Beware, folks. Here be profanity.
HOKAY SO. Here's the timeline. Amazon offered customers an (up to) $5 incentive to go into their local stores and use their price scanning app, then walk out of that store and buy the product on their website. It didn't include books, but indie booksellers were still pretty upset about it as a business tactic. Richard Russo then published this article in the New York Times, outlining how Amazon was *basically* being a bully toward small businesses, local indie bookstores included. Farhad Manjoo (a technology columnist, say what?) then published this article for Slate entitled "Don't Support Your Local Bookstore" as a rebuttal. It is Manjoo's article I'm about to get all ranty about. I don't promise to be coherent.
FIRST OF ALL let's just talk about how Slate is an AMAZON AFFILIATE. Making money from a company and then publishing a journalistic piece about how AWESOME that company is is SKEEZY and GROSS. Manjoo himself has also written other articles wherein he worships at the altar of Amazon (this one and this one, both of which are about how Amazon's tax dodging is unethical but you should shop there anyway because CHEATING IS THE AMERICAN WAY!). The whole thing is just such an icky ethics violation, I just. I CAN'T EVEN.
SECOND OF ALL, the article says that, when compared to Amazon, shopping in a local bookstore presents "a frustrating consumer experience" because of their small inventory and because humans are the ones recommending books to you. Despite the fact that most indies will order you pretty much whatever book you want ever in life. Despite the fact that Amazon KEEPS TRYING to make me read Jane Austen fanfiction wherein any human bookseller who talks to me for five f*cking seconds knows that I hate that shit.
But maybe that's the problem. Manjoo's big beef with indie bookstores is their "inefficiency." You have to leave your house. You may even have to TALK to a PERSON. PARTICIPATE in your COMMUNITY. Who gives two shits about the human element of the issue (like small businesses in your neighborhood closing and your neighbors losing their jobs) when EFFICIENCY is at stake? And then there's the economic factor- books at bookstores are sold AT LIST PRICE. THE HORROR. Of course, Manjoo calls this a "huge markup" despite the fact that there's nothing...marked up. And of course, he never talks about the other economic factors involved- like how putting your local retailers out of business hurts your town. Or how Amazon bullies the publishing industry because Big Business Can Do Whatever the F*ck It Wants, Thanks.
And THEN there's this crap about how local bookstores aren't an authentic local cultural experience. This is where I really start thinking he's never actually BEEN to a local bookstore. He then admits that local independent bookstores are essential to building a literary community, but dismisses this as an unimportant point. I just. Ergh.
Look- as ranty as I'm being right now, I don't think Amazon is the devil. I treat them like an online WalMart- I fundamentally disagree with their business practices and their effect on the economy, but hey. Sometimes you need something at 3 a.m. and what are you gonna do? Amazon has its place. Indie bookstores have a place. But PRETENDING that Amazon is SUPERIOR to independent bookstores because (as Ron Hogan put it) "they don't have EVERYTHING and they sell at sticker price!" when IN REALITY you're just writing an ad for a corporate sponsor...it's a crazy, crazy low. Slate's unethical, cringe-inducing link-baiting has lost them a reader.