recommendation requests
- A lack of community as most buying involves a fairly solitary process using a computer screen
- Can be a hassle to return books, especially if the retailer headquarters are located far away or overseas
Benefits of online book stores
There are a growing number of online book retailers, both within the country and operating overseas and shipping to Australia. A few popular online bookshops include , rated the number one bookshop on ProductReview.com.au, and Book Depository, based in the UK.
In a nutshell, online bookstores are usually cheaper than physical book shops. They can afford to be more competitive because they don’t have to factor in added costs like rent, utilities and staff wages.
If finding cheap books is what you prioritise, then buying online is probably the way to go. Just keep in mind that there's often a standard shipping rate. To ensure that the amount of money you save on cheaper books isn't cancelled out by paying delivery fees, it can help to order several books at a time.
Is it bad to buy books online?
A number of physical book stores have closed in recent years, because they simply cannot compete with online bookshops. In Sydney this includes the kids bookstore the Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft, Pages & Pages in Mosman and Lindfield Bookshop & Children’s Bookshop. Unfortunately, from a business perspective it’s cheaper to run an online store compared to a physical one.
The emergence and ongoing success of online bookstores can be a tricky subject for book lovers - especially the owners and staff of physical book shops.
Increasingly tough retail conditions and the fact that physical stores are continually losing customers to online book stores is a sore point. Sometimes readers step into a physical bookshop to browse the titles, then go back home to order their selections online. This behaviour is sometimes known as 'showrooming.'
For some readers, the phenomenon in recent years of book store closures makes them loyal to only buying from brick and mortar book stores. For others, the book retailer that can offer the lowest price will always get their book money. Ultimately, this depends on you and your personal preference, as buying from a physical book store or online book shop is neither inherently good nor bad - it depends on a number of variables.
In one instance, you may need to buy a last minute birthday gift for a friend. You have the perfect book in mind - but need to buy it and wrap it before their birthday party at the end of the day. In this case, a physical book store is going to be the only type of store that can help you.
Or perhaps you'd rather shop in-store, but your local bookstore doesn't have particularly helpful or friendly customer service (it can happen!) In this case, you may feel absolutely no ethical obligation to support that book store instead of buying your books online. It really depends on the situation.
Interestingly, some book stores have adapted to changing consumer trends by switching to becoming solely online due to the increased financial viability. An example is , which became an online book shop in 2011 after 125 years of physical bookselling.
Chain bookstores vs Independent bookstores
Chain bookstores are usually large companies. They have a recognisable brand name that shows up in several locations throughout Australia. They are usually Australian bookshops, but some have their base overseas, such as Kinokuniya, based in Japan.
Some chain bookstores are franchise-operated, such as Dymocks, while others are company owned, such as QBD The Bookshop.
Independent bookstores are standalone bookstores. They’re one-of-a-kind bookshops that aren’t controlled by a larger corporate structure, and are usually locally owned.
They’re often full of quirk and character. When you think of an independent bookshop, you might picture a bookseller with a calm smile and hipster glasses who reads Kafka, and casually impresses with their encyclopaedic knowledge of relatively unknown books.
The books you find in an independent bookstore often embrace diversity - culturally, linguistically, and historically. Catering to more than just mainstream likes, they're good for sourcing niche books for readers with specific interests.
Comparing the two - The similarities
While it’s likely that you’ve heard bibliophiles speaking passionately about the value of independent bookstores, both chain bookstores and independent bookshops have their merit.
It’s important and only fair to note that many chain bookstores are franchises, and so locally owned and often family-owned, too. Provided they're well managed, these chain bookstores are just as likely to be the favourite literary watering hole of locals as an independent bookshop is.
Both independent bookshops and chain bookstore are places where you can engage in the fun activity of browsing books. Whether it’s the calm, quiet atmosphere or the ability to flick through the pages at your leisure, for book lovers there's something undeniably magical about holding a potential new book in your hands and getting to know it.
Comparing the two - The differences
Range of books
Unique and extensive range of books beyond the bestsellers and new releases list . Can often have books on niche topics.
Mainly have titles from major publishers, but can special order books into the store at customer’s request
Often buy from ‘indie’ or self-published authors, and smaller publishing houses
Sometimes buy from indie authors, at the store’s discretion
Help local economy as they’re often locally-owned small businesses
Also help the local economy when individual stores are franchises. Many are also family-owned businesses.
Often have plenty of community events, including: book signings, book clubs, poetry readings, reading groups, and storytime events for kids
Also have community events, but may not be as extensive as independent bookstores. Author talks and book signings can be common.
One-of-a-kind in terms of shop set-up, display, and stock selection
More consistent experience across stores, including consistent branding and storefront appearance.
Is it better to buy new or used books?
Range of books
Buying second hand books can be a thrilling experience. When you walk into a second-hand book store, the element of surprise is high. It’s hard to predict what little gems you may find.
A used book store will have a higher number of older books than new book shops, which is more likely to stock older books if their popularity is ongoing. Second-hand book stores also have a wider selection of books that are no longer in print.
On the flipside, the cataloguing system in used book shops is not always as accurate as you’d find in a shop selling new books. Their shelving system may also be a little more chaotic than the orderly rows you'd encounter in a chain book store. As a result, if you’re looking for a specific title, it may be trickier to track down inside a second-hand bookshop.
While used books are often cheaper than new books, this isn’t always the case.
There are certain independent bookshops that are entirely second-hand, but the sticker price on many of the books might surprise you. Perhaps it’s because the book is rarer, but high prices can be the norm, even on popular titles from major publishing houses.
Condition of books
It goes without saying that used books are pre-loved, so they won’t come in the pristine condition that new books are sold in. Sometimes a bit of age adds character to a book, and at the end of the day the contents inside are the same as if the book was brand new.
When you buy second-hand books, you’re essentially recycling a book. This doesn’t generate demand for new products, which saves paper as well as the energy associated with printing new books.
Do bookstores only sell books?
Some bookstores don’t just sell books, and their range expands into other merchandise. Most commonly, this includes audiobook CDs, novelty gifts, stationery and even sheet music. Kinokuniya is also known for being a manga and comic book store.
Overall, where you choose to buy your books boils down to personal preference. Whether you buy new books or used books either in-store or online turns on what you prioritise most on your book buying journey.
These priorities can include: a low price, personable customer service, convenience, having a wide range of books to choose from, having your books available to read instantly, and having a sense of community with fellow book lovers.