Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

A Plea

on 15 November 2009

I know that this isn’t exactly a “book blog”, but I did include the word “everything” in my subheading (see above) so please indulge me.

As many of you know, I’m addicted to a great book cataloging site called LibraryThing (see sidebar for a link!). More than just a place to keep a list of my books (815 and counting…), LibraryThing looks at reading trends, the connections between various authors and books, and stays on the cutting edge of cataloging technology. Last night, they rolled out some amazing new features and updates to the site.

LibraryThing, by necessity, uses Amazon as their primary source of information from book cover images to publication information. Additionally, they integrate dozens of other online book-related databases from Abe books to Barnes and Noble. One of the new features they rolled out includes a way to connect automatically from a book page on LibraryThing to a bookstore near you to see right then if the book you want is in stock at that particular store.

Unfortunately, this feature will only serve to bring more business to chain bookstores because indies don’t, as a rule, keep online records of what they have in stock. LibraryThing doesn’t like being forced to show preference to national bookstores- their goal is not to assist chains in burying indies, but at the same time their users would like to be able to know where they can purchase the books in which they are interested.

Personally, I would love it if we still had indie bookstores in our area. A friend used to own an indie, a children’s bookstore somewhat reminiscent of the one in You’ve Got Mail. She stocked a great selection of books, had fun merchandise related to books and stories, and hosted book related events as well. Then, Barnes and Noble and Zainy-Brainy both set up shop within a block of her store. As cute as her place was, she couldn’t compete with the bargain prices of these two chains, or their high-profile customer draw. Within a very short period of time, her little shop closed its doors forever.

I don’t want this to keep happening to indie bookstores around the country. So, at the request of Tim (founder of LibraryThing and seemingly a really neat and scarily over-educated guy), please help me spread the word to encourage indies to create an online, accessible inventory. Technology drives the world- it’s sad, but very true. The idea of going digital might well be distasteful, but it can’t be as horrible a fate as having to close your doors.

So, if by any chance some indie bookstore owners/employees run across this (or if any of you readers frequent an indie store), please be encouraged to check out the links at the bottom and take appropriate action. Enough customers out there are disillusioned with chain bookstores that they would come to you if they could know that it would be worth their time.

Thanks for your indulgence. I just want to do whatever little thing I can to keep those little indie shops open. Happy Reading!

Links:

Blog post about what’s going on and what to do about it.

Request from Tim to help spread the word.

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