There’s a bookstore in New England I’ve admired and frequented for years while on vacation. it’s a small store in a beautiful building in a small coastal town run by dedicated owners and employees who know and love what they do, committed to books and the local community, with a carefully curated selection of books, tons of recommendations, signed copies, free gift-wrapping, and a modest rebate program on your purchases ($5 coupon for every $100 spent). It’s the kind of bookstore I think many people (especially those who’ve visited this one) dream of owning some day. I know from my conversations with the owners that it’s difficult to keep the store afloat since they have a short season (basically the summer plus the holidays), and, like every other independent bookstore in this country, have been severely impacted by amazon. It occurred to me while shopping there recently and asking if they would special order a book then mail it (since it wouldn’t arrive before we left), that maybe I could use them as my own private amazon: order books from them to have shipped to me.
After several months doing this, I can report that it’s great. It’s fun to call and actually have a conversation with a real, live person when you order a book (if I’m running short on time, they also take orders by email). The books arrive promptly and well-packed, with a hand-written address label, and an invoice tucked inside, which I pay by mailing back a check. Of course, the books don’t come overnight for $3, but realistically there are very few books that I really need to have the next morning by 10:30AM, and 3-5 days by USPS is just fine. I’m getting only a 5% discount instead of the 35% I would at amazon, but, let’s be honest, this is only a couple of dollars on what is already the best value in entertainment and education: books. Too, if you take advantage of their free gift-wrapping, the amazon savings are quickly erased.
It feels great to be supporting an independent bookstore who, not surprisingly, seems very happy to have my business, and, an added bonus, not to be supporting the amazon warehouse wage slaves (let alone all the recent nonsense with Hachette, and other stories of unsavory labor practices.).
The name of this bookstore and its location are not important, because you know one or more just like it (or, you can find one at the Indiebound website), and I urge you to make one of these your own private amazon. You can have the convenience of phone or email ordering (or, of course, if one’s near you, walk around the corner), along with the personal service and connection only a small business can offer, and access to their expertise (they sit in the middle of all those books all day, of course they know what to suggest! Not surprisingly, my favorite books of the summer were direct recommendations from them.), and the knowledge that you are directly supporting a worthy business, the people who run it, their local community, and the wider culture of books. Try it, I’m absolutely certain you’ll love it, and yourself more for doing it!