Saturday, February 4, 2012

Monopoly Is a Dangerous Game

I have a love-hate relationship with the whole eBook thing; I love that I can instantly download a book on my kindle, yet I also feel a little ashamed. Yet now that my city no longer has a physical bookstore, and the selection at Walmart is limited, downloading and purchasing from Amazon has become a near necessity. However, those of us who love books and bookstores have an obligation to support independent stores and the remaining chains like Barnes & Noble. Otherwise, Amazon will monopolize the industry and deplete our choices.

Amazon, which opened its e doors in the 1990s, quickly became the world’s largest retailer due to its expert marketing strategies. Products are readily available, shipped with astonishing speed, and available worldwide. Recently, Amazon accommodated independent authors through its create space and KDP services, thus opening publishing venues to books the “big” publishers and agents refuse to look at. No matter how much or little an independent author sells his or her title, Amazon will provide a market, encourage options for marketing such as a free author page, open your title for reviews, all the while happily accepting its cut.

All is not rosy with Amazon. Recent issues of Harpers and The Writer have noted how Amazon openly acknowledges its goal is to create a publishing monopoly. They succeeded in helping Borders’s demise. Is Barnes & Noble next?

The benefit Barnes & Noble-and any independent bookstore- has over Amazon is human; you can walk into an actual store and get customer service. Try contacting a human at Amazon; it’s easier to break into Fort Knox. While Amazon customers can sit and browse, albeit online, the aesthetic of browsing quietly in a brick and mortar bookshop is missing. We mortals are social beings, and sometimes we crave the company of like minded people, people who love books and the stuff in bookstores. [see]

Barnes & Noble now refuses to carry Amazon titles, which seems a little petty. But the book business has become like David and Goliath.
I was somewhat encouraged today when I visited a Barnes & Noble an hour’s drive from my house. It was crowded, and I had to wait in line.

Shop at Amazon. They provide remarkable access to an almost unlimited number of products. But also shop at independent bookstores (like Malaprops in Ashevile, NC or The Tattered Cover in Denver) and the extant chains. All of them have web sites. Yes, you’ll pay a little more, but those small shops also encourage independent authors to promote their books with readings and author talks in the store. Most of all, they provide personal service.

Happy writing and book shopping.

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