Why Amazon will never beat a real bookstore

A couple of days ago, I spent the morning at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, one of my favorite places to shop. I was hoping to find a good, easy read; a mystery or a science fiction novel. Something escapist. I am also researching information about the American Revolution, so I thought I might find a book in the history section. I did, indeed, pick up David Brin’s latest science fiction novel, Existence. I’d been waiting for this title to be available in paperback, and could just have easily bought it online.

How the HippiesBut I love browsing bookstores and usually stick my nose in all corners. Which is how I ended up purchasing a book I had never heard of before: How the Hippies Saved Physics, by David Kaiser. This is a delightful account about a group of far-out physicists in the 1970s who revived the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics, and how that has led to a technology revolution today.

This was a completely serendipitous purchase. I was close to being ready to check out, when I took my stroll through the Science section, and there it was, staring at me from the shelf. I never would have found this wonderful book if I limited my shopping to Amazon or any online bookseller, because I had no idea it existed, that I would want to read it, so I had no thought of looking for it.

You can only make these discoveries in a good bookstore, run by book lovers.

P.S. By the title of this post, I don’t mean that Amazon will not end up putting all bricks and mortar bookstores out of business (sadly, I think that’s a possibility). I just mean, this is why a real bookstore is a far better place to buy books… even if you have to pay a few dollars more.



  1. Yes, it is a shame but Amazon is only a small part of the saga. Bricks and mortar are in danger because of “The Long Tail” (see book of the same title by Chris Anderson).

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