When one is confronted with a harsh truth that attacks one’s identity, it is not uncommon to bristle defensively and respond with arguments that explain (to the arguer, at least) why the truth is false.
I’ve done it, and I’m sure some of my readers have done it, and I’d bet an even larger number have seen the behavior on social networks (even if you didn’t recognize it at the time).
And now the Seattle Times has given indie bookseller Indigo Trigg-Hauger a platform to complain about Amazon:
But places like Third Place Books, The Elliott Bay Book Company and my own place of work, A Book For All Seasons, can never be replaced. The experience of an indie bookstore just can’t be bought.
People won’t go to Amazon’s bookstore for enjoyment. The model is utilitarian, impersonal and cold. And with the rise of Amazon’s Kindle, customers risk losing contact with the heart of the book industry.
At your local independent bookstore, we want people to browse on their own time, on their own terms. We have recommendations scattered throughout the store — but that’s not why you come. You come because you want to make a discovery, one that will be your own.
Why would I go to a bookstore where all the work has been done for me? People are unique. We don’t want to feel like another data point, another sale in the machine that tells the company how many books to buy. Indie bookstores also use sales data, but we leave ample room for experimentation and improvisation. If I remember an amazing book from my childhood that I think we should carry, I can tell my boss. We have the freedom to experiment, which means our customers do, too.
Being in a bookstore is not supposed to be a quick and easy clinical process. But that is what Amazon has erected.
My problem with that piece is that it makes many assumptions about Amazon that stem from a romanticized view of bookselling which are then filtered through an indie bookseller’s understandable dislike for its largest competitor.
For example, Trigg-Hauger looked at the following and called it “utilitarian, impersonal and cold”:
That doesn’t strike me as utilitarian or cold; where’s the bargain bin? exposed concrete? cheap lighting? (There’s a shortage of cats, but that’s a separate issue.)
I haven’t seen any of those things in the photos taken in Amazon Books; did I miss something?
Furthermore, I’ve been following the coverage of Amazon Books closely, and so far that coverage has failed to convince me that Amazon doesn’t “want people to browse on their own time, on their own terms”, as Trigg-Hauger would have you believe, or that if I went there “all the work has been done for me”, leaving me no way to browse the selection and discover a great read.
I wasn’t aware that Amazon had a countdown timer or anything like that on their product pages, or that they kicked people out of Amazon Books if you browse for too long; does anyone know of a report that corroborates the claim?
And while we’re on the topic, has anyone had Amazon decide which books you’ll buy, and then bill you and ship them without your permission?
Hell, has anyone had an experience in Amazon Books that even vaguely resembles Trigg-Hauger’s tale?
image by eflon