Independent Bookstore Day is upon us, (April 27th) and as I sit in the shed among all the books I stack here, I must admit many of them were not purchased in a bookstore. That’s kind of sad. But yet there they are. All those books. Each read at least once, some several times. Would I like to say I bought all of them at my favorite indie shop? Yes. Instead the majority have been purchased through—gulp—Amazon—used and new versions from vendors all over the world.
I am not an Amazon hater. Many authors are quick to growl at the behemoth, calling Amazon the devil. And there are reasons to do so. I’ve had a few issues with them as an author. A recent one is readers buying one of my books through Amazon or a vendor there and being sent an Arc (Advanced Reader Copy) of the ebook, one that has not been fully edited as the final product. A typo or two, etc. That’s not unusual. But Amazon or the vendor never said it was an ARC. So, it looks like a shoddily edited version of the real thing. Not cool. Other authors have other issues. Many related to price, and of course there is the issue of support for the local community.
But still, whether buying a book on Amazon or your neighborhood bookstore, you are still buying a book. That is ultimately the goal, isn’t it? Yes, going to your favorite indie—and I can think of many in Chicago and around the country (The Book Cellar in the city’s Lincoln Square, Prairie Lights in Iowa City, City Lights in San Francisco, Anderson’s in the Chicago suburbs, and on and on) is the better transaction for many reasons. But the model of commerce is always changing and it is changing again. And to completely dismiss Amazon for selling and buying books would be to dismiss reality.
In the days around Independent Bookstore Day, make a trip to your local favorite. Take in the smell, the delight, and browse the shelves. If they sell coffee, buy a cup and read a few paragraphs of the books that encourage you to do just that. Then walk up to the counter and ask a few questions about books, literature, favorite authors. In a good indie, that person behind the counter will be thrilled to have that conversation. (You can’t get that on Amazon.) Then buy a new novel, an old one, a classic, a book of poetry, a children’s book, a great piece of journalism, a beautiful memoir. I guarantee you’ll feel great when you walk out that door.
Yes, Amazon is here to stay. And yes, Amazon will still sell lots of books at prices the indie’s can’t afford to offer. But now and again, and many more so than not, that booksotre down the street and around the corner is and always will be doing more for books and literature than Amazon ever will.
So, surrounded by the books in the shed, I call out to you — buy a book! Buy one anywhere. Buy them often. But don’t give up on your local bookstore just because you might get a better deal somewhere else. Sometimes that simply is not worth the cost.