Long ago, in the dark days of my early-to-mid-twenties, I was a bookseller at Books, Inc. in Sacramento. It was an odd job; very “Empire Records”-like in the way the staff interacted. I kind of miss it sometimes, even though I rarely worked more than 20 hours in a week and I had to eventually leave it for a better-paying job.
But what I loved was helping people find books they would love. I eventually ended up in charge of the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, because people knew that I was the guy who knew the genre well. So anyone looking for SFF was quickly pointed my way.
Even in these days of Amazon and other websites that let you buy books, physical bookstores are important. For one thing, Amazon is good for getting the book you already know you want, but it’s utter crap for browsing. It’s much easier to walk the shelves in a real store, perusing the titles and author names, looking for something to catch your eye.
In addition, bookstores pay attention to what sells, and they log requests. If people make the time to come in and special order a book, there is a better-than-zero chance the store will order a second copy for the shelves.
If enough people request or order the book, the bookseller is more likely to read and then handsell the book to people who want something new, but don’t know exactly what. This is what I did all the time, and if the bookseller liked the book, they’re going to push it. This is why my store sold completely out of Ian MacDonald’s Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone. We had ten copies, and not one sold until I got intrigued by the cover, read it, and then hand sold it to nine other people who came in looking for good SF.
A book on the shelf has a greater chance of being picked up on an impulse buy than a picture online, thus widening the audience.
Finally, if you shop at a local, independent store, you’re adding money to the local economy and helping a local business stay open.
Support your local independent bookstore.