Wednesday, February 8, 2017

GrubHub for Books

I have a confession to make: I love bookstores. I was sad when Borders closed (and in fact, I still look at the storefront in my neighborhood that now holds an AT&T store with sad longing) - my local store was a 15 minute walk from home and I could go over there anytime I wanted to browse and make purchases, or hang out in their coffee shop upstairs. In fact, most of my statistics homework in grad school was completed in a Borders coffee shop with friends. Hanging out in bookstores, used or otherwise, is one of my favorite activities, and though I still purchase things from Amazon, I tend to prefer driving over to my local Barnes & Nobel for most of my book purchases.

Obviously, neither Borders nor Barnes & Nobles could really be described as "local," but because of large booksellers, and especially online options like Amazon, there aren't many truly local bookstores left. That's why this idea by two Viennese high school students is so brilliant - the comfort and convenience of ordering books from home, speedy delivery, and knowing that you're helping out a local business:
Granted, in its trial form it is an extremely small operation. Lobu, as it’s called, was launched by two high-school students in Vienna, one a self-described Kafka fan and the other a connoisseur of the kind of wisdom only available from erudite, wizened booksellers. The process is simple: Send over a text message with your desired tome (title or ISBN), and one of the students will purchase it from a nearby bookstore and pedal it furiously to your door. If the book’s not available, it will typically be delivered in a day or two.

Lobu’s creators write that they want to “save the Austrian book trade from destruction by big corporations” such as Amazon, which dominates the country’s online book-ordering industry. The free service is now only available in Vienna’s W√§hring district, but its founders hope to expand it across the city and eventually charge 2 euros to use it. They plan on keeping costs low by building a network of short-distance couriering among all of Vienna’s bookshops.
There are, however, still many great local bookstores in Chicagoland. Here's a few of my favorites:

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