Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Bookstore War

I don't think I can properly close out the week without acknowledging the Amazon scandal.  It's been all over the news this week: Amazon.com vs the brick-and-mortar bookstores.  It started when Amazon sent out a one-day offer giving customers $5 off of a product if they used Amazon price-checking when inside the actual store.  And even though books were apparently not part of the deal, booksellers everywhere were outraged.  Some even offered their own deal days, offering a discount to anyone who brought in proof of a cancelled Amazon account.

It seems to have become a moral issue in the publishing world, and I can't yet tell where I sit on this fence.  On one hand, I get that stores felt threatened by Amazon's apparent attack.  After all, they're Amazon, and they've changed the face of not only online shopping, but of all shopping (I myself am a happy Amazon Prime customer).  And with the recent death of the Borders chains, it's reasonable for bookstores to take offense, even if books weren't included in the offer.

But on the other hand, Amazon is a company, just like all of those brick-and-mortar bookstores.  And for-profit companies exist for one thing: to turn a profit.  How can they be blamed for a successful business venture?  Besides, Amazon isn't making books obsolete; it's merely creating a different channel for getting them.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm fans of both.  I order a lot of books on Amazon simply because I don't have time to drive half an hour to a bookstore (not to mention that they are, in general, cheaper there).  But I also did truly mourn the passing of the two Borders bookstores closest to me, and to this day I feel sad when I pass by the dark Borders sign.

I guess the bottom line (at least for me) is this: I'll shop at Amazon when I'm looking for convenience and cost-efficiency, and I'll shop at Barnes & Noble or my favorite used bookstore when I'm looking for an experience.  Both are valuable to me, and I would hate to lose either option.  So my hope is that there's a way this can be worked out so that both sides win--that way I can keep my Prime membership and still enjoy the occasional brick-and-mortar visit.  Why can't we have both?

TJ

P.S.  There's a good opinion piece on the subject at Publisher's Weekly.