I will make a big exception for second-hand bookstores though. The character of a second-hand shop is very hard to replicate online, as is the opportunity for serendipity. Every online shop has a search function that beats the life out of chance finds. In a second-hand shop you may happen upon a book that has been sitting on a shelf for years (maybe even misplaced) waiting just for you. I cannot resist that siren call.
I visited the US last year. In a charming little second-hand bookstore (including a grumpy owner) in Flagstaff I chanced upon the collected works of Carol Shields. I had never heard of her but she may well turn out to be a literary love for life. Thank you, grumpy owner.
Owner, from the front register, in a rather annoyed voice: "You know, you should call ahead, so I can tell you if we have your title, and have it ready for you when you come. We don't have room for customers to be rummaging around." So, we accepted defeat, and as we went to leave, the store phone rang, and the owner picked up. After a beat, and as I was stepping out the door, I heard the owner grumpily responding to the caller: "How should I know? I can't keep track of all the books here; you have to come in and look for it yourself..."
Its owner was a grey-haired and bearded, gruffish old-school book dealer. I was looking for an obscure French novel which was (I did not know) unlikely to be found anywhere, then or now.
After quickly trying my luck and utterly failing, I asked about it by author and title. Melvin looked down, shuffled a bit, then said he'd have a look. Upstairs around the firepole he trudged. Five minutes of bumping, ten minutes of shuffling, and down the stairs he came holding it. "It's a little dusty," he offered.
I'd pay a sizeable sum to be able to relive that moment.
I've bought many, many books there for a while, particularly the rare (and expensive when new) "Guillaume Budé" books in their original, paper-cover, uncut editions (https://www.lesbelleslettres.com/les-budes). Some very sad day, the guy died and the magic store closed forever.
I think the low visual density of an online shopping page vs an in-store display is part of the challenge in replicating that experience.
Walking into a room guaranteed to be filled with treasures, joys and learnings, what digital experience can mirror that?
Really it is like life of an individual person I suppose. There will be many more like them, tbose that echo them but an exact duplicate reoccuring is impossible because the world changes around them. It won't lack for similar treasures, joys, and learning but it won't be the same.
I get more of a thrill from bookstore displays because they give me a sense of the current literary zeitgeist, especially if the owner is a reader and has curated the display carefully. Bookstores have more of an incentive to push new stuff.
Unfortunately when I went to graduate school the sorting shelves were hidden behind the circulation desk.
 Unless there was a hold on the book, in which case it would be kept at the circulation desk--so the most popular books never made it to the sorting shelves.
And unsorted returns have a "customers who liked this also liked" aspect.
That's my problem with libraries, other than university ones: they're massively biased towards fiction. Basically printed Netflix.
I don't consider my local library if I need to learn something or research science or history. It doesn't even have the shelf of encyclopedias that it did when I worked there as a student 30 years ago.
Few of the best books are recent, as Schopenhauer noted.
Though LibGen + Gutenberg + Archive.org are increasingly preferable, especially for obscure interests.
But one of my girlfriend's and my favorite dates is to just find a bookstore and just walk around. (Often we use B&N because of availability, but we try to find local when we can.) We don't usually come away having purchased anything, but just walking around and talking about books you've heard of or read, and leafing through some of the pages to see if anything catches your eye — I love that. I also like that bookstores are often a bit more aesthetic than the local library, plus they frequently have a cafe attached or adjacent where you can sit for a while afterwards, sometimes with some new books to poke through.
Personally, I'd be happier to see a thriving library and a well-loved book still going strong than see it with perfect, uncracked book-bindings.
"This Book Belongs to Ken Xxxxx for you see no other human being would read such trash. - Guess Who"
followed by, in another hand:
"your just jelous because you don'T UNDersTaNd IT!"
Best book review ever.
So much this.
I don't even bother looking for scifi there, as there's pretty much nothing. Most of the rest of the books are clearly targeted towards young readers.
Where I browse for books are thrift stores. Some deceased person's books get dumped there, and I've found and bought a ton of cool books there. Being a thrift store, they're cheap as dirt, too. Lots of old scifi, too!
(Walter, would you know if Powell's still exists in its original form?)
 buying by bulk resulted in many duplicates, which they'd leave in a pile at the front door for guests to take away.
I'm currently neck-deep in a subject, and was searching for an expensive (80€) reference book online, and serendipitously I came across a search result pointing to my local university.
I immediately biked to the university (15-minute ride), paid a piddling amount of 15€ (or 25€, I forget) as the membership fee for the faculty library, and loaned that book and a couple of others. Pretty neat.
Since then, I discovered, 95% of all the serious scholarly works that I want to refer to are available at the university faculty library.
By Jove do I struggle to express how delighted I am to have stumbled across that online search result (here Google gets my gratitude!), which led to many fruitful (non-null) pointers. I already spend substantial money on physical books, so this discovery of faculty library has been an outstanding find.
HOWEVER, since selections and recommendations are algorithmically generated, and clearly drive towards sponsored artists (and sometimes what appear to be algorithmic black holes: looking at you Tycho), the variety of the recommendations I get tends to get be pretty damn stale. It takes substantial effort on my part to introduce variety into the system and when allowed to run on its own, it always seems to regress towards a very static set of recommendations.
I think the analog variant of this, a record store resolves this by at least forcing you to walk past a bunch of music you might not have other wise listened to. Same thing is true with the book store. You might not be into the classics, but you'll walk past them everytime to get to sci-fi. Eventually you might be like, eh, sure, lets try out some Dostoevsky.
I think a possible resolution to this is to stop treating recommendation algorithms as a purely a product recommendation system or as some black box secret sauce. Give people the ability to work with and manually adjust the algorithms that are built to offer them products/ make recommendations. Allow users to work in partnership with the algorithms to get a more varied (or less varied) range of recommendations.
the fact that Bandcamp seems to be the best payout to artists as well as free unlimited ad-free streaming and drm-free downloads of your library makes it really attractive compared to other options.
I think most people are already there. Even non technical people see their recommandations get flooded by dozens of similar videos, and quickly realize they’ll have to find by themselves different videos if they want to see their recommended stream change.
I had my son explain he didn’t want to click on the unboxing video even if he was interested, because it would make all his feed unboxing videos.
Not everyone has the openness to new experience trait.
CSS extensions (Stylus) and uBlock origin's element blocker can remove YT's recommendations entirely. That (along with. nuking comments) is a tremendous UX boost.
I don't have a YT account, have used it under Incognito for years (keeping session histories minimal and fresh, and as of a few months ago, block all cookies entirely.
This kills some search relevance, but is exceptionally good at avoiding that corner of youtube --- the zone of ever more finely curated crap.
YT's lack of channel-blocking (never, ever, on any circumstances show results from $CHANNEL in search or recommendations, or of creating short-term playlists based on search results, are increasingly crippling. On the latter, mps-youtube has excellent search and list-curation features I use heavily.
Tech and science books aimed at the scientific literate but non-specialist have all but disappeared. The physical quality of fiction books in terms of print quality and binding are just garbage compared to 25 years ago.
It is a bit sad for a book lover. Our home is still filled with multiple thousands of books, probably also several hundreds still unread as new books were bought at a higher frequency than they could be read, so moving down the strata of an ever accumulating 'to read' sediment.
With the instant availability and fulfillment of online eBook purchases, that vice has disappeared together with it's joy.
I discovered that one browsing a friend's bookshelf.
I also enjoyed "Napoleon's Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History".
I guess I want curation and taxonomy, but book information should be minimal until I “pull it from the shelf”. I’d support (Patreon) a group that did high-quality curation.
Anyway, it's no where as good as is used to be. After the rise of streaming they shut down many fulfillment centers and quit mailing out on Saturdays. My quick 3 day turn around turned into 5-7 days. Eventually I canceled the service once I figured out that Redbox could in fill in my new release rental needs for less money (with coupons anyway).
now the same thing is happening with netflix. i'm not sure if it's that the selection has greatly diminished, or if it's the algos (hbo max suggestions are pretty good imo)
i think the smartest thing these services do is allow you to share accounts. i would have canceled a while back but my family is using it too
Maybe if browsing experiences are valuable, we can eventually start making websites have showrooms in VR. Too bad there's no smell-o-vision for the paper smell.
You did the right thing, provided you didn't throw away part of your life reading that sludgepot of a book.
After reading GEB, I used it as a doorstop in a utility room. Probably still there, lying in wait for some fool to pick it up and get sucked into Hofstadter's voluminous prose. I would have burned it but burning GEB would take too long to be worthwhile. When I think of burning it I think of one of the old wood (and paper) -powered Volkswagens that the Germans used domestically during WWII:
search for "Mass-produced woodmobiles"
GEB might provide enough paper to drive out of Germany. Had the Germans made a "bullshit-powered" automobile they could have launched themselves into orbit with a single copy of GEB.
Looking forward to the day that can happen again.
I buy almost nothing from there, though, except for the occasional gift. It's hard to come up with a good excuse to buy physical books for everyday reading when e-ink exists for reasonable prices with none of the storage concerns.
The keyword here is "browsing". That's better done at a physical bookstore than online.
But it's much more efficient to buy books online. I often went to a bookstore looking for some kind of book I couldn't find there but could have ordered immediately online.
I like doing both, at different times though.
Far better is reading things online that are written about books. Find someone you respect who recommended a list of books, or find a list of award-winning books. Go through that list, and read some other reviews of them. This is more intellectually engaging and interesting than walking through a physical bookstore.
Plus, when you find a book you're excited by, you can get it for your Kindle and start reading it immediately, rather than waiting until later. This means you can get a book that's a perfect fit for your mood when you're reading it.
You can do that. Lots of bookstores have comfy chairs scattered all over to invite you to sit down and check out a book that caught your eye.
Curious why you're excluding Barnes & Noble? In my experience, the B&N store by me is largely staffed by people who are readers and writers themselves; and they do curate displays and write recommendations, offer verbal recommendations, etc. Maybe other stores are different, but given the B&N near me, I find it to be equal to any of the local independent bookstores in that regard. And with the bonus of a much larger (though sadly shrinking) inventory, and an attached cafe.
My memory/feel for a book seems to be partly tied to what I hold/the cover/the font. I love ebooks, but once I've finished one, I just don't have the same fondness/recollection of it afterwards anymore. This might be a very individual thing though.
If you are ever in San Jose, CA please stop by and support the Recycle Bookstore. Great staff, a large collection and a couple cool cats.
In the USA I really resent the people who fill B&N, reading books for 15+ minutes before returning them to shelves. WTF. Makes me feel like I'm paying for them.
But they gave it up a year ago and now only stock things absolutely required for technical coursework in the University.
I'd love if there was a really well stocked, well curated technical bookshop in Dublin. I thought a shop like that with working terminals and a "learning" vibe would be lovely. But given what I've seen I don't think there's enough of a market.
But there are several great ones that remain. Some offer online book shopping now, others require physical presence.
Some of my favourites, and as far as I know they're still doing well enough:
* BMV [http://www.bmvbooks.com]
* Zoinks! [https://zoinks.ca]
* Ayerego Books [https://www.ayeregobooks.com]
* ABC Bookstore [https://www.blogto.com/bookstores/abc-book-store-toronto/]
* Seekers Books [https://www.google.com/maps/place/Seekers+Booksemail@example.com,...]
* Ben McNally Books [https://benmcnallybooks.com]
* University of Toronto Bookstore [https://uoftbookstore.com] — Of course, we're lucky to have this one downtown. They have a large technical collection as well as pretty well any academic subject taught at U of T.
- school materials (pens, paper, rulers, glue etc. etc.)
- trash tier romance "novels"
- (auto-)biographies of all kinds of wastes of flesh (politicians, "comedians")
- the latest in teenager literature (Harry Potter, Twilight etc.)
But IMHO the straw that really broke the camels back was that the "Technik" (technical) section was reduced to one shelf about 0.5m wide x 2m tall filled with nothing but book(let)s on "how to learn touch-typing" and "how to teach my grandparents to use the computer". That section had just a few years prior been a whole corner of that store filled with all kinds of learning materials on programming, computer science, electrical engineering and the like.
What a collossal decline...
It's a bookstore in Tokyo that actually charges an admission fee, but it looks like a great place to spend a whole day around books.
I do wish bookstores focused more on their discovery and curation. For example, I’d probably buy a lot more books if they had a “if you liked this <popular book>, you might also like <less popular book1>, ...”
I even suggested this to our local bookstore but got a confused, blank stare :-(
They're usually slightly less popular, but still good books.
Or sell the books you are done with.
It is also a shame that the e-book industry seemed to try their hardest to make getting an e-book from the library on your reader nearly impossible or outright super confusing.
It's the predatory practices of the publishing industry that stop us from giving our ebooks to a friend to read: DRM stops us from sharing what we have purchased, and in many jurisdictions it is illegal to circumvent.
As for DRM... Well I lost my entire collection because I moved abroad, and many of the books I love aren't available here. I just resorted to piracy. I never struggled to use an e-book again.
I used to order everything via Amazon, but eventually I figured I wanted to support one of our lovely little local bookshops, so I buy all my books there now. They rarely have the books I want, so I still have to order (via them), but it's almost as fast as Amazon, if not always quite as cheap. But I love the old ladies that run it, and simply dropping in for a chat with them is worth the extra cost and effort :-)
The sheer joy of browsing Hatchards... last time I visited I found a first English edition of Proust and I just had to have it.
I would say browsing a magazine rack, a book store, a VHS store, a clothes rack are all much more engaging than online. Could VR help here?
Amazon really wants you to buy a download for Kindle, which costs them little, rather than ship a physical book, which they have to buy and warehouse.
Note:I'm not able to read the article because of paywall
Not as good as the Half Price Books on North Lamar in Austin, but nothing much is.
I feel like nobody has really tried to emulate a bookstore. Instead, everyone online focuses so hard on selling, largely by "you like X, so you'll like "X', X'', and X'''".
Even only browsing by genres only ever shows the popular books, and some of those popular books show up in whichever genres they can shoehorn them into, leading to bland and repetitive experiences.
I guess that ultimately here's a thrill not because bookstores are somehow not special, but because it's easy to get past the 'Bestseller' advertising and into, pardon the pun, novel territory.
Books are the most human thing we have: they're literally paper bricks that contain peoples' thoughts. It feels like we're missing something to present them online in the same way we sell socks.
So I guess it depends.