Saturday, December 17, 2011

Had To Happen: Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller

Ed here: There's always a contrarian somewhere. In the past months there's been a glut of pieces about supporting your local bookstores, which I'm all in favor of. Now here's a piece that claims we shouldn't. Had to happen.

Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller
Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you.
By Farhad Manjoo|Posted Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, at 6:50 PM ET

The independent bookstore is not the last stronghold of literary culture you think it is

Amazon just did a boneheaded thing, and it deserves all the scorn you want to heap on it. Last week, the company offered people cash in exchange for going into retail stores and scanning items using the company’s Price Check smartphone app. If you scanned a product and then purchased it from Amazon rather than the shop you were standing in, Amazon would give you a 5 percent discount on the sale. (Disclosure: Slate is an Amazon affiliate; when you click on an Amazon link from Slate, the magazine gets a cut of the proceeds from whatever you buy.)

I’m generally a fan of price comparison—like everyone else, I hate spending more than I should—but I can understand physical retailers’ fear of the practice becoming widespread. When you walk into Best Buy and get a salesperson to spend 10 minutes showing you a television, then leave empty-handed so you can buy the TV for less on Amazon, you’ve just turned Best Buy into Jeff Bezos’ chump. The Price Check promotion (which lasted only one day) was, like Amazon’s aggressive efforts to dodge the collection of sales tax, a brazen attempt to crush local retailers, and I (as did many others) found it distasteful. Sure, I’m a fan of Amazon and devote a substantial portion of my income to its coffers—but does it have to be so wantonly callous about destroying its competitors?

All of which is to say that I was primed to nod in vigorous agreement when I saw novelist Richard Russo’s New York Times op-ed taking on Amazon’s thuggish ways. But as I waded into Russo’s piece—which was widely passed around on Tuesday—I realized that he’d made a critical and common mistake in his argument. Rather than focus on the ways that Amazon’s promotion would harm businesses whose demise might actually be a cause for alarm (like a big-box electronics store that hires hundreds of local residents), Russo hangs his tirade on some of the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find: independent bookstores. Russo and his novelist friends take for granted that sustaining these cultish, moldering institutions is the only way to foster a “real-life literary culture,” as writer Tom Perrotta puts it. Russo claims that Amazon, unlike the bookstore down the street, “doesn’t care about the larger bookselling universe” and has no interest in fostering “literary culture.”

for the rest go here:


Peter L. Winkler said...

I thought that writers foster literary culture, if such a thing even exists in a population, many of whom never read even one book a year. Bookstores only sell it. They don't create it.

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm all for Best Buy going under.

A. Grofield said...

Aaargh! F*ckin' bookstores are so confusing! How do they work!?

(I can only assume the author of this article wears hip-hop clown facepaint.)

Is it preferable to own more stuff (preferably e-stuff, so, in essence, more of "nothing") versus owning less stuff but ensuring your money stays in your local economy?

Yes! Unless your job relies on the local economy. Then, obviously, no.

Slate could itself reach greater economic efficiencies by making the author (whose bio is, hilariously, a link to Amazon...) redundant and just reusing advertising copy supplied by Amazon.

But then we wouldn't have the thin veneer of "journalism" spread atop a thick cake of advertising.