Harry Potter and the Disappearing Bookstore

July 11, 2005 - 12:00am -- swingbug

Alright, people. I know that Harry Potter is coming out on Saturday and everyone's excited. I'm excited too. I've got my copy pre-ordered and I'm picking it up at midnight on Friday, in costume no-less. So yes, I'm excited.

"You're picking it up at midnight," you ask? "Gee, Shannon, you don't live next to Amazon's distribution site, do you?"

No. I don't. Now is your cue to say something like, "Wow, I didn't know that Walmart and Costco were open that late!"

Does anybody shop at bookstores anymore?!?!?

"But, Shannon, it's just so much cheaper."

Places like Walmart, Costco, Borders, and Amazon are selling books to the public at a price that is lower than cost for most independent book stores. There is no way they can compete. Do you think that's an accident? A coincidence?

Bookstore owners all over the country are waiting for their shipment of Harry Potters to arrive, hoping beyond all hope that enough kids will show up to buy them so that maybe - just maybe - it might dig them out of the huge financial hole they're in for the year, and where are most of the people in my demographic? Twenty-something folks with no kids and disposable incomes? They're at their doorstops with a box cutter waiting for the box with the Amazon.com smiley face logo to show up.

Yeah, I know, it's cheaper. But folks, if you can afford to buy Harry Potter the day it comes out, you can afford to spend an extra $15 to buy it from a local independent bookstore. Forego a couple of your decaf non-fat grande mocha chip frappuccinos this week. That will just about cover the price difference.

I know I'm probably pissing off a few of my friends here, and I'm sorry about the out-and-out attack. I really am. But I'm going to be even more sorry when my favorite bookstores go out of business.

Where will we be without local bookstores? Can I go into Costco, walk up to an employee, and say, "Hey, I'm looking for this book about how longitude was devised. Can you help me?" Can you picture the blank stare on that employee's face? Will Amazon.com let you put a book on lay-away if you can't afford it? Not likely. As bookstores go out of business left and right, you're losing a wonderful resource. You're losing your ability to spend Saturday afternoons picking through musty bookshelves. You're losing access to people who know books and are just waiting to answer your questions. You're losing local authors and diverse shelves. You're losing your right to choose.

And let's talk about the damage you do to your community. Did you know that taxes from local stores are what keep your city's government going? Walmart may have good deals but they're putting smaller stores out of business, increasing unemployment in your town. I suppose those folks could go work for minimum wage at Walmart instead, assuming that they don't need health care or full-time hours to support their kids because Walmart doesn't give either of those things to their employees.

Folks, your dollars make a difference. That extra $15 it might cost you is keeping your downtown district from becoming a ghost town. It's keeping your neighbors employed and safe and healthy. It's fighting for your right to choose where you buy your books.

What are you going to do with that choice? Is $15 worth it?

It's not too late. Cancel your Amazon order and go down to your local bookstore. Someone is going to be very happy to see you there.

< /rant >

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