It’s been happening more and more: customers are snapping pictures of books at the bookstore. I know some of these photos are purely for memory. We’ve all done that. Sometimes taking a photo is easier than writing down a title. And sometimes, taking a picture of a book is an easy way to go home and order it on Amazon. Customers who use bricks and mortar stores as a showroom for Amazon are doing a disservice to everyone. And there’s seemingly nothing I can do about it.I find that customers who are innocently taking photos for their own memory are upfront and almost sheepish about it. They’re not sneaking around snapping pictures in a way they hope no one will notice. Some customers actually have a book cover album on their phone to help them remember what books they’ve seen that might make great gifts for someone at a later date. These customers then use their phone album to order books from us, or another independent bookstore. Then there are the other customers who have little regard for what an independent bookstore actually does.
These are the customers who are surreptitiously clicking away at books while they steadfastly refuse to make eye contact with anyone on staff who offers help. These customers actually act like they’re shoplifting, and in a way they totally are. All independent bookstores carefully curate their selections. They reflect the unique taste of the store’s buyers and staffers. It is galling that people come in, get inspired by the books they see, and take a picture so they can buy it somewhere else. If the Amazon algorithm doesn’t suggest some of the wonderful books that indies carry maybe there’s a reason. Maybe a real live human being can suggest books and make links to other books that a computer can’t. And perhaps that special connection should be rewarded with a purchase.
I know many people have monetary struggles, and I do not mean to suggest that people shouldn’t shop around. Many indies discount many more books than folks are aware. And Amazon, by so steeply discounting the 100 most popular titles, gives the illusion of deeply discounting every title, and this just isn’t the case. I am tired of having to defend my store and my pricing against a corporation that really doesn’t value reading and sees books only as a bottom line.
Booksellers: what are your thoughts on customers taking photos of books? And, do you have a policy about it?