Let’s Talk: When I shop at Amazon
So, this is an interesting topic. The world is all abuzz about Amazon, indie shops, and the death of the library. Of course, I have two cents.
I want to start out by being very clear: I love the library. I love my local indie books and comics shops. I also love Amazon.
I worked at a library for four years as a tutor and instructor. I understand that libraries are vital to the system. They provide services to so many who truly need them. The truth is that computers and internet access are not universal. Calm environments aren’t universal. Educational aid isn’t universal. With the library those things can be. I don’t go to the library because I’m scared that it will cease to exist. Frankly, I’m less concerned about a book-filled building being shut down than I am about the community services that libraries play a vital role in providing no longer being available. I use my library for a bunch of different reasons. Not the least of those is that I don’t have the funds to constantly be buying every book I want to read, especially for series that have huge backlogs and that I may simply not enjoy.
As a side note, for those of you who are concerned about the library disappearing, go there. Library funding isn’t necessarily based on the number of books checked out. A big factor is in service use and foot traffic. You’re helping just by going in and sitting down in the library’s quiet environment. Stats track the number of people coming into the building. That in and of itself is vital.
My local indies
I try and make a point of going to my indies, both the books and comics stores. There are a number of reasons for this, but mostly I just can’t imagine not having them. I can’t imagine a world where I have to resort to simple computer algorithms (however good they may be) for my book and comics recs. I love the feeling of walking into a bookstore and smelling the books, especially when the building is slightly cramped and crowded, filled to the brim with books. I love the people who frequent them. I can’t imagine not having those available.
Unfortunately, I can’t afford to always shop there. I try and go on payday, but I can’t go constantly.
So, my rule of thumb: use Amazon or the library for testing out series, go to the indie to read the rest of it. By and large, my expenses on a single series are going to be high. If I love it, I’ll stick with it for a long time, even if the story drags or starts to sour. But, I try out a lot of series. This lets me (1) test out books at a lower cost, and (2) concentrate a lot of my consistent purchases on places I love to visit.
Books and comics I love and never would have read if it weren’t for my indies:
This leads us to the beast. Amazon has a big role to play in the books industry. It has the capacity and presence to lap my indies like no one else. While I always will want my brick and mortar store, I shop at Amazon a lot.
Amazon is able to provide some super cheap prices. This is often seen as a big threat to bookstores. This is only sometimes true. Does the current ease of access make me occasionally less likely to buy in store? yes.
However,Amazon’s presence also allows a lot of my local indies, especially ones with a specialty market (for instance in classics or antiques) to supplement their own income. Amazon owns The Book Depository, AbeBooks, and a variety of other marketplaces where they can list products that aren’t selling in store. My local shop has a lot of signed books. I’m not going to buy a signed Heinlein, but there’s a guy in Massachusetts who will. If the presence and utilization of Amazon and its subsidiaries allows them to sell specialty products and stay in business, I’m all for it.
On top of that, with the option to buy from vendors other than Amazon, I know that I can spread the love around. Is Amazon a great company? Maybe, maybe not.Yes there are some ethically questionable stuff, but they also (1) fulfill some of my needs as a consumer, and (2) feed into my book purchasing overall. In combination with my Rule of Thumb, I think it tends to actually lead me to purchase more in store.
Amazon also provides a service for people whose libraries or bookstores maybe far away. It takes over 5 hours to get to a bookstore that sells anything other than the top best sellers where my parents live and their library is very limited, with long waits and shipping times. Amazon there fills a very important role.
Anyways, just some thoughts. They’re not terribly elegant, but there you have it.