Greetings, sir! I just got my catalog and read your opening comment and felt I had to respond. It hit a nerve.
I've heard a lot about how "the big bad Internet is hurting brick'n'mortar shops" and from my experience it's mostly the shop's fault.
For me, it's not the prices, it's the awful service and selection.
Let me explain that I live in Orlando, Florida. A reasonably large city, famous for the Mouse, and a place where you'd expect a lot of well-stocked bookstores (and stores in general).
However, this is definately not the case. For instance I have a large Barnes & Noble next door. We're 45 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center, and there's maybe a half dozen space books on the shelf, all of which are glossy no-tech picture books on the Shuttle. We never went to the Moon, I guess.
There are very few non-Microsoft-related computer books... none on Python or Oracle, maybe a copy of the Camel book, and one thin Linux book.
I've asked the owner why, and she just shrugs and says "we have what corporate sends us" - no interest in my suggestions or in improving her store at all.
It's a pain to order anything as they never call to let you know your book arrived, so *you* end up calling repeatedly. Why would I put up with this when I can click a couple of links and have a book miraculously on my doorstep a few days later?
That's what drives me to buy from the Internet. And to stop even browsing in the bookstores. I don't even have the choice of browsing then going home to buy on-line.
Of the dozen bookstores in town, there's one shining exception, which is a Borders near work (a major Oracle Corp. support center) where the manager has obviously realized he'd make major money by stocking lots of computer books. He buys wacky offbeat stuff too, like very technical digital photography books, so that I've spent a lot of time and money there. I make sure to buy all my O'Reilly books there. I've gotten him interested in stocking space books too, and from him I've bought almost every single Apogee book that www.cgpublishing.com makes.
It's not just books, either. I've been an avid motorcyclist for about 20 years, and there are 3 big bike dealerships in town that I frequent. All of them stock from the same Tucker-Rocky catalog, and have the exact same Olympia gloves, Joe Rocket jackets, Tourmaster rainsuits, Shoei helmets, etc hanging from the walls. They complain that people try on their helmets then buy on-line. I respond that the last time I had them order a helmet in my size, it took 2 months to arrive. They don't even stock the lines of jackets & gloves that I would buy, so I end up buying sized apparel from the 'net, which I hate.
They complain that they hate mounting tires that people buy from the 'net, when their prices are double what you'd find online. Why would I buy a rear stand for $319 when I can buy a matched front/rear set of stands online for $100??
I have to buy luggage racks for my bike from Germany, the hard luggage from Italy, and an automatic chain oiler from Scotland, as it's not even available from the dealer at any price. And this is a dealer where I've bought 2 used bikes and a new one, so it's not like I'm an infrequent
customer that doesn't spend money.
I understand that every item in stock counts against the bottom line, but if they don't stock anything, how am I buy it or to find out about it so I can have it ordered?
Heck, I still have a copy of "Managing UUCP and Usenet" that I bought in '89, and I remember I had to drive 190 miles to get it. I remember those dark days... it was like the quest for the Holy Grail, and not the funny Monty Python version either! I remember lusting over a coworker's X11 reference books, and not having anywhere to buy them as the local response was "O'Reilly who? We don't order from people we don't know."
I'm extremely grateful for the selection that the Internet gives me. I'd be totally out of luck without it.
Thanks for letting me vent a little steam. I hope I've shared a little of what it's like to be on the other side of the sales counter. And thank you for your company's excellent line of books that have saved my butt too many times to count.