Writing over at the Huffington Post, Heather Garbo expresses concern for how she is neglecting her local bookstore:
... about five years ago my husband bought me a Kindle. I was curious but hesitant. I downloaded my very first book. Perhaps if I had begun with a book that was not quite so addictive, I would not have fallen quite so hard. But, I had begun my Kindle experience with The Hunger Games. I devoured the entire trilogy over the next few days, immediately downloading the next book upon finishing one. It was incredibly compulsive and I couldn’t stop myself. It felt almost magical to immediately get my hands on the next book from the comfort of my home.
... I love the local bookstore as a community gathering place. I love the vibrancy it brings to our neighborhood and greater community.
For a while this didn’t even occur to me. Perhaps naively, I regularly visited my bookstore with my Kindle. I loved reading there, surrounded by books and other book lovers, sipping the glass of wine they graciously served me. Only later did I wonder if that was rude, like bringing food from another restaurant into your favorite cafe? Was I cheating on my bookstore and flaunting it in their face?
So what do you think, is she cheating on her local bookstore? Would you feel guilty in this situation?
My answer follows, but I would also like to hear what you think.
O O O
My answer is simple, straightforward, and negative.
No, I would not feel guilty about buying ebooks elsewhere. A bookstore is a business, and not a charity or philanthropic venture. I would no more feel guilty about buying ebooks than I do about buying used books or checking books out of the library.
The reason I bring up used books is that Garbo's post reminded me of something Neil Gaiman said about used bookstores:
Don’t ever apologize to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that’s what they’re there for. Use your library). Don’t apologize to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read.
Had Garbo asked Gaiman whether she should feel guilty over heating on her bookstore, he would tell her not to be ridiculous. What matters is that the books are being read, not how she acquired them.
What do you think?
image by keepitsurreal