As a bibliophile and staunch proponent of quality literature I am technically supposed to hate Amazon, and for good reason, especially considering their business moves in the past few months. And part of me does despise the fact they're slowly trying to develop a literary monopoly of sorts, yet the other part of me really appreciates their low prices and shipping options. I'm a conflicted woman.
Strike 1: Taking Money Away From Local Booksellers
Amazon has been criticized for years for squashing the little guys- independent booksellers are no match for the world-wide business that sells everything from tuna to Tolstoy. Most things are in stock, the reviews are in your face, and you can purchase what you need from the comfort of your holey sweatpants at home. The convenience factor has been a critical selling point, given the fact Americans are inherently lazy bums.
Strike 2: The Publishing Mess
Then, a few months ago things got even worse. Amazon had stared it's own publishing branch awhile back, but has recently seen legitimate growth, signing with authors such as James Franco and Deepak Chopra, as well as celebrities such as Penny Marshall. Along with these some of these publishing contracts are ebook exclusivity rights, which will only allow digital copies to play on Amazon's ereaders. Barnes and Noble fired back, announcing a boycott on selling any texts published by Amazon (ones that are not part of the exclusivity deal are still available online). Other booksellers, including some in Canada, are following suit. These companies are hoping that this will put pressure on authors to not sign with Amazon.
Strike 3: Rumors of a Brick and Mortar Store
Rumors have started swirling that Amazon will open an actual store in Seattle, focusing on books and Kindles. This, of course, has really put everyone in a tizzy- how is anyone supposed to compete? Amazon of course won't confirm anything, but the fact that Amazon has seen some profit trouble makes doesn't make it surprising.
What's a Thrifty, Book-Loving Girl to Do?
On a business level, what Amazon is doing is smart- get your product out there, everywhere, and for as cheaply as you can afford to. Simple Econ 101 stuff. On a philosophical level, I think they're being assholes. Why do they have to win everything? Stay away from publishing, stay away from strip malls.
Luckily, I don't see myself buying any new books for awhile, but when I do I'm going to have to make a choice. Go to the poor, wounded Barnes and Noble? Try to hunt down the books I actually read at the non-existent independent bookstores in the city I live? Drive to LA? Or guiltily place an order with the Book Devil?
If we look at it from strictly economic terms, I'm not necessarily doing anything wrong- the money I save from ordering from Amazon will be spent elsewhere, therefore still pumping my hard-earned cash into the lethargic economy. But, ethically, I'd be supporting a company I don't necessarily support (which I'm sure I unknowingly already do).
My head says yes, but my heart says no.
And if anyone leaves anything regarding the stupid movie You've Got Mail in the comments I'm going to scream. What ever happened to Meg Ryan, anyway?