In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I don't work for Amazon

Dear Annie,

Your Amazon outrage is wonderful, and heartwarming to this independent retailer.  The Amazon Industrial Espionage Day was outrageous. When Amazon sends consumers into physical stores to look at products then buy them online it's using us as involuntary showrooms for its products.  Because they can't hand you the physical object they're selling, they're sending you to a business that's shelled out the money for inventory you can inspect.

This issue sometimes intrudes on one of the aspects of bookselling I cherish most: my conversations with customers.  As you know, I talk with lots of children and grown-ups about kids' interests, then recommend and discuss books which might be a good match.  I almost always suggest more books than someone buys: the point is to give people an array that they can peruse and choose from.  I never expect a customer to get every book I offer -- nor do I expect a sale from every conversation.  But my job does depend on our store selling books: that's what pays my salary.

Our store prides itself on customer service: we've read many of the books, played the games, tested the toys, listened to our customers.  And people rely on our recommendations.  So if I have a ten minute conversation about books, after which the customer leafs through them, then whips out a pencil or an iPhone and makes a list and leaves empty-handed, I feel ripped off.  People come to me for something they value -- an opinion -- then they use that information but don't pay for it.   They're using my service and then sending their money to an online retailer. 

The Harvard Bookstore -- an independent store in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- had a great slogan when I visited it this past fall: "Find it here, buy it here, keep us here."  So thanks for doing your shopping through IndieBound and your great-sounding local bookstore.



1 comment:

  1. I do a mix of online and local-indie-bookstore shopping. I primarily use Amazon when I want something shipped to someone else - it's just so easy. But when I'm buying a gift to give to a child in person, we buy it at Bank Street Bookstore. I do value the opinions of its staff and have my favorite staffers, too.