Mar 18, 2011

The Bricks-and-Mortar Bookstore: Last Bastion of Privacy?


I have a friend — let’s call her “me” — who recently became interested in an unconventional topic. (Lest your curiosity lead you in bizarre directions, let me assure you that no weapons dealing or illegal activity of any kind were involved.) In researching books I might want to read, I quickly realized how little privacy is left to the modern-day consumer.

While I, as a bookseller, have the luxury of ordering books from distributors and making purchases in relative privacy, my customers must choose between online book ordering — which seems anonymous but in fact leaves quite an information trail — and in-store purchasing, which—while it involves face-to-face interaction with the cashier— is also the only method left to buy a book anonymously.

Think about it. Anyone can come into The Flying Pig, or another store, plunk down some cash, and leave with a book no one can or will trace. Nor will that purchase generate recommendation lists that pop up whenever the customer—or his wife, or children—logs on to the website. No one at the bookstore will sell that information to marketers in order for them to build profiles of customer preferences, spending habits and abilities. No one will violate that reader’s freedom to read, or his privacy.

That is no small wonder in this day and age when every street corner has a surveillance camera, and every online click garners a cookie. READ MORE.....

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