Boycotting Amazon (And Borders and B&N)

[[Warning Containing Rant]] I’m joining Dan in his Amazon crusade (see here and here), which basically means, I’m not selling books on there (I pulled all my for sale books down today from their site), and I’m not buy books from there (unless maybe there’s the one long lost used Quaker book I absolutely need and cannot find in any library or anywhere else). ((In actuality I have literally under 10 (new) books from Amazon out of my entire library)) I’m not one to be too dogmatic but I do think it’s about time to put my foot down on this. A while back Dan challenged me on my usage of Amazon affiliate links on my blog, a practice I never really felt great about but had my (somewhat justified) reasons for doing so. I make a decent amount of money on my blog every month from book sales and text-link-ads to help defray the cost of my school book budget, so while I pretty much never buy new books from Amazon, I felt that making a little cash off a sale wasn’t a bad deal. But then he showed me that you can do the affiliate links elsewhere (Powell’s) and so I decide to stop link to Amazon books. ((At this point I don’t think I am going to go back through all of my old posts and remove my amazon affiliate links just because that would take a ridiculous amount of time. But all new links will be affiliate links to Powell’s or non-affiliate links elsewhere.))

So that’s part one. Part two is really the point of my boycott.

If you’ve ever watched “The Trip” on Six Feet Under from season one, you’ll have a good picture of what I’m about to say: it’s the episode where David and Nate go to the funeral home director’s conference and it’s completely vacant just reminding them of how difficult a situation their own family (funeral) business is in. The other day my boss (I work at an independent bookstore), during our weekly staff meeting, told us about the recent Independent Bookseller’s conference that happened in LA last week. This annual conference is a chance for indie booksellers to get together, buy some cheap books, go to workshops and stay up on the latest and greatest. It’s usually a big deal. Except this year. My boss said it was an absolute ghost-town. She said, there just aren’t any independent bookstores left. Problem is everyone’s going out of business due to the big corporate booksellers, especially big bad Amazon (my words not hers). She also said that the keynote was by some big whig at Amazon, are you kidding me (this is the same exact thing that happened in the SFU episode)?! She also told us that (some of) the publishers are now realizing just how guilty they are in this whole thing (now they see they’ve created a monster).

See publishers have been cutting Amazon “sweetheart deals” for sometime, that is they’ve been giving Amazon discounts (10-15% extra) that they would never give an independent bookstore. This was because of the bulk Amazon could push. But of course, in the process, they’ve helped to run these small bookshops out of town. Plus, they’ve created their own little Frankenstein. Well, the trouble is now Frankenstein wants to control the print-on-demand business as well (which is increasingly becoming more popular), so if you’re a publisher and you don’t let Amazon run your print on demand for you, there’s a real good chance they’ll just decide not to sell your books online. The tables have turned. Now the publishers need amazon, just as much as the dying independent bookstores needed help from the publishers to ward off the evil giant.

So at our little religious bookstore we too have been loosing more money every year and things aren’t getting any better (I wish I had a dollar for every time a student or customer came into our bookstore and told other customers to get all their books on Amazon, I might actually be able to help the business out a little more!). We keep wondering how long we’ll be around, or what it’s going to take to turn the corner. We’ve been cutting hours, and trying to carry different types of stock that people can’t buy on Amazon (which is very little). It’s sad because both my bosses have been at this for more than 20 years, and they’re really good at it. Our bookstore is one of the best theological bookstores in the US, no joke. And hearing their story about this past weekend really drove it home for me.

So if you’re the kind of person that really digs books, and likes your local bookshops, boycott Amazon and the other corporates as well. If you do buy your books online check out these instead:

Local bookstores for those of you in Pasadena:

Bookstores suggested by GL readers:

[Post edited Monday June 9th 8am]

33 responses to “Boycotting Amazon (And Borders and B&N)”

  1. As I’ve been trying to do better in other ways, I think this one has to be next. I’ve been uncomfortable with Borders and B&N for a while, but the convenience of Amazon lingered. There are no independent bookstores in my area, but it doesn’t justify it. My actions have a ripple effect to other places.

    You could also add Strand Books to that list, if you like them.

    Thanks for the kick in the ass.

  2. Wess

    Thanks for your thoughtful rant. But I wonder if, for many of us, this isn’t closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    In Britain most independent bookshops disappeared in the later 1980s and 1990s. In my city (pop. 300,000, two universities) the bookshops are owned by Waterstones (the main British chain, which should probably be added to the boycott list), Borders (you know all about them!) Wesley Owen (UK chain of evangelical bookstores) and Oxfam (chain of charity shops selling second hand books and other stuff). I know of one independent second hand bookshop, and there’s a university bookshop on an out-of-town campus that I rarely visit – I don’t know who owns it, and they didn’t answer the phone when I called just now.

    I find that the chainstores aren’t very interested in ordering unusual books – if it isn’t something they hold in stock or can get easily from their warehouse they just advise me to order it from Amazon. They feel more and more like supermarkets that just happen to sell books rather than groceries – would Tesco order a special variety of soap powder for me?

    I order French books from time to time, mainly picture books for our daughter, and American theology texts not widely available over here, and find the international reach of Amazon very convenient. Do other international book distribution networks exist?

    Maybe I should just practise simplicity and learn to live without the books. Read this in Schopenhauer the other day: “Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.”

    Grace & Peace


  3. is owned by eBay. It’s their book-selling side of the house.

    eBay is hurting local yard sales, flea markets, pawn shops, and small town newspapers. I suggest you boycott eBay and as well.

  4. I’m not sure if you meant that comment seriously, Eric, but I sincerely doubt that eBay is hurting profits at yardsales, flea markets, etc. Those things all have their niches that eBay can’t touch. Yard sales are all about impulse buys and incredible bargains. Flea markets are for buying fake IDs and getting your picture taken in Polaroid with some poor sickly monkey. Pawn shops make most of their money off of interest and selling gold jewelry, and many of them actually sell on eBay to begin with. Small-town newspapers are doomed by the Internet (esp. Craigslist) anyway.

  5. @Jeremiah: Yeah, I’m mainly thinking about the US at the moment, but I remember being in Brumy last year and seeing that there were no cool local bookshops, what a shame! I personally am not ready to go without books! Check out it’s international and all kinds of independent booksellers.

  6. @Alicia: Thanks for the comment, and a kick-in-the-pants helped me out to. Just spreading the love! Thanks for the link to strand, I’ve never heard of it.

  7. @Eric Atkins: Very true on half, but half isn’t having the affect that Amazon is. owns their books, and makes their profit that way, works as a hub for other sellers to sell their books, making a profit on the use of their service. If you check out it’s all kinds of students, individuals, and bookstores selling their items on there. Plus, if you need to sell a used book it’s a better choice of Amazon because they don’t control the cost of shipping, and they give a little better cut.

  8. […] books – but interestingly, purposefully not As an employee of Fuller’s bookstore, he shares a few insights (really a self-disclosed rant) about his approaches to books, the owners of the Fuller bookstore, […]

  9. Alicia – Strand is a great store. Your mention of it makes me miss NYC. My local bookstore is now The Regulator on 9th Street in Durham, NC.

    Jeremiah – Yeah, it’s tough. I’ve found myself in a similar quandary as far as what to do about video rentals after Blockbuster has destroyed most of the independent stores in the US. Sometimes you have to be crafty. Sometimes there isn’t a perfect option, but you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or that which is better). Certainly, you’ll pay a cost (usually a bit more in price, and a bit more in convenience) for your convictions, but rarely is a book (or anything else for that matter) something that you need this very minute. Wess is right that you might be able to find a store through and then contact them directly.

    Wess – Thanks for this. You’re a good egg. When someone brings something up like this, there are always the 12 other suggestions (the “well, what about this?”) which could be added on to the action. That’s great as far as getting people thinking, but can dilute an action of its structure and approachability. You can’t change the world by trying to change the world, but can by engaging in simple defined activities. Thanks for continuing my call to change one small practice.

    In the end, one could argue that, look, all I want is the latest Danielle Steele novel and I don’t care where I get it. It’s going to be hard to persuade that person. However, I love books and think large chains are bad for books. [Everyone should read this article about Jim Wier.] I also want to empower individuals to run their own businesses, set their own hours, etc. I also care about communities and want to keep cash flows circulating in an area and not exiting to a shareholder with no ties to a particular place.

    From Julie Bosman’s Dec. 20, 2006 article in the NYTimes:

    “There are currently about 2,500 independent bookstores in the United States, not counting stores that deal only in used books, said Meg Smith, a spokeswoman for the American Booksellers Association. In 1993 the number stood at about 4,700.”

  10. I loved this post, Wess. I’m a huge fan of patronizing local businesses (even when they cost more). I find I get better service, more friendly advice and just a more holistic experience.

  11. Well ranted. I’ve been trying to cut out Amazon et. al. At some point I was buying online from a third party, and it occurred to me maybe I’d just call them. That was Sam Weller’s in Utah: If you don’t have a lot of other resources, Amazon can usually provide enough info on an independent seller for you to cut out the heavyweight middleman.

    I’m also trying to cut down on book consumption in general, despite my hope that independent booksellers will make it. I love that Schopenhauer quote. I’m trying to stick to references and established standards, and depend on the future of libraries for the rest. They’re in need of a good rant, too.

  12. Of course, It’s always better to be for something, namely, independent bookstores, local economies, publication heterogeneity, etc., rather than against something. I appreciate that you have the former conceptions in mind when coming to the latter.

  13. Wess, here’s a different angle on this to chew on.

    I love Amazon. They’ve helped me find obscure books that are no where else. It’s not the prices, it’s the inventory. But that’s not why I appreciate them.

    I’m a writer. Fuller Bookstore doesn’t sell my book. Small independent bookstores don’t sell my book (that’s not entirely the case… there is one in Lake Arrowhead and one or two elsewhere that I’ve personally gone in and made connections with).

    Barclay Press doesn’t get into bookstores. They’re too small and uninfluential. The key distributors don’t work with them (even though they’ve tried). And so the biggest majority, by far, of my sales come from Amazon. They support me. They support small publishers by giving them a forum.

    And maybe print on demand folks might be running into problems with Amazon, but there’s no doubt in my mind that brick and mortar stores have utterly no interest in any kind of such books, blocking that market.

    So why should I avoid the company who has done the most to help my progression in study and writing?

    It’s fine to boycott Amazon with thoughts of only the bookstore side. But writers have access now they didn’t have before, and so I’m sticking with the place that gives me a little space.

  14. In other words, what are small independent bookstores doing to help small independent writers or small publishers?

    Barnes and Noble, for instance, is very supportive of doing readings by less well known writers. Many of my friends with self-published books or small publishers have found inroads with B&N.

    Bookstores are not about their own identity. They sell books. If they want to be supported as independent they should support local writers and independent publishers whether print on demand or small.

    Why don’t they give attention to lesser known publishers or writers? Money. The same reason people go to the bigger companies like Amazon, who do it better for cheaper.

    Vroman’s is successful because it does do a lot of local community involvement in literature. How do other small bookstores involve themselves in the local writing community? Why is there more attention and space given to local musicians in coffee shops than local writers in bookshops?

    Maybe local bookstores aren’t doing well because they have for a long time tried to be gatekeepers themselves, and not become connected well with the community. Maybe they should find a niche that Amazon can’t. And get people excited about small bookstores again.

    Seems like coffee shops have found a way to do this, making for a lot of non-Starbucks places around.

  15. Patrick–

    I have more hope in independent bookstores on both the inventory and community involvement issues. If they’re not getting it done, then shame on them. As a writer, one of the big reasons I dislike Amazon is that I ultimately think they will be bad for smaller presses even if in the short term they may prop them up. Have you talked to your local store about doing a book reading or having a local authors display?

  16. Thanks everyone for the comments, I’m enjoying hearing stories about how this is affecting your own lives.

    @Patrick – thanks for adding your side of the story, and I can see why for you Amazon may be working at some level. But a couple thoughts:

    1) Why not just have people who want to buy your book online go directly to Barclay Press? Skip over Amazon, and help an independent publisher that’s trying to do some really rad things? In my mind, if we drop amazon, that doesn’t mean we stop using the internet to buy books, we just stop using amazon. There are all kinds of places to buy rare, used, out of print, and small(ish) published books. In this case, if you’re not going to get the book from a local bookshop, go to Barclay directly. They’re Quakers after all! 🙂 Oh, btw I’m glad you published with them.

    2) Fuller Bookstore does in fact carry Barclay Press books, and if you took Jimmy (one of my bosses) a copy of your book and told him about it, I’m pretty sure he’d carry it too (but it isn’t my decision). I can only speak for Fuller’s bookstore but I know this much – Baker Books, Cambridge, Zondervan, etc all have a sales reps (although they’re increasingly losing their jobs as well do to all this) that visit our store and tell us the new books they have and what they’re about. That way we can pick what’s good for our inventory. Small presses like BP don’t, and so unless something gets a special order we just don’t have time to track every book that gets published, not even every book that gets published by Fuller grades! We’re a prolific bunch. My boss has wondered why some of the small presses don’t at least send him catalogs, which he goes through and will pick out books to purchase.

    3) We actually do have authors come in on occasion and do book signings, and we do “book tables” for speaking events. I know our boss is open to things that the student body might be interested in. We also have very limited space, so we do those things in nicer weather outside on the patio or in our coffeeshop. 🙂 BTW we do have amazing fair trade coffees.

    4) After having a few really tough years at the bookstore, mainly due to lost sales from Amazon, you’re right, it is hard to just sell everything that comes across the desk. We have to be choosey about our stock, this stinks because it means that we’re not only losing sales but there is also the temptation to give up the niche market (people go online to get their very specific texts, even though we usually have that stuff in stock) and just have popular texts that “sell well.” Fortunately, we haven’t really done too much of this, the fact that we’re tied to Fuller gives us some leeway other places don’t have, but it now becomes a factor.

    5) All in all Partick, it’s a complicated issue, and obviously we need writers like you if we’re going to have books. I guess my point is we don’t need amazon to have writers, small publishers, books, or good bookstores. Dan’s right, the small book publishers are going to be hurt by this too, especially those that give their rights to do print-on-demand to Amazon. I want to point out another Fuller grad friend of mine, Chris Spinks, who’s written about this very subject and works for a small indie publisher in Oregon Wipf and Stock

    I think local bookstores, because they’re all in a crunch, are more open to ideas about getting more involvement in their stores and doing creative things, I know we are. So if you’re interested in getting your book in our store I think you should take a copy to my boss and see what happens, possibly even ask about doing a talk or something. I don’t know what the protocol is on that stuff, and I don’t know whether they would do it, but I know they’re open to new ideas and it’s worth a shot.

  17. Wess, I should have attached a to my post as well. I think this is a great conversation to have and this is likely pulling out broader frustration I’ve found than just this immediate topic. Know that if I come off a little ranty here I’m more just pushing one side of the argument for the sake of the discussion, because honestly I would like to agree with you, but for me that means pushing back at bookstores to help them sharpen rather than just drop my amazon account.

    Dan’s comment about being ‘for something’ is it for me. Right now I just don’t have a reason to be ‘for’ most independent bookstores, or at least for them and against amazon.

    I’m going to do something I hate to do. I’m going to boast a little about my book. I hate being a salesman. I went into writing so I wouldn’t have to sell things. But that’s sometimes part of the job, so I’ve made efforts. I’m going to use the Fuller bookstore as an example, even though I’ve found them quite useful and often have bought books there (if they have them in stock) instead of using Amazon. Amazon was always my second choice.

    I had a connection at Fuller and so Barclay Press sent them a nice announcement (glossy I imagine) about my book’s release and information about getting it. They got zero response.

    Now here’s the boasting bit. My book’s forward was written by Alan Hirsch (now at Fuller). It was based on the work done by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (Fuller professors). My studies were done under the guidance of Veli-Matti Karkkainen (Fuller professor). So, the book has immense connections to the Fuller community. Gibbs and Karkkainen both contributed endorsements. Besides these I have other endorsements. Dan Kimball, Shane Claiborne, Frank Macchia, Michael Frost, and one very rare to even much higher status books: Jurgen Moltmann.

    World class endorsements–people who were sent copies and who responded, aiding my efforts. Of course, I can add to that list of very helpful folks one Wess Daniels. Your review was so encouraging and I very much appreciate it, especially as I’ve had such trouble getting my book attention.

    Fuller Bookstore didn’t follow up. Other bookstores didn’t follow up. I went to more than one in person and tried to make a connection. They took my info and I never heard a word back.

    Now, I might have a small publisher but I have world class endorsements. That still didn’t get me notice. What about the writer who doesn’t have connections? Entirely ignored. Before Amazon came around the only option was for them to sell books from their garage because no local bookstore would have anything to do with them. They don’t sell print on demand books. I’ve a good friend, Jim Geiger, who wrote a brilliant book called the Gospel According to Relativity. What chances has he to get into a small bookstore?

    Why didn’t Fuller respond about my book? I suspect because I’m a nobody. If I had the last name Yancey or Foster or McClaren they would even feature it. Because bookstores know such books sell. And selling books is what they do. It’s not about community, it’s about money, and money is why other people use Amazon.

    Add to this. I use Amazon because they have good inventory. But they also have a wonderful community involvement. I’ve been in good bookstores and for the most part haven’t entirely been impressed with the knowledge that most staff have of the various subjects. If I asked for a book on Christian Spirituality I would likely get recommended Richard Foster more than John Cassian, even though Cassian is significantly more deep, readable, and influential throughout history. He’s obscure now, though.

    If I have an opinion about a book what forum does a small bookstore give me for discussion? Amazon lets me post reviews and be involved in community forums on all kinds of topics–and I’ve even sold books not by promoting my book but by showing that I’m able to participate intelligently in conversation sparking people to ask more about my background.

    Yes, I can use the Barclay website. And I have. But honestly having my book only sold through the publisher’s website is depressing. Why have the endorsements? Where’s the support of others that might lead people who don’t know me directly to find my work?

    Maybe I should push my book more with Fuller, pleading with them to pay me some attention after ignoring me and offering no clear path to promote it. However this might be true I can’t push it more with every bookstore. So, if someone in a different state wants my book I go with the place that is easiest for people to find. Because, honestly, having been pushed aside by bookstores I’m not entirely eager to fight for them.

    They remind me of a Farmer’s market that doesn’t sell local produce but rather has booths set up by vaguely disinterested staff selling products by Nabisco or Chiquita or General Mills.

    If bookstores don’t want to be proactive in participating in the community of writers and readers I don’t see anything special that suggests they should stay in business. They act like a business, but they want me to act sacrificial. They don’t help me or other small time writers. But they want me to depend on them to find books by major authors and major publishers.

    Yes, Amazon has problems. But they are problems that are somewhat a result of Amazon’s tremendous ability to promote books in a way that has revolutionized independent writing. Yes, Powells sells my book too, though only online and so someone would have to know to search for me particularly to find it. Alibri’s has it too, though oddly enough, it’s selling there anywhere from $18 to a shocking $97. I suspect I’m not going to see any increased royalties from that latter. And if people I know are really, really struggling financially but can’t afford even $18, saving the $6 and going with Amazon really makes a difference.

    So, ending my rant here, I would have been immensely, immensely encouraged to have my book picked up by Fuller when they got information. Not having support by my alma mater added to the discouragement that I got from so many directions after having really done my part in a lot of ways. When I was closer by I would have loved to have regular book events, conversations, interactions that would get me to know obscure writers and other bibliophiles.

    But, honestly, it seems that such bookstores want customers to do all the work, and make all the sacrifices, without offering anything in return to justify loyalty. I realize Amazon’s fault’s. But it’s hard for me to accept being asked to stop enjoying their benefits merely to support yet another uninvolved business.

    Note too this isn’t true for all bookshops. Some are wonderful and involved. But they are mostly in urban areas and few and far between, leaving the great majority without access to good books unless they go through Amazon or other major retailers.


  18. Oops… apparently even non-accepted tags are treated as being somehow valid.

    I jokingly added an opening and closing ‘rant’ tag to my comments.

  19. @Patrick – thanks for the follow comment. I can see and understand your frustration with our bookshop, I’m sorry about that. I think it makes sense to be frustrated to not have your book at your school’s bookstore and I definitely understand how this is a matter close to your heart.

    All I can really say is that the people at Fuller bookstore are really good people, and they’re not out to get anybody or hurt anybody. They really are doing the best they can given the situation.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that we get tons and tons of fliers all the time, for all kinds of books, and there isn’t time to go through everything. Like I said before, we have sales reps for a majority of the books we sell, another big group of the other books we have in stock come from books professors use in classes, and (sometimes, though less frequently) through publisher catalogs. Also, it might be helpful to know there is one person who is in charge of keeping our 50,000+ stock up to date, as well as keeping on top of re-orders, facility titles, etc.

    The strength of it being a small independent bookstore is that the chain of command is short, and the people who have been running it have been there for a very long time, are great at their jobs, and are there because they love it not because they’re getting rich off it (because we all know that’s isn’t the case or else this discussion wouldn’t exist). That said, as I know you really take community seriously, why not stop in and introduce yourself to our book buyer the next time your in town. Tell him about your book, the endorsements, etc and see what happens, you can even see if they’d be open to some kind of book discussion. I don’t make any of these decisions but I’d say you should take the chance and go for it, give them the opportunity to respond in the way you’re hoping for.

  20. Wess, I totally know the folks at Fuller Bookstore are great people. I’ve bought books from there when I’ve been nearby and stop in to browse. I’ve always thought they were nice and helpful and interested.

    So, if I sounded like I was blasting Fuller or their intent or their goodness I apologize. My experiences become the most handy examples I have for broader points. I understand and haven’t made some kind of stance. That’s why it was kind of weird to write all that out earlier. I think Fuller is very good for what it is and what it does.

    My bigger point isn’t me or my book really. It’s just saying there are reasons why I continue to value Amazon. The reasons about purchasing you note are very understandable. That’s why I think such bookstores just can’t compete with Amazon. Amazon does it so, so, so much better with so much better selection. They are not only helpful to the consumer they have been boons to small authors. So, the way to stand out is to be better in ways Amazon can’t. To be more than just a place that has bookshelves and sells books.

    Dan, I have talked to my local bookstore and they do sell my book. But it’s so frustrating to have to do that with every store in the area, let alone the country. I’m just not a salesman. Selling my manuscript was a lot already to get it published. And when bookstores make it difficult–having to drive around, the book buyer not being around, being kind in person but not responding at all later–it gets discouraging. While with Amazon I can just say, “here’s a link, buy it.” It might be harder for small presses at some point with Amazon, but it’s much harder without Amazon in the present if small and print on demand publishers have utterly no access in bookstores.

    If bookstores want to survive they have to be more than places where authors have to plead to find space if they are not part of major publishers. They have to start being pro-active and involved in the community and give clear and easy paths to help writers who might enjoy being part of a book loving community. Bookstores have enjoyed control over reading for a long while, and have become quite passive in insisting both customers and writers serve their needs. Amazon might push them to become better and more helpful and more necessary. Just like Starbucks has really pushed small independent coffeehouses to become sharper by having music, free wi-fi, better environment and whatnot.

  21. […] Myers has a post on boycotting Amazon, which connects to a post written by Wess Daniels. Both are interesting. I’ve added my thoughts in the comments over at both blogs. I want to […]

  22. Patrick, I appreciate what you’re saying. Still, I worry about losing proprietorships. It has little to do with nostalgia for me, or things like customer service. While it is a labor issue for me, that’s not even primary. I worry about the book publishing/selling industry becoming even more entrenched in the mass marketing of products based primarily on profitability. I worry about small stores closing; I worry about small presses closing. In the same way that I don’t only want summer blockbuster films to be made, I have to be concerned about avenues of distribution and access which will not be parasitic on the books (or films, etc.) themselves. I understand you don’t want to be a sales person, but don’t convictions at least on some level require it?

  23. […] Why Support Independent Booksellers? Posted on June 15, 2008 by Jack Kooyman Given the addiction to and ease of purchasing books–and more–from and selling them through, you probably will only want to read the post from C. Wess Daniel’s blog, Gathering in Light,  if you have a genuine social conscience and care about supporting locally owned independent businesses. So, here’s the link: […]

  24. Dan, I don’t understand your last sentence. What I feel I’m being told is that I should support small bookstores just because. What I’m trying to say is my convictions come from being a writer and a book lover.

    I’m not worried about the book publishing/selling industry precisely because the books that are being affected by Amazon were never, and would never, be carried by small bookstores anyhow. Small bookstores, the majority of them that aren’t offering used books/etc. have long been the power brokers, and now their power is broken I’m not feeling very much regret unless small bookstores respond in a way that justifies their continued participation in the community.

    Small bookstores have mass market books. They are not boutique stores. Small presses have always struggled. But my small press isn’t helped whatsoever by small bookstores. I sell books on Amazon. Small bookstores look at me, even when I have a glossy sheet in hand, and “will get back to me”. However, if they are the ones struggling then they need to have the strength of their convictions and be proactive in seeking out participation in the community.

    Amazon, and other online sellers, has been a huge boon to writers and the book community by allowing a marketplace for people who have something to say but who were laughed at or ignored by bookstores. So, I don’t feel a lot of loyalty, even if I really can see how a small bookstore might become a tremendous asset.

    The issue for me here is books. Books and writers. How these are sold is not primary. Bookstores are middlemen, displaying a book for a reader. The less we have to depend on more middlemen deciding what is and what is not acceptable for their community the better chance we have to get messages out there. It’s hard for me to see how small bookstores alleviate mass marketing when mass marketed books are the only ones they will sell.

    Get these stores to feature new and local and distinct writers and maybe they’ll find a place. Right now they have an equivalent of a Christendom attitude. So long they have been in control of reading they still, without adapting, expect people to just show up, and still leave a whole lot of writers and publishers out in the cold.

    Distribution and access has become immensely better with Amazon. I know that personally and with many other small writers. I haven’t yet heard a reason for convictions other than a distaste for Amazon’s size.

    Meanwhile they sell books of people I know and my book. That’s distribution and access for those otherwise left out in the cold, who bookstores ignore until they themselves feel the crunch of people making rational financial decisions.

    Don’t get me wrong. I want small bookstores. I think we need them. But we need them to be something only they can uniquely become–involved and participating in their book communities and offering uniqueness, taking risks and becoming partners in local promotion. Not passive vendors with no clear system of access.

  25. […] Yeah, I am gonna spend a little more on books from this group than Amazon or another group like that, but I am always reminding myself, low costs almost never come without someone else paying the “price.” […]