I read today that Barnes and Noble is closing stores after a “terrible” Christmas season – store sales have declined almost 11% and NOOK sales have dropped 12.6%. This article partially blames Barnes and Noble itself, but specifically calls out “Showrooming” where people look at a book in the bookstore and then buy it at Amazon.
I’m not very conflicted about Amazon. I like it. I know they have shady employment practices, and they’re aggressively competitive with other bookstores, even other kinds of stores. I really like their Prime service, which enables me to order (cheap) gifts for random people and have them delivered for free. I usually like using their affiliate links to earn a few dollars here and there. (Last year I didn’t even clear $200, by the way, so don’t get the wrong idea). But their main competition is probably bookstores.
I love bookstores. Once upon a time I wanted to own a bookstore. In fact, if I ever won the lottery and decided to settle down somewhere (unlikely on both counts), I’d probably open a bookstore/internet cafe someplace warm near the water. Or even on the Oregon Coast. I think neighborhood bookstores are as much an integral part of a healthy city as a thriving nightlife. Nena, over at St Johns Books, has readings, book clubs, and parties, she supports the schools, she gives discounts to educators, she orders books for people. Powell’s has readings, book clubs, story times, all sorts of stuff.
I think, even though people enjoy Amazon, they should support their local bookstores. I don’t believe it’s an either-or situation, I think you can do both. But that requires a commitment to go to your bookstore and browse.
(I’m also a huge fan of public-domain books, like ones you find at Project Gutenberg)