All independent bookstores will soon vanish. I know this because Wordsworth Books recently closed. This was a well-respected independent book seller in a terrific location in the middle of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. That’s got to be one of the most bookety-book-book places on the planet. And still! Ka-boom! There’s just no fighting it. I recently read that the entire American pastime of reading is going to be outsourced to India over the next five years.
One of the reasons bookstores are dying is that it’s so easy to comparison shop. These days you can literally pick up any book in a bookstore, scan the barcode into your cellphone, find a much cheaper copy, and ship it to your house within about thirty seconds. For a small additional fee, you can have it shipped to India to be read for you.
The comparison site isbn.nu appears to be a good agnostic site that compares most of the major places you might consider buying a book. Here, for example, is a search for a book about the Apollo space program that’s been out of print for some time. The URLs for isbn.nu are pleasingly short: http://isbn.nu/0786260033. If isbn.nu does a broad comparison shopping job, Pricenoia is impressively narrow in scope. It compares the prices for the same book at every Amazon location around the world and archives the resulting trends. Here’s a link to a book about Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. Notice how the trend lines jump around. The volatility is surprising.