Former bookshop owners are complaining they can\’t compete with the online sellers. If one goes searching for a particular book, the odds are very good that somewhere on the planet someone is willing to sell it cheaply, writes Peter Wood from the National Association of Scholars.
This has advantages, of course, for the student or scholar you never know exactly what he wants, sometimes it only takes a few minutes and a few dollars with the help of the American Book Exchange (ABE) to locate what you want.
A new international market continues to be spawned from the need of schools and students searching for long out-of-print books. Within the late 1990s, when used book sellers started to put their inventories online, many of us delighted within the opportunity to fill gaps within our personal libraries.
But what effect has his online global market had on our used book stores? Many certainly still exist but the survivors seem more and more to focus on the antiquarian trade.
\”They are places to go when looking for the rare, the precious, and the collectible, and are less and less prone to provide the chance to explore the truly amazing miscellany of the undifferentiated and frequently undistinguished past,\” says Wood.
\”We have, through the globalization of online book selling, a splendid way to lay hands on the books we all know we want. But this facility comes in the price of making it much less prone to discover the books we do not yet know we want.\”
As retail book shops like Borders close, and innovations like e-books and kindles grow, there\’s obviously a shift in emphasis and also the ways in which we read and study. But what stands to become lost within this transition is one thing intangible, but very real.
Wood sums up:
\”Perhaps what we stand to lose is a loosely ordered curriculum of left-over ideas that are best met-or maybe can only be met-by accident.\”