Matt Cheney makes an important distinction between why we shop at Amazon and why we shop at brick and mortars:
to make discoveries. The latter is much more fun — browsing is an
addiction — and also leads to much more impulsive buying, which is bad
for my wallet and good for the health of bookstores.
I have basically the exact same experiences. When I know exactly what book I want, I don't want to waste time searching through four different bookstores in hopes of finding it. I just buy it on Amazon. Bookstores are where I go to spend an enjoyable hour and make serendipitous discoveries. And, yes, browsing is very much an addictive experience that bookstores can and should build on. Whenever I pass by a bookstore, I feel the pull. Despite everything Jeff Bezos has done to replicate this in his bookstore, I'm not drawn to browse Amazon in the same way.
Matt also explains why he's an independent bookstore's worst nightmare.
bookstores that can provide me with much opportunity for discovery are
at least an hour and a half's drive away. I don't much like driving, so
I don't tend to go to them. If I get the urge to browse, I drive half
an hour to the nearest Borders in Concord, which, as Borders stores go,
is actually pretty good. . . .
Amazon.com, that's a more complex problem. I use Amazon links not
because I make a lot of money off them (at best $100 or so a year) but
because I like the information they give. I have thought about
switching to Powell's a few times, and may yet, but it's still not
quite comprehensive enough, though they seem to get better by the
month. Indiebound is useless
to me because I don't care where you buy your books — what I want is
to be able to give you information about the book, let you look for
other books like it, let you find used copies if you want, etc. I want
a link to give you the most information and options with the fewest
clicks. So far, Amazon does that best for me.
As for buying new
books from Amazon … I hardly ever do it. I am a publisher's
nightmare: I buy used books and I use libraries. Partly, this is
because I do get a number of books sent as review copies from
publishers (fewer these days, since I've cut back on reviewing).
Mostly, it's because I'm not independently wealthy and yet I want to
read a lot. I buy small press books out of loyalty to certain presses
– each year at Readercon, I buy at least a few of the Small Beer books
I don't already have, for instance — but the big publishers only
occasionally, such as yesterday. I'm glad not everyone is like me,
because otherwise no books would be published at all, but so it goes.
So these days, yes, I kill bookstores.
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