Are You an Amazon Hypocrite?
The objections to Amazon’s planned fourth bookstore in Chicago have moved from pompous protests to self-righteous attacks.
In a piece which you would swear was written for Salon.com rather than the Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich attacked a certain type of Amazon customer last week as hypocrites.
The hypocrite is the person who loves, loves, loves independent bookstores, local boutiques and that family-run pet-supply shop that’s been on the corner forever.
The hypocrite knows that these native businesses are vital to making a neighborhood feel like home, and when another such enterprise dies from Amazonian competition, the hypocrite laments the disappearance of the small, the local, the clearly human.
On the other hand …
The hypocrite is busy, thrifty and a little lazy. Although she loves strolling by the independent bookstore, boutique or pet-supply shop — she may even step in to browse — she winds up buying lots of stuff from Amazon, despite reports of some dubious business practices.
She bemoans the death of what she loves while helping to kill it. Hypocrisy.
Most of us have a streak of shopping hypocrisy in us — I do — and I’ve been thinking about it since the news that Amazon, the Goliath of online booksellers, plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Chicago.
I would think that insulting someone while trying to bring over to your side is ultimately a doomed tactic, but it is one which Salon.com has applied in the past (I was the only one to criticize, or even notice, the attack). So maybe this post will achieve its goal.
So tell me, are you an Amazon hypocrite?
As someone living in suburbia, I can safely deny the charge. I don’t have any quaint retail stores within a reasonable driving distance to bond with, much less abandon in favor of Amazon’s lower prices.
How about you?
image by SounderBruce
CJJ September 12, 2016 um 6:20 pm
One of my little pleasures is using my Amazon credit card to buy books at a local independent bookseller. Always gets a chuckle at checkout.
Paul September 12, 2016 um 10:26 pm
Thing is though, I used to have a borders within walking distance. If I want to go to a bookstore its now 20 minutes in the car. That now makes buying from Amazon more attractive although I do try to get there once a month if possible (either Politics and Prose or Barnes and Noble)
DavidW September 13, 2016 um 8:06 am
Just to be clear the author is not criticizing customers of Amazon. She is criticizing people that profess love for independent stores but then don’t frequent them. That is fair criticism. That is saying one thing while doing another, the definition of hypocrisy.
I order more often from Amazon than anywhere else, but her article is not an attack on me because I don’t pretend to be all about supporting indie stores.
Robert September 13, 2016 um 10:53 am
There may be people that shop for books in independent bookstores but buy them on Amazon. I think it’s an exaggerated phenomenon. Just because someone looks at some books but doesn’t buy at that time doesn’t mean they are buying at Amazon. But even if they are, it doesn’t mean that these are the same people who claim to love independent bookstores. And the real enemy of independent bookstores are the big box bookstores.
Fjtorres September 13, 2016 um 12:41 pm
They are definitely exaggerating and overvalueing B&M.
The biggest disadvantages of B&M are having to spend lifespan traveling to and fro and the reduced catalog size. (The latter being the reason the big box stores decimated box mall chains and Independents.)
By now anybody who shops online knows that if the book is available they can find it in seconds at Amazon so why bother wasting time going to a store that may or not have it? Most likely the people who walk out without buying are true believers who couldn’t find the book they wanted: disappointed customers more than showroomers. If now, in addition to being disappointed they are going to be insulted they might simply walk away for good and never return.
Tom S September 13, 2016 um 3:56 pm
At least I am not a hypocrite: my reading is 99.44% digital, and going to a B&M bookstore of any sort seems a complete waste of time. In the rare instances when I buy a physical book, it is because there is no ebook edition, and a lot of the time those books are out of print as well, or available used from (you guessed it) 3rd party independent booksellers on Amazon. It’s very unlikely such a book would be sitting on a shelf at the local bookseller (in my case there are none).
But the argument itself is a weak one, since the only evidence they have is people walking out of their store without buying anything. People do that for any number of reasons, and I doubt anyone in the habit of buying books from Amazon feels any need to waste time and effort wandering the aisles of an independent bookseller just to 'discover' something to read and buy from Amazon. I’m sure it happens rarely, but the reverse happens as well: 'hey, there is a bookstore right there, I can get the book I want right now instead of waiting a couple of days for Amazon to ship it'.
Jon Jermey September 13, 2016 um 4:00 pm
The last twenty or so books that I bought on Amazon all went out of print in the 1940s. An intensive week-long search of a dozen second-hand bookshops in London or New York might unearth one or two of them in tattered covers with exorbitant prices; or it might not. But I live in Australia, and even if I could find physical copies online, getting them delivered would double the cost.
As a collector of Golden Age detective fiction, it’s simply not feasible for me to spend the time or the money required to track down obscure books that I haven’t yet got. I’m profoundly grateful to Amazon for making them available electronically at rock-bottom prices that reflect the overall demand, rather than merely the retailer’s difficulty in obtaining them.
Paul September 13, 2016 um 4:05 pm
When borders was around I saw people do that all the time (walk around the store, look a book up on amazon, then leave the store)
Quasar September 15, 2016 um 4:40 pm
I am and know many who are. And goes much much farther than just books.
Of course with books its more past tense as pretty much all the independent bookstores were driven out of business years ago, which I of course lamented whilst shopping online.