December 14, 2011

Who Needs a Bookstore?

Buying books at Amazon is a big, fat win-win for authors and readers alike, argues to Farhad Manjoo at Slate Magazine, because books are cheaper, there's more variety, great reviews, and authors can self-publish with Amazon.

It's a surprising stance considering that the company is not only bullying authors into publishing e-books solely through Amazon, but recently, in an ugly attempt to break the knees of mom-and-pop shops everywhere, the online giant offered a discount, through its app that specifically targeted shoppers at brick and mortar retail stores.

Oh, there's more: E-book readers are now able to download books through the websites of their local, independent bookstores, thereby offering the indies a cut of the profit-- but not if the e-reader is Amazon's Kindle.
Let me be honest: I have made many o' purchase through Amazon. I have an account, and I even have an online wishlist, but I'm beginning to suspect that Amazon is something like the White Witch of Narnia, offering  . . . well, everything, including Turkish Delight, probably. Few can resist. But what will we have to sacrifice in return?

Manjoo makes a few good points in his article, though. I do read Amazon reviews, and while I'm not keen on self-publishing at this point in my career-- that may change after I've peddled my manuscript for another ten years-- it does offer that nifty option for the entrepreneurial author. And yes, the books are cheap.

However, I would rather buy my wares from a bookseller who knows me, chats with me, understands my literary appetites, as well as those of my family, and offers fabulous spot on suggestions. Here's what else I love about a local, independent bookstore: story hour, author events, I like to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages, sit on the floor and read to my children, (sometimes other people's children) drink chai and visit with friends. Indie bookstores all over the country stay open until midnight for big book releases, offer snacks and readings, invite patrons to arrive as a beloved character. It's a party, for book's sake.

Yes, many of these events could be offered at libraries, and are. I love libraries, too, but look at the sad state of American libraries these days. It's difficult to find one that's open when I need it.

There's more: Many local bookstores offer book clubs (and discounts to participants), knitters' night, support-your-whatever night, where a portion of the proceeds go to local schools or non-profit organizations.

A bookstore is more than retail; it's a church for the literary minded. It's a community where people come together and love the word(s). For the love of all that is good and printed, I bid farewell to the Amazon beast. Well, not so much fare well as good riddance.  
Manjoo is right to say that Amazon will save us a few dollars, and I understand these are trod-upon times, but it's not our billfolds that drive us to the bookshop on the corner--  yep, I'm going there; say it with me -- it's our hearts.


Richard Fenwick said...

Patricia: I've been putting off writing my own post on the Amazon situation, so I appreciate your thoughts. Frankly, I can't seem to decide how I feel about what's going on. I purchase through Amazon still, yet I'm terribly turned off by what seems to be an incredibly brazen form of ruthlessness on their part. Now they're taking on the large publishing houses. That seems quite troubling to me, and that's how I'll angle my blog post. Thanks again for your thoughts here.


Patricia Caspers said...

Thanks for reading, Rick. I've been feeling iffy about Amazon since I learned about the Kindle being unfriendly to indies. I've always loved a good bookstore, but the Slate article made me think about why I love them.

Lisa Ahn said...

Hmmm. I'm hmmming. I agree with you that there is much to value in a local bookstore -- and I love Toadstool Books. But I think there's room for amazon too.

I like Manjoo's points about book recommendations and efficiency/price being of value through amazon. That said, I do buy from locals, from B&N (big stores), and from amazon -- and I use the library too.

I think the book world right now -- writing, publishing, marketing, reading -- is too complex for single solutions. And I think that's actually good for writers and readers -- and books. Just my hmmming along.

Patricia Caspers said...

I'm all for spreading the book love, but Amazon is playing dirty right now. I'm just worried about the day when there is only Amazon because they've driven all the local bookstores into the ground.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I'm on a low because I just heard that the Rabbit Hole is closing.

Anonymous said...

Miss Trish: I say "Hear her!, Hear her!" to your remarks, and then must add this: I do not patronize the Amazon, and have not done so because I heard, ages ago, a reviewer speaking of Amazon as sounding the death knell for small local bookstores. My resolve is strengthened whenever I walk past the shell of Stacey's in San Francisco, or the remains of Cody's in Berkeley, or the former home of Black Oak Books on Shattuck [though, happily, Black Oak IS still alive, though in a much less well-traveled location]. I know better than to say "never!" about this, but for now, fast and cheap and lots of things available are not enough. (your fan, Annie)

Lisa Ahn said...

I understand the reaction against Amazon, especially in light of their recent ridiculous price check debacle. But I think the book world is too complex and is changing too rapidly right now for anyone to have a full hold on it -- including amazon.

Check out this great response to Manjoo, "More books, more choices: why America needs its indies"