Sometime during the night tonight we shall pass a milestone. Earlier today we shipped book #2,499 that had been ordered through one of the on-line services. If all goes well, we will receive an order for number two thousand, five hundred tonight.
When I stop and think about it, I come to the conclusion that it is really quite an accomplishment. We haven’t really been involved with that aspect of the business all that long; a little over two years, perhaps. And we really only got religion about it a year or so ago.
I saw “we”, but it really is my poor, long-suffering bride (hereinafter “PLSB”) who does all the work on this phase of the business, and to her go the accolades. She sifts through the inventory that comes into the shop and decides which books are to be fully catalogued and put on the Internet. Truly, she has a better feel for this than do I. And it is she who keeps the records straight, takes the orders, does the packing and makes the daily schlep to the post office.
PLSB is good at it and she enjoys it. And she has, with good reason, mandated that I pretty much stay away from it.
Well, that’s not quite accurate. In all fairness, I should say that she has actually mandated that I stay THE HELL away from it. A wise woman, my PLSB.
But I admit that I am of two minds about this business of selling books online.
On the one hand, of course, I am more than happy to cash the checks from Abe, Alibris, Biblio, Amazon, Barns & Noble, et. al. It is not quite “found” money. But it is certainly bonus money.
We maintain two distinct inventories. The larger is the one in the shop and it numbers upwards of 300,000 titles. The online inventory, now numbering around 3,000 titles, consists of the more esoteric titles and they generally are significantly more expensive. Whereas the average book in the shop will sell for between $3 and $4, the online average is in the $12 to $15 range (with more than a few listed for $75 to $100 or more).
So, yes, I am happy that my PSLB has developed this business and that she is shipping books to Australia, Russia, South America and throughout the United States (all this just within the past week, by the way).
The problem I have with online sales is really two-fold. First, I would kinda like to have some of these in the shop, even if they don’t sell. We keep some of the more rare books under lock-and-key here, and I think they’re probably safe. And they are certainly neat to look at. But that’s a lousy business decision. Still “neat” is rather high on my list of priorities. (“Eating regularly” ranks a little higher, which is why they’re online.)
The other is a more philosophic reason. Perhaps I am a bit of a Luddite in all this, but the purist in me would rather someone come into a book shop, any book shop even if it is not mine, to find reading material. There is something to be said for poking around the shelves of a used book shop in search of a treasure. There’s the aspect of working just a little bit to find what you seek…the thrill of the hunt and all that. There’s also the aspect of browsing and making the happy discovery of a title that you hadn’t known. Perhaps a little-known work by a favorite author or an obscure title on the topic of interest.
It is a romantic notion that I fear is rapidly going out of style.
Last night I committed an act that brought me square up against my misgivings by posting a direct link from our website to our online inventory: http://www.theyorkemporium.com/bookstore.html
One stop closer, I suppose, to the end of civilization as we know it.
So…here’s to Number 2,500! I hope it is something fun. And here’s to my PLSB! She is certainly something fun.
And here’s to my continuing to stay THE HELL away from the online business!