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Amazon's Effect

June 10, 2014 | 12 Comments

To the Host:

How do you feel about's effect on books and bookselling? I am biased, being a book fiend and librarian. Is any good coming from the company having such a huge effect on books and bookselling?

Steve McMinn
Stockbridge, GA


I'm in the midst of a five-week book tour, Steve, and have seen a lot of independent bookstores in that time and a couple of Barnes & Nobles and it's encouraging to see, places like Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Book Soup in L.A., the astonishing Bookpeople in Austin TX, the amazing Powell's in Portland and Elliott Bay in Seattle, Parnassus in Nashville -- I could go on -- Changing Hands in Phoenix, Warwick's in San Diego, Boulder Books in Boulder, Book House in Albany, BookCourt in Brooklyn, Odyssey in South Hadley MA, Diesel in Malibu -- where you walk in, are surrounded by good books, immediately see two or three you want to buy, and you encounter friendly knowledgeable people who enjoy their work. I buy books from now and then and it's very efficient, takes about two minutes, but shopping is a real-life experience, walking into a store, smelling the fresh paper, scanning the New Fiction table, New Non-Fiction, looking over the Biography & Memoir shelves, and getting some impressions of what's new in the book world. What people really care about, they write books about, and so a visit to a bookstore is a slice of the intellectual life of our country. And they put on events with authors so you can meet writers and take their measure. The neighborhood bookstore can compete with Amazon -- the stores I miss are the shopping center chains, B.Dalton and Waldenbooks, that were at one time ubiquitous and put books in front of vast numbers of people. They fell to online sellers, but your local bookseller is not fated to go that way if it engages the literate public.


Amazon's Effect

Amazon's got a good service
But the missing breast
Is the acid test -
Local booksellers
Do a guest the best!

I was disappointed to see that you didn't include Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois in your list of independent bookstores. In addition to hosting an amazing number of book readings and signings - ranging from J.K. Rowling to Lynn Cheney and Paul Stanley to that guy on the radio from Minnesota who is peddling his latest book - they put a lot of emphasis on encouraging young readers. They deserve a shout out as well.

GK: I heard this week that the indie booksellers are Dow to 3,000 from 7,000. Worrisome that there is more going on than a need to engage a literate public.... Besides marketplace changes brought by Amazon, the middle class has less income,buying power. Many factors impacting a vibrant thinking literate culture and society.

Next time you're in London England, check out Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street(In a Victorian era galleried shop near Maison Sagne Patisserie Valerie!) They have added locations in the last few years - a good sign. I Never fail to covet half the books in their shop - lots of travel literature!

I totally agree with you, Garrison. I was a bookseller for over 20 years in both an independent as well as Barnes & Noble. There is nothing like the atmosphere of a bookstore. My first bookstore experience was at the Odyssey in South Hadley, MA, where my Aunt Rose would let me pick out a book. I must have been five years old, or so. I still have those books! Special memories that one can never have by looking at a Kindle or Nook. Now, I share the love of books and reading with preschoolers in my classroom as well as our one year old grandson.
Long live books!

My mind and spirit are young, but my aging eyes prefer the bright backlight and larger print of iPad or Kindle text. I'm grateful for the new technologies, but I'll always miss reading real books.

Walking into a store gives the advantage of asking for a thumbnail review,of observing the store owner's facial expressions and voice inflections that show passion for the author's work, of maybe making a new friend. I love just holding a book and flipping through illustrations. I find with my Kindle I don't take dawdle time to savor a phrase or metaphor. Yes, Garrison, the ordering of each book is speedy but consider the joy of anticipation all the way home.

I'd just like to add a shout out to the folks at Books Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area (, another terrific independent bookseller.

They've an expansive calendar of author events...they host various book clubs...and I simply can't walk out of one of their stores without two or three must-reads.

Amazon has become obscenely wealthy over their merchandising practices. But they have because they do what they do so well. They have democratized the shopping process. I buy books from them that I would have otherwise never heard of. I buy some that I'll never read, but I am able to find new and used books that appeal to me. I also buy hardware, repair parts, electronics and gift items that I would have to go out and seek in stores. In a large city, one would have to go all over town. In a small town, it becomes impossible.
I like the Amazon business model.

Oh, how I miss the book stores! For the past 9 years I have lived back in my hometown, which has a college bookstore and a used bookstore but no new-books bookstore. I appreciate used books and have bought many, BUT...sometimes I want a brand-spankin'-new volume all for myself.

I live in a rural area near Nashville, TN. The libraries are poorly stocked, have limited access to ebooks, and new books for sale at a bookstore (few and far between) are expensive. I browsed the biography of Jim Henson at a local indie store but the $35 price wasn't good for me. I buy all of my books (downloaded to my Kindle) from Amazon because of the price (cheap), and the print is easier on my eyes. Nashville has a couple of used-books places (McKay and Rhino), but I can but a copy of the same book (used paperback at McKay price is $8) from Amazon for $3.

We have some great independent sellers here, and for hard-to-find books, I go to and order from booksellers I can't get to but who have what I want.

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