I went to the local bookstore today. Not the big box Barnes and Noble I promised to take my nephew to later this month, but a small independent bookstore located in downtown Fargo, ND. My sister and I did a little shopping, and after we ate lunch.
This doesn’t seem like such a big thing. Maybe because we were out and about on Tuesday when most people are at work. Maybe because you can usually find me on Tuesday morning/afternoon hunkered in with a cat writing because my daughter is in school, I’m off work, and I can be a writer instead of Mom for a few hours.
But today my sister had a dentist appointment so afterward we hung out a little bit. And like I said, it wasn’t a big deal.
I love our indie bookstore. It’s where I could ask them to carry my books if I were brave enough. They have other things like ladles in the shape of the Loch Ness monster that I regret not buying. Or the measuring spoons with the kitten toppers, that I also regret not buying. They had a couple books that I picked up. Lauren Groff’s Florida, Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light, and Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers. All lovely books. All of them I’ve wanted for quite some time. I was pleased . . . until I had to pay.
Shop local. Support local business. I was proud I was. Until I was charged $82.00 for three hardcover books. It’s hard to be pleased when you’re paying $27.00 a book. I get where the money is going. As a published author, I totally get it. The shop owner draws a paycheck, pays his rent, pays his staff. The publishers and printers and agents take their cut. Whoever else takes a little until the author ends up with the pennies at the end. I get it.
But you know what else I get? To make $84.00, I have to work for six hours. $82.00 will buy me and my two kids groceries for a week.
So what is the blog post about? That shopping local is expensive? No, not really.
Let’s back up a minute here.
There’s been a lot of disgust about what Amazon has been up to lately with regard to our (“our” meaning indie authors’) ebooks disappearing and being made unavailable in certain countries. Amazon released a statement about it saying they knew what was going on and they were trying to fix it. This isn’t the first thing Amazon has done to make indies mad (like the hassle of switching from CreateSpace to KDP Print), and it won’t be the last. There’s been a long love/hate relationship with regards to Amazon and books, both from the authors who sell on the platform, and the readers who buy their books from there, be it paperbacks, Kindle, or paying for the subscription for Kindle Unlimited.
Is Amazon the Devil? We can all say derogatory things about any business. Walmart treats their employees like crap. Hobby Lobby won’t support birth control for their employees. Choose a company, you can find something bad about it. That’s real life. But you know what else? Walmart is affordable. Hobby Lobby carries art supplies no one else in the area does. Amazon sells cheap books.
Amazon sells cheap books.
I looked on Amazon, added the books I purchased today at my indie store to my cart, looked at the tax. I have Prime (and I won’t add the cost of that to my total as most people do have Prime these days and I use free shipping on more than just books) so shipping was free. Had I purchased my books on Amazon, I would have saved $30.00. That’s two hours of work. That’s two hours in my pocket I could spend writing my own books. That’s maybe two other books to read. Two other authors I could have supported.
This subject has gone around and around, and the truth is, there’s no easy fix. Bookstores are on their way out. Blame Amazon, or the publishers, or whomever you like, but that’s the reality. And it isn’t any wonder when a full price hardcover book is almost $30.00.
So, what could I have done? I could have purchased from Amazon instead. I could have waited until all the books came out in paperback. I could have waited even longer and hoped that one day I could find them in one of our thrift stores. But by then, I would have forgotten that I wanted to read these books. Because as every reader knows, there’s always another book.
I guess I don’t have a point to this blog post except to say, I can’t afford to shop local, at least, not consistently. I can’t afford to support small business, not every time I want to buy something. And that really sucks, because as a publisher of my own books, I am a small business. I know how cool it is to have people support me when they buy my books.
How do you support local business? Let me know your thoughts!
Thought provoking blog.
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I had occasion to walk around a B&N for a while the other day, and I was struck by what a ridiculous business model that has become. There were literally millions of dollars worth of books in inventory, expensive well-kept retail space, and maybe a dozen people browsing and nobody buying a damn thing. If you already know what book you want, it makes no sense to go into a retail store to buy it. If you don’t know what book you want, you aren’t going to find a good choice because the really great books are hidden away deep in the back and all they have up front is the garbage the big 6 are peddling this week to meet whatever current event is in the news.
Record stores are gone. Book stores are next. Any business model that is based on selling the physical media that information is carried on, instead of selling the information itself, is a business model that cannot survive digital transformation.
I love to browse Barnes and Noble. I bought a Nora Roberts hardcover for 7 dollars last month from one of their bargain tables. I like the ambience. I like grabbing a coffee and spending time in there. But most people are like me and they can’t keep their doors open with only people browsing. Mostly though, I do buy second hand, and I buy Harlequin smut for 25 cents a piece. That’s a price I can get behind, but those authors aren’t making any money.
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