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How To Resist Amazon and Why

How To Resist Amazon and Why

We all do it. WE ALL DO IT.

It is just two days (TWO DAYS!)) until I open my pop-up bookshop and I woke up at six o’clock this morning, heart-racing, thinking: ‘Gah! I need some of those perspex book display thingies!!’

One moment and a few clicks later, I had the confirmation email from Amazon. My perspex book display thingies will be here by 10pm. I settled back into my pillow before a moment later thinking of the other 1001 things I need to do today to ready for the big opening.

I had forgotten that I had ordered this, but it felt an important book to stock in my shop. You see, the high street is dying, no, forgive me, it’s dead. But you don’t need me to tell you this, you only have to walk into your town centre to see for yourself.

We have all contributed to this because convenience and bargains have trumped community and conversation. In short, Amazon makes it so easy for us, and it is understandable that we have found the lure of that little orange logo so impossible to resist.

But is it any wonder now that our high streets are dead, that shop units are empty, that only a fool would go into retail now? (ahem)

I’ll let you into a little bookselling secret, there are some books on Amazon at certain times of the year that cost you less to buy than they do us from wholesalers or publishers. I told someone this the other day and they said: ‘Well, why don’t you buy them from Amazon then and stock them in the shop?’

Yes, yes, I know what you mean, but that’s not the point.

Danny Caine, author of How To Resist Amazon and Why, is a Kansas bookseller, and he was so concerned at what Amazon is doing, not only to independent booksellers but ultimately to authors by devaluing their creativity, that he wrote a book about it.

We booksellers (can’t believe I’m writing that!) know that it is just impossible to compete with Amazon. On price, definitely impossible. On delivery, sometimes impossible but not always. On convenience, yes – we can have your book in our store the next day but you still need to come get it (we can deliver within 48 hours though just to plead the case because I’m not doing a great job here by telling you all the good things about Amazon).

But the thing is, what we have sacrificed in exchange for convenience is human relationships. Seeing another human’s face is important for your mental wellbeing. Taking a break from your desk and walking to the shop at the end of your road means you get fresh air and exercise. It might cost you a pound or two more but not only are you improving the quality of your own life, but that of your community too — between 50 and 75 per cent of the money you spend in your local community stays in your local community — which means a nicer place to live for you too.

If you buy a book from Amazon today, what difference will it make to them as a business? But if you buy a book from an independent bookseller today you could be the difference between them staying in business or not.

And here’s another thing, can you recite your bestfriend’s mobile number by heart? Go on, try? No, you can’t. Why? Because your mobile phone now does that job for you and so you don’t need to. So I guess that part of your brain isn’t quite needed in the same way it used to be.

Have you noticed that instead of rows of tellers in the bank now, there are just machines – I wonder where all those staff went?

Did you know that the reason people with dementia forget how to do things isn’t only because of the disease in their brain, it’s because they stop doing them. So when their partners and relatives (through the kindness of their hearts) start doing up their coats for them, or not letting them make a cup of tea anymore, after just a few occasions, they have no idea how to do those two things anymore, and they are therefore dependent on someone else to do it for them, and people tut and shake their heads about what a cruel disease it is, but it isn’t only that.

So do you see that if we let the bots and computers and websites take over, that will change the way our brains work? It feels an effort to get up and go out and walk down your high street to buy a book, much easier to press two buttons and it’ll just drop through your letterbox. It’s a great business model for getting people hooked and making lots of money, not so great for human beings and connection.

In his book How To Resist Amazon and Why, Caine makes some suggestions of small changes you can make today that will wean you off the big corporates and turn you back to the independents. And if we all practised doing that, just what a difference these individual acts would make collectively.

They – like I – would love to see you cross the threshold of their shop.

And of course, a reminder that if you would like to buy Danny Caine’s book from me, you can email me and I will organise that for you:

I will leave you with the author and bookstore owner, who reads here his open letter to Jeff Bezos making a more impassioned case than I ever could. It’s definitely worth five minutes of your time.

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