As many of you know, I work in an independent bookstore. I don’t make very much, and some days I’m surprised I make anything at all. It’s really tough for independent (or any physical) bookstores to survive these days. Many people blame chain bookstores for the closing of so many indies, but chains aren’t the big threat. Nothing threatens indie stores more than Amazon.
When I interviewed for my current job, my interviewer made some crack about how we never utter the “A-word” to customers–Amazon. At the time, I thought she was being funny, but since then I’ve listened to my store’s owner and manager talk many times about how Amazon not only threatens little bookstores but how the entire publishing industry currently works. More on that later.
What I will say now is that it’s incredibly frustrating when “customers” come in, take pictures of books on their phones, and then leave with a list of books they aren’t going to buy from us. I know not every customer is up to some foul game. I’ve wandered through bookstores, noting books I’d really like to read but don’t feel the need to buy immediately. The problem is that people use brick-and-mortar stores as showrooms and then buy books from Amazon. They often drop their jaws at our prices when a well-informed book shopper wouldn’t. Indie stores don’t mark up their prices, as some claim. They charge the publisher’s price (the price printed on the book). Amazon, on the other hand, sells books at a discount, and small bookstores simply can’t do that.
People actually tell us that they’ll “just buy it online” all the time–how sad for our little ears to hear. So, please, don’t use your local bookstore’s resources when you know you’re going to buy from Amazon anyway.
Note: I failed to work this in, but Amazon briefly encouraged people to go to their local bookstores and use Amazon’s price-check app to see how much they would save at Amazon. You can read about it here.