(And why they’re going to loose a lot more if they don’t catch up with the times.) I love Amazon. I’ve signed up for Amazon Prime and definitely get my money’s worth out of it. But, Amazon’s simply can’t replicate the experience of browsing physical bookshelves and picking up random books by author’s you’d never heard of, simply because they caught your eye. So, I regularly go to physical bookstores, just to see what I find. It just so happens that the closest bookstore to me is a Borders, and I’m a Border’s Rewards member so I regularly have coupons for a discount on whatever book I want, which is why I found myself perusing the shelves of Borders yesterday. I found Lonely Werewolf Girl, which sounded intriguing, but odd enough that it could have been crap. So, I pulled out my phone and looked up the reviews on Amazon, which suggested that it was worth checking out, but, I also noticed the price was five dollars less. Five dollars is almost the cost of another mass market paperback. Now, I’m totally willing to pay a little more for any book in a store, because they’re the ones who led me to it on their shelves, and because I get to read it immediately. But I’m not going to give up the cost of almost another book. Next up was The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures. From flipping through it in the store I was confident I wanted it, and I almost didn’t bother looking it up on Amazon, but, having almost spent five dollars extra on the other one… I sat back down and pulled my phone back out. Ten dollars this time! It was $24.95 (plus tax) at Borders and $15.64 at Amazon. There’s no way I was going to pay 90% more for the same book. Yeah, I really wanted to read it right away… but 90%?! But this story doesn’t have to be an indicator of the fall of brick and mortar bookstores. There’s no reason Border’s can’t compensate. Borders.com is already hosted by Amazon (for some bizarre reason) so why not make the kiosks at all the Borders show me not only if the book is in stock, but bring up the reviews so I don’t have to deal with my phone. And, keep an eye on the prices online, especially Amazon’s. Apps like ShopSavvy just make it incredibly easy to compare prices, and they’re only going to become more ubiquitous. Just pick up the book, scan the barcode with your phone, and voilla comparison shopping, and reviews in seconds. Now, most people don’t have Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping on essentially everything at Amazon), which means that Borders, and other brick and mortars have a pricing advantage because of shipping costs, but most people don’t think about shipping costs, and even if I was affected by shipping costs, they still wouldn’t have compensated for the fifteen dollar price difference. Traditional bookstores can survive, but they’ve got to be at least close on price, and they’ve got to overcome the fact that Amazon offers me piles of reviews on everything I’m unsure about. No matter how good your staff is, there’s no way they can have read everything. I want the traditional stores to survive. And while I am willing to pay a small premium to them for the services they offer me, there’s only so far I, or anyone else, is willing to go in that area, and it’s getting far too easy to find out when the prices are non-competitive. [Update] according to MKB Borders finally recovered their brain and split from Amazon.com. I never did understand their connection. Not only did Borders.com go to Amazon.com, after one click there was no more Borders branding and none of the purchases counted towards Borders Rewards, and they would obviously be making less than if they sold the books themselves. [Update] related post: How Borders made me into a regular customer.