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Old 09-21-2007, 01:44 PM   #16
nekokami
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I don't know. These days most brick-and-mortar stores have to compete with online stores. They all need to rely on the convenience of local shopping and lack of shipping costs vs. the price pressure from the online stores. (And let's not forget that the store's shipping costs are part of the reason for their prices.) A store that doesn't want to allow competitive shopping isn't going to last in either environment. Suppose Amazon didn't let you see the prices of books until you were actually placing an order? I don't think they'd get much business.

I suspect the real reason the coop was watching this student is because they've had problems in the past with students using the coop as a library-- coming in, looking in books, writing down a few key facts or references, and leaving, with no intention to buy the book at all. That's what the quote from the manager implies, anyway. But the headline saying they own the book prices sounds so much more sensational.

@HarryT, I know textbook authors get next to nothing on textbook sales, and I know about the scale problem with print runs, but I don't think that excuses the prices the publishers are charging for the books. The textbook authors would probably get more money and keep prices lower by self-publishing through a POD service, but of course textbook publishers do provide some editing and a *lot* of marketing, so the author would have to be fairly well-known to go that route.
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:25 PM   #17
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The biggest thing that textbook publishers provide is a reliable supply of the books. The bookstore can place an order and know that 98% of the time the books will be in the store in pretty short order.

I'm not suggesting that other methods couldn't produce similar reliability, but that expectation will have to be met for another method to make headway. Beyond that, it'll have to be proven to meet it to every decision maker in the chain, and that's the big hurdle, I think.
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Old 09-22-2007, 07:46 AM   #18
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I find this discussion very interesting. Here in Germany, we have fixed book prices, every book that is publised here has a fixed price by law.

A friend who worked at a bookstore for some time told me, the policy of this bookstore chain was to let people read as much as they like in the store. It's also quite common here to have sofas in stores so you can sit down and read. I have even seen reading lamps above each seat.

When I buy books for university, the only consideration is where I probably will get the book first. Most stores get the books for the next day, amazon takes longer, but you don't have to leave your home. Also, amazon.de has no shipping fee if you order only books.
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Old 09-22-2007, 01:04 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I do think, however, that it's a rather despicable practise to go and browse through books in a "physical" book store, and then go away and order the same books online because they are cheaper. Of course they are cheaper online - the seller doesn't have the expense of running that expensive store!

If many people do that, the inevitable consequence will be the demise of book stores - especially the small independents who can't possibly match the prices offered by Amazon, etc.
I can't believe my eyes. You sound like you're defending a practice that stifles competition in a free market. Comparing prices is the right of every consumer.

If the consequence is the demise of regular book stores, I have no problem with that, as long as consumers come out ahead in the game with a lower bottom line.

There must have been people who cried the loss of the horse drawn buggy when cars and trains were invented. Imagine the poor blacksmiths who were put out of work. What a shame. Or how about the telegraph operators-- all that training to learn how to recognise dots and dashes, speeds of 100wpm, amazing. What a shame they became completely useless when the phone was invented. Should we throw away our computers and buy typewriters so the last typewriter company doesn't go out of business? Enough examples.

Perhaps the only virtue of regular bookstores is the fact that you can get some tips from the sales person. But let's be serious here. How many sales people have actually read the books? What do they know anyway? I personally have never had any real help from a sales person in a book store. What I find far more helpful is looking at online book reviews. So even in this field, online book sales have the edge.

Regular bookstores will continue to exist, but only for consumers who can't overcome the technical barrier or who are willing to pay more for the human touch. I have nothing against that. But if that means giving up market share in favour of online stores, I'm all for it.
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Old 09-23-2007, 04:54 AM   #20
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I can't believe my eyes. You sound like you're defending a practice that stifles competition in a free market. Comparing prices is the right of every consumer.
Certainly it is; I agree with you entirely.

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There must have been people who cried the loss of the horse drawn buggy when cars and trains were invented. Imagine the poor blacksmiths who were put out of work. What a shame. Or how about the telegraph operators-- all that training to learn how to recognise dots and dashes, speeds of 100wpm, amazing. What a shame they became completely useless when the phone was invented. Should we throw away our computers and buy typewriters so the last typewriter company doesn't go out of business? Enough examples.
I think you've misunderstood what I'm saying. I'm certainly not in favour of stifling innovation. What I'm saying that I believe is despicable are people who take advantage of the facilities that physical book shops provide in the way of being able to browse the shelves, read snippets of books, etc, but then, once they've found that book they want in the shop, go home and order it online rather than from the shop simply because it's a few £ cheaper.

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Perhaps the only virtue of regular bookstores is the fact that you can get some tips from the sales person.
No, for me, the virtue of physical bookshops is the experience of being able to "browse" and see what's available. That's something you can't do in an online shop - at least not in the same way. I very often go into my local bookshop for one thing, and come out with half a dozen completely different books which I've spotted while browsing. I just wouldn't do that in, say, Amazon, where I'd just type in the title of the one specific book that I wanted.

I buy lots of books online, don't get me wrong. But what I would never do would be to spend a pleasant hour in my local Waterstones, find some books that appealed to me, and then go home and buy them from Amazon to save a few quid. That just strikes me as being completely unethical.
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Old 09-23-2007, 07:16 AM   #21
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As if the headline isn't already enough to make milk sour, check out this follow-up:

Quote:
The Harvard Coop bookstore had the police remove students who were writing down the ISBNs of textbooks, in defiance of the store's ridiculous position that ISBNs are "property." Of course, the store is private property (albeit property owned by a co-op that is supposed to be serving Harvard students) and they're free to demand that students leave the premises, but busting students whose "crime" is writing down detailed information about which books Harvard students are required to read in order to get their degree is hardly appropriate for a store that nominally serves the students' interests.


Full story: here
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Old 09-23-2007, 08:56 AM   #22
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I don't understand. Does the university not provide students with a list of the textbooks required for their courses? Why would they need to write down the ISDNs in a bookshop?
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:11 AM   #23
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I don't understand. Does the university not provide students with a list of the textbooks required for their courses? Why would they need to write down the ISDNs in a bookshop?
Well, I can immediately think of one example: Quite often the list only includes the textbook's title, but not its ISDN. Let's say I want to buy the textbook online or somewhere else, but I don't know which exact edition the teacher will use in his classroom. For that reason, I would go to the university bookstore and check out the ISDN of the books my teacher put there on shelf.
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:31 AM   #24
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It's ISBN. ISDN is something else
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Old 09-23-2007, 10:16 AM   #25
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Sorry - a typo. I do know the difference, honestly .
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Old 09-23-2007, 11:41 AM   #26
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My professors usually include the title, author, and edition in the syllabus. Harvard's syllabi are all online, apparently, so it's probably possible to get the information about the books, including ISBN, by looking up the book online using available information. However, if one is running a website which attempts to provide pricing information on all the required books for a semester, this would be quite a lengthy process. A script running off the ISBNs would be much more efficient. So I can see why the students wanted to be able to go through the Coop and copy the ISBNs. But that's a level of convenience I don't think the Coop is required to provide. If an individual student wants to get prices and ISBNs for their books from the Coop and check prices elsewhere, I think they should be able to do that. But going through the entire textbook floor and copying down ISBNs and prices... I guess I can see why the Coop would try to block that. I don't know as they legally can block it, but I can see why they would try.
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Old 09-23-2007, 12:35 PM   #27
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I see not much of a problem. Prices and ISBN are usually at the back of the book, so they don't even need to be opened, they can even stay shrink-wrapped.
Paging through books and copying content, say formulas, is bad behaviour - but writing down prices?
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:51 PM   #28
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I don't understand. Does the university not provide students with a list of the textbooks required for their courses? Why would they need to write down the ISDNs in a bookshop?
My information may be a bit dated, but here is how things usually work at large universities in the states.

Most students try to purchase books before the semester starts (especially when purchasing online). Most professors do not post a syllabus with a book list before the first day of class. Most professors do provide the book list to the university bookstore ahead of time.
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Old 09-26-2007, 01:35 PM   #29
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I think the Coop went too far. ISBNs are not privileged information.
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