As a bookshop owner you can imagine the daily ‘agitation’ of questions and comments I am made party to. I can’t say I like all of them, nor can I say I necessarily want to hit people with the hate stick. You adapt a certain level of what I like to call “Tour Guide Barbie Smile” when working with the public. I knew it with my previous job and I most assuredly am well versed in it with my current position as owner of a bookshop.
I don’t often allow such honesty about the inner workings of the business to see the light of day as my friends are customers and customers have become my friends. You see the trickiness involved? It may be you I’m complaining about (insert wink). However, while listening to my favorite podcast in the shower this morning (What? I have to make good use of my time!) I was enlightened, or what have you, about an experience that could form a blog post before my very eyes! I haven’t written in ages, but I’m always hungry for the words to see the light of day on here. Here follows my line of thought, which I owe in part to the Book Riot Podcast . . . so thank you.
I found myself in the aisles of a chain bookstore this past weekend and felt two things tugging at my heart strings. People swarmed the bookstore in a dizzying fashion and I wanted to be the crabby bibliophile in the corner shouting, “Oi! Clear out, I need some peace and quiet while I commune with these tomes of greatness.” I’m picturing the, according to IMDB.com, ‘Ancient Booer’ from The Princess Bride. Not a pretty picture, eh? A sense of great triumphant accompanied that thought as well. BOOKS! REAL BOOKS ARE NOT DEAD!?! Bookstores, low and behold, still hold an importance in a person’s life, not that I didn't know this already. Reality hit again, though, when the sight before me made me wish our shop was half as busy.
It could be customers, friends, family, you name it; I have heard the sad prophecy/proclamation many a time that the creature that is the bookstore is a dying breed. “Aren't you worried that bookstores are on the out?” “Soooo, you are doing well, I mean bookstores aren't you know…erm…well the place to get your books anymore; what with eBooks and Amazon.” It will never cease to amaze me people’s ability to open mouth and insert foot. Now this isn't to say the people who are heart felt about their concern are to be silenced. No. I’m talking about the gossipy, proud to where their negativity badge, pointing out the “obvious” people. Do they imagine this is a thought a bookshop owner wants to hear?
On the same coin, there is this beast known as Amazon. I am a card carrying member (not really, but wouldn't be cool if we had cards?) of Amazon Prime. The reasons are numerous and I find it important to be open about this fact so as not to seem a hypocrite. Amazon is not my go to for everything I need or buy. Yesterday I bought yarn from them that I had to have in order to finish a project. It was not my first choice, but as my luck would have it, my only choice as the yarn is no longer made. I didn't even get the Prime shipping because it was a seller rather than an Amazon distributed product. Where am I going with this?
How can customers possibly be persuaded to believe I want to hear the ominous, curse like words, “I’ll just buy it on Amazon”? And yet we continue to hear this response from the book browsers. If my baby was ugly, do you think I would desire you tell me in so many words? NO! Amazon has its place and purpose, even in my life, but by no means do I want to know by your own admittance you will be shopping there instead. You know what Amazon doesn't have that Pete & Freddy’s has in spades? Passion. Drunk, palpable, yet immeasurable passion for the written word. The books, for the time being, are our children. When we sell them to customers, we are trusting they will be loved just as much, if not more, in your hands as they have been while in their spot of honor on our shelves. If you make the decision to tell us and then to move forward with that decision to shop vocally not LOCALLY, you are hurting an economy that is finding an increasingly difficult existence in today’s world, your local small businesses.
I am by no means trying to shame you into being an anti-Amazon shopper or to even turn you off from my shop. Monopolies are bad for a reason, too many to go into here and now. When you support your local businesses you are supporting someone’s dream or hope for the future. A passion you may not find anywhere else or may only find in similar realms, a world of hard and ever loving work. So when you tell us you are going to shop at Amazon instead of our shop, great go have fun with that, but please keep it to yourself. My baby is a beautiful bit of genius that I know others love and cherish as much as I do. They don’t like it any more than I do when you tell us it is “ugly”.
Give the best gift you can possibly give a shop owner this Thanksgiving and Christmas season . . .
Keep things simple and sweet . . . don’t air your “dirty” laundry to us. (insert wink and side hug)