Sunday, 29 November 2015

Good Online Booksellers for Christmas

The other day as I was drinking a coffee and hurriedly knitting up a pair of mittens for a pal for Christmas, I overheard two people at a neighbouring table complaining about Amazon. 

Barbie relaxes on an airbed which 
came free with some other stuff.
Amazon is very handy for Christmas shopping, as it has all kinds of toys and useful knick-knacks, food and of course Kindle. Piglet and I can find the Barbie outfits of her dreams and send a link round the family, so they can just buy exactly the right thing she wants with one click, instead of sending her a dreary pair of knitted mittens.

However ... Amazon have been strongly criticised in the past for tax avoidance. Many shoppers will also not realise how geared up they are to market dominance. I do a little writing on the side, and publish online. So I notice how Amazon attempt to sweep all other online competitors off the net, and also how they advertise books simply in line with commercial success. If it's selling well, it's listed top and is most likely to be seen by new buyers and to earn Amazon more money. New writers have little chance, and also there's little scope for work which might be recommended for other than commercial reasons. Indie writers and small publishers have experienced more insidious problems with Amazon dumping down our work if it starts to look like it's getting popular.

Barbie bling (those silver boots were 
clearly not made for walking as they 
won't even stand up on their own!
I use two other book buying sites, which I find more attractive than Amazon although they don't have the Barbie/Lego/Set of Chic Screwdrivers stuff so I still do a bit of Amazon shopping for those.

Hive is an online bookseller which also supports independent actual bookshops. They offer free delivery on ALL books, not just if you spend over £10. Some books and DVDs I bought from them were cheaper than on Amazon. You can collect your order from a bookshop, meaning you go and browse there at real books on the shelves. They will give a percentage from your purchase to an independent bookshop of your choice so it keeps going on the high street for you to pop into.

Image from MyArtsOdyssey
Even more exciting, though, is the second hand book website: Abe Books. Here are brought together second hand book dealers across the length and breadth of the British Isles. Not only can you get all sorts of titles which are out of print, you can buy books which are in print much more cheaply and in different editions. Last year I especially enjoyed shopping at Abe for titles ranging from Sabre and Lance (illustrated history of cavalry for my nephew) to Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking. The books are all carefully described but as a mum, I'm far too busy running around hoovering bits of packaging fluff off the carpets to check exactly what they said. When the parcels arrive, I get some lovely surprises. French Country Cooking came not only with illustrations by John Minton but also colour plates of French paintings of food. Thackerey's The Rose and The Ring, Christmas Books of Mr MA Titmarch, and The Book of Snobs - which I was expecting to be a large volume, was pocket-sized and bound in teal-black calf with gilt lettering.

It was almost like Christmas already, opening the lovely parcels and seeing the surprise contents.

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