Are bookstores dying… because of bookstores

Is Barnes and Noble helping to kill off bookstores, including itself? Hm. Sounds like a debate we’ve been having for near 30 years. If BN undercuts the price of indie stores, and BN.com undercuts the price of its own retail stores, and if the ad algorithms on BN.com allow Amazon to pop up with ads further undercut BN itself, what hope is there? Where is the incentive to shop any other way?

To make sure the store had Dalio’s book, I went to bn.com and saw that the book, with a publisher’s price of $35, was available at the store and was being sold on bn.com for $27.99. And that $27.99 would have included free shipping to my home, if I had wanted the book sent to me.

When I was checking out of the store, I was surprised to see that I was being charged $31.50 rather than $27.99. That’s the full $35 list price, less the 10 percent discount that I get from my Barnes & Noble membership.

When I told the cashier that I thought the price would be $27.99 because that’s what the website said, she asked me to wait for a few seconds. She did some checking, and promptly and cheerfully charged me $27.99. But if I hadn’t asked for that price, I wouldn’t have gotten it.

When I got home, I went back to bn.com and discovered to my astonishment that there was a pop-up ad from Amazon on the site offering Dalio’s book for $21.57 — more than 20 percent below bn.com’s price. When last I looked, the Amazon price on bn.com was down to $21.09.

(Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

I wanted to see whether Amazon undercutting the price of Dalio’s book with a pop-up ad on bn.com was a one-off fluke.

It wasn’t.

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