Online vs. Offline Bookstores – where do you fall in this debate? With more people choosing to get their literary fix from the internet and buy books online, this question of online and offline bookstores has never been more prevalent than it is today.

The significant increase in popularity of online bookstores over the past decade is due to the comfort and convenience it brings. Browsing book titles will lead you to the best retailers who offer the best deals at amazingly low prices. On the contrary, offline or “physical” bookstores can take advantage of their nature by hosting events such as book signings which draw huge crowds at any given time. Ultimately, for some readers, reading a book is about the whole experience – the touch and feel of the book make it more pleasurable.

So, where do your loyalties reside? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each while you ponder your response:

Advantages of Online Bookstores

Of the many motivations to buy of books online, these are the standouts:

  1. Online stores are cheap. Because they do not incur the costs that brick and mortar ventures have to deal with (such as rent), they can pass these savings onto the consumer. 
  2. Online shopping is very convenient. Not only do they make physical travel to the actual store unnecessary, but online bookstores simplify the process of searching for the books you want via comprehensive search engines. 
  3. Online stores are not limited by space and therefore can provide an infinite amount of books to select from.
  4. Online bookstores simplify access. They allow individuals from all over the world to make purchases of the books they desire.
  5. Online stores allow both authors and consumers the opportunity to view feedback from previous customers. This feedback can prove essential to readers who might be looking for recommendations to guide them in their purchase.

Disadvantages of Online Stores

For all the benefits they bring to the table, online stores are not without their faults. By choosing to buy books online, you will encounter the following complications:

  1. As with most online transactions, you need a lot of trust to use online bookstores. Because you cannot see and touch the books you are buying, you cannot guarantee that what you saw on the website is what will be delivered to you.
  2. When you buy books online, you don’t receive any personalized service.  This may not be much of a deterrent for most, but some people enjoy having direct access to a store rep for answering questions or for assistance in their browsing efforts. 
  3. By choosing to buy books online, you are also choosing to accept the risks of fraud. Fraud is a big problem plaguing transactions across the internet. While you can always take measures to protect your finances, there is no way to completely remove fraud from the equation.
  4. Though the actual books purchased from an online store may be cheaper, you oftentimes have to deal with high shipping costs.
  5. Returns are very problematic when you buy books online. The return policies of online stores can make the process either impossible or more costly than you are willing to accept.

Advantages of Offline Stores

The following are avantages to running down to a traditional bookstore to meet your demand for literature:

  1. Why buy books online when you can enjoy them instantly? Brick and Mortar stores allow you instant access to touch, smell and thumb through books to gage immediately if you want to buy.
  2. Traditional stores create a sense of community. They create a space where bookworms can congregate and share their love of books. It is within local bookstores that so many readings by famous authors have been done.
  3. Offline stores do not alienate customers who do not have internet access. They can serve any and every customer who has money to spend.
  4. Offline stores have the ability to cater to local audiences.  They can accomplish this by stocking their store based on the unique requirements of the local population.

Disadvantages of Offline Bookstores

Critics of traditional bookstores often cite these cons as reasons why such establishments are becoming obsolete:

  1. Offline stores can be quite pricey. Because of their costly overheard, they tend to charge a lot more money for their books than online bookstores.
  2. Offline stores have a very limited stock. They only provide as many books as they can store within the physical space available to them.
  3. Brick and Mortar stores are not always easy to access. If you cannot travel to the physical location of your favorite bookshop, there are no options to acquire the books you desire. 
  4. Offline stores are restricted by time. While you can browse for books and make purchases whenever you want on the internet, offline stores have an opening and closing time.
  5. Without prior research, purchasing a book from an offline store requires trust. In the absence of book reviews, simply thumbing through the pages cannot give you a thorough picture of the quality of a book.

A lot of people are determined to hold onto their love for offline stores because of all the memories they have built over the years and decades. Others enjoy the conveniences that today’s world of online purchases afford.  Whether you choose to buy books online or make your way to your local bookstore usually comes down to personal preferences.  What’s yours?

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