Monday, June 2, 2014

Empowering the Reader in the Book Battle: Where to Buy Books Now

Amazon vs. Hachette: The first battle in a larger war between Amazon and traditional New York publishing. Sides have been staked out and there's plenty you can read online from either point of view.  I have listed a few examples below:

New York Times: Amazon vs. Hachette: When does Discouragement become Misrepresentation?
Hugh Howey: Amazon and Hachette Go To War
Publisher's Weekly: Much at Stake in Amazon-HBG Fight
Huffington Post: Amazon vs. Hachette: A Custody Battle of for the Future of Books
Fortune: In a standoff between Amazon and Hachette, the customer comes last
The Atlantic: How the Amazon-Hachette Fight Could Shape the Future of Ideas

And on and on and on.  If you don't like those sources, a couple minutes with your favorite search engine can turn up a few dozen more articles.  In this fight, authors have become bargaining chips and cannon fodder.  Reader are collateral damage in the fight for what's "right and fair." As an author, I'm obviously biased and I'm not going to try to define what's "right and fair" for authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers. (Hell, if you locked the four groups in a room together for the next 20 years, we still couldn't agree on exactly what is "fair and right" for everyone.)

I'm not here to debate any of that -- interesting though it may be.  I'm here to put the power back into the hands of readers. Do you know you have options beyond Amazon for ebooks? Do you know you have options beyond Barnes & Noble for brick-and-mortar stores?

(Now don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of great deals, options, and perks from each of them. But as they fight their wars with New York publishers, each has hurt the reader - Amazon has made it difficult to get Hachette books and Barnes & Noble has created difficulties getting Simon & Schuster books.  And I sincerely believe that these are not going to be isolated incidents.)

I know that I got into a rut with one source for books. My favored source was quick, easy, and had good prices. But should that bookseller be my only source?  With this battle continuing, it doesn't appear to be a good idea any longer. As a reader, are you aware of all the options you have available to you? (I'm going to assume you have enough respect for me and other authors not to download illegal copies.)

I invite you to go on an adventure with me.  Let's dig for some killer sources of books - both print and digital.

Unlimited Reading -- free or for a monthly fee

Public Library

For access to free books, your best source is the public library.  When was the last time you checked out your local library? Did you know that most now have ebooks, many loan out ereaders, and you can get on a book waiting list online?  If they don't have what you want, a lot of libraries now make it possible to submit suggestions for books you'd like them to get online.  Next time you're longing for something new to read, take a minute to pop onto your library online and see what options they have available.

Scribd and Oyster: the Netflix of Books

How about unlimited access to digital books for a flat monthly fee?  Scribd and Oyster both boast libraries of more than 100,000 books each.  For either, you pay a flat monthly fee and have access to all the books they have.  Not bad.  Sure, there are holes in their libraries, but both are relatively young services. (Remember Netflix in the early days -- particularly their streaming service -- there was a lot missing there too but it improved as new deals were made.) I have a feeling their offerings will continue to grow as time passes and demand grows.

If you would like to see some unbiased reviews, check out:

All Things D
CNN Money

And if you're still not sure, it looks like both allow you to do a free trial.  If you love ebooks, it might be worth your time to give them a try.

The Wide World of Electronic Books

Amazon certainly became the center of the Electronic Book World fast, but they're not the only game in town. One of the benefits with Amazon was that no matter what tablet or ereader you had, you could always add the Kindle app for free, allowing you to buy books via Amazon and read them in the Kindle app.  It took a while, but many other developers/booksellers caught on to this game.  If one bookseller is going to make it hard to get the book you want, is it such a bad idea to have a back-up in place so you can get exactly what you want? Here are some options:

iBooks -- only available on Apple products
Barnes & Noble Nook app
Kobo app
Google Books app
Kindle app

Are these your only options? Heck no! But it's a good starting place. There are plenty of articles out there about ereader apps, such as: 10 Best Reader Apps.

Print Books: When You Long for the Feel of Paper

When I was living in Kentucky, I fell in love with my local Borders store. It was close, had a great selection, and had good prices.  And then it closed, breaking my heart.  It wasn't long after that Joseph-Beth Booksellers moved in and I was in heaven once again.  And then I moved.  Whether you prefer to have a physical copy in your hands or just like browsing through a bookstore for new books, you should know what your options are.

Indie Bookstores: A Hidden Treasure

Independent Bookstores can be a secret treasure.  They are usually staffed by people who love reading as much as you, can suggest authors you might not have heard of, and have the added bonus of benefiting the community that you call home.  One added cool thing is that many specialize, such as Indie book stores that specialize in crime or romance.  Does your area have an Indie book store?  Do a quick search online.  Consider stopping in and checking one out when you're running errands this weekend. You might be pleasantly surprised.

What if you prefer to do you book shopping online but still want to support Indie bookstores?  Well, my dear reader, I've got a site for you.  IndieBound.

IndieBound can help connect you with hundreds of independent bookstores that can get that book you're looking for in your hands. Next time you're thinking you'd like to buy a book or two, check them out. What's more, a number of Indie booksellers also sell ebooks and ereaders.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores ... and More

With the closing of Borders and even Barnes & Noble shuttering some of its locations, it can seem a daunting task to find alternative places to buy books, but there still are plenty of options out there and so many are more than happy to ship to you.  What's more, many place offer ebooks as well as print books. Have you tried:

Barnes & Noble
Books - A - Million
Book Depository

What Options Have You Tried?

As you may have guessed, this is only the tip of the iceberg of what's out there when it comes to finding avenues to obtaining the types of books you love.  With the battles continuing between the booksellers and the book publishers, there are going to be times when it is hard to find the author that you love or the book you've been waiting months to get your hands on. Don't let yourself get screwed by being caught in the middle.  Have a back-up plan. Try out some other avenues now. If you like ebooks, have a few apps at your fingertips so you're never without your favorite book. If you like print books, try out several vendors.  Put the power back into the hands of readers!

A Special Request for Bloggers

Book bloggers provide special and valued services. You have the ability to reach out to hundred and thousands of avid readers.  You help readers discover authors and books they may never have heard of.  You convince readers to try books they may never have considered on their own. You entertain, inform, and guide readers through the publishing jungle.

Now I have humble request. With the ongoing war, I submit that now is a great time to try out new avenues of acquiring books and tell your readers about it.  Is there a bookseller you love?  Why?  Have you completed the free trial of Scribd or Oyster?  What did you think?  I know many get advanced reader copies from sites like Edelweiss, but what do you do when you actually buy a book for yourself?  I think your readers would really appreciate the information from a trusted, impartial source.

And for my blog readers, is there a source for books that I didn't mention that you love?  Do you love to buy books from eBay? Or is there a bookseller you think I should have mentioned?  Please leave a comment. Other readers would love to know.


Christina said...

Thanks for the info.

I sometimes buy direct from the publisher such as Riptide, Samhain etc..

frances Ridley said...

Now that we are stationed in AZ I shop at Hastings it's not my favorite witch was books a million but they don't have them this far west. I would also like to thank you for the information .