I want so badly just to say “yes” and let that be that. But nothing in life is ever that black and white (except maybe the books themselves).
Why is this even a question?
Because Amazon is taking over the world.
No, but seriously, Amazon very much is taking over the book world. In the last decade the most monumental changes that have been seen by the literary industry have come from two forces: Amazon’s methods of selling books and the digital book craze (much of which has been facilitated by Amazon).
The simple fact is that every book that is bought from Amazon is a book that is not bought from a bookstore.
Is that a bad thing?
Honestly, that’s a matter of opinion.
Is it a bad thing that I can get books sent directly to my house without having to put on pants and leave the couch? Is it a bad thing that I’m saving money, which then enables me to buy more books? No and no.
Is it a bad thing that independent bookstores are struggling and closing? Yes.
Is this really a crisis?
Again, largely based in opinion.
If you haven’t picked up a book since high school, no, you probably don’t have an issue with this. But then again, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if that were the case.
Personally, it’s my goal when visiting a new place to seek out their independent bookstore. I find that it’s a way to gauge that town or region, because independent bookstores bring so much of the local culture to their shelves. Whether is be through a selection of local history or local travel books or merely through the overall atmosphere of the place. No two independent bookstores are the same and that adds so much to the book-buying experience. After all, reading is all about discovering something new and for me that often starts with discovering the book itself.
And, really, do we need to be too concerned? Independent bookstores are largely making a comeback in the US, in part thanks to the general recovery of the economy after the 2008 crash, but much of the credit goes to grassroots efforts to keep community bookstores open. Events like Independent Bookstore Day have gone a long way to raise awareness of and excitement around these stores.
But, yes. I am still concerned. Amazon continues to expand and independent bookstore continue to hold on and hope the momentum eases sometime soon.
Why is Amazon a problem for the book industry?
This rant is very much begging to be ranted, but I’ll keep it short.
First, Amazon sells book so cheap that other retailers are struggling to hold on to sales. That’s the obvious one. Why pay $29.99 for that new release when you can get the same thing sent to you for $14.00 the day is comes out? Publishers are having to be more selective about the books they take on, because there is so much less of a profit margin than there used to be.
Which leads us to problem numero dos: Quality control.
When writers aren’t able to publish their book through traditional routes, more than ever they are turning to self publishing.
Amazon has made it so easy to self publish books that anyone with a computer can do it. I’m not saying that all self publishing is bad, but I definitely have an opinion and a lot of it definitely is bad. To the point where I get very heated about this. Bad self published work gives legitimate writers a bad rep and doesn’t do much to encourage reluctant readers to pick up something new.
There is no one editing these books for content or quality. If you really wanted to you could just pound on the keyboard until you hit about 300 pages of “nhifwee fnjko wkk feikds fjew efwjk!” and be a published author before lunch. The market is very much over-saturated and too many self published books just clouds the industry. Not to mention that Amazon promotes self published books as if they’re on par with books from Random House and such, misleading consumers and further diminishing traditional book sales.
Am I a bad person for buying books on Amazon?
No, I can’t say that you are.
I buy books on Amazon for two reasons:
- I can’t find a specific book in stores. A lot of times I’ll stumble across an older book that isn’t commonly stocked anymore or something from a smaller publisher that stores just don’t carry.
- I don’t have time to go to the store. This happened a lot when I needed books for college. I would need the book for the following week, but between going to school full time and working 50+ hours a week, I literally wouldn’t have time to run to the bookstore. Especially considering where I live the nearest bookstore is nearly an hour away.
But I make a point of buying books at an actual bookstore as often as I can. If I run across a book that’s somewhere on my TBR (to be read) list, I’ll pick it up. I know I’m paying a little more, but I just think of it as paying for the experience and I’m happy to do so because I made a conscious choice to go to the bookstore.
Buying books from an actual bookstore is a type of investment in my future. I want bookstores to be around five, ten, twenty years down the road. I want the assurance of being able to walk through the door and smell that air you only find in bookstores and let the colorful covers wash over me and run my fingers over the spines and absorb the words that are all around me.
Where do you get your books?