There was in interesting debate on CBC Radio’s ‘Q’ this morning. The show’s host Jian Ghomeshi facilitated a discussion surrounding the necessity and efficiency of independent bookstores and whether Amazon’s influence has essentially made local booksellers irrelevant, or not.
In my interpretation of this discussion, Farhad Majoo, of the website slate.com, argued that the ease of accessibility is the most important factor in promoting literacy and for that reason, Amazon should no longer be viewed as the ‘bad guy’. He reasons that with an e-reader, or a Kindle in his case, the process of getting any book that you desire into your hands is much simpler than hoping your local bookseller has this title, or waiting for them to order it. For this reason, he figures that local bookstores are slowly becoming irrelevant, as customers are forced to be influenced by the titles that the store’s owner or buyer chooses to stock, and have to wait if they want something not on hand. With an e-reader, the instant availability of virtually everything far outweighs the personal benefits of shopping at a bricks-and-mortar store. Also, he suggests that because the act of reading a book is mostly solitary, he doesn’t feel the need to have a place to gather with other readers, like a bookstore.
Toronto bookstore owner Joanne Saul was also involved in this discussion. Her response to Majoo’s argument is that each bookstore presents a unique selection of books relevant to the area in which it is located, and by doing so, exposes the customer to books that, although available on Amazon, they might never come across on their own. Also, by having a personal interaction with customers, a bookstore is able to keep their customers’ interests in mind as it does the purchasing. As well, a bookstore provides a meeting place for all those who love reading.
I’ve been asked many times how our business holding up with so many people using e-readers these days. Although I’d be lying if I said that sales haven’t declined marginally, which is the case with most bookstores across the country, Books & Co is indeed alive and well! And here’s why:
I firmly believe that although we live in a world where communication has become easier and easier, we’re also training ourselves to focus more on our handheld internet-connected screen, and less on our friends and neighbours standing right beside us, who are doing the exact same thing! We’re losing the ability to bond with one other, friend or stranger, all because we’re too worried about missing the latest text message, tweet or Facebook update from our ‘friends’. Even though this seems to be the trend, I don’t think people are wired for this form of communication. Whether they realize it or not, I believe that people are craving some real personal interaction and crying out for some authentic atmosphere and genuine inspiration.
Jim Brinkman, Books & Co owner and founder has always said that he loves running a bookstore because essentially it is a store full of ideas. Being surrounded by so many ideas in a public place leads to many interesting and powerful conversations and forges many meaningful friendships and relationships. He’s always strived to promote other community building programs and events, and made it a priority to use his store to heighten the senses of taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch by using food, art, music, paint and books. In the end, he’s created a place where people love to eat, read, meet, hangout alone, listen to music, talk about ideas, and buy the occasional book.
Whether or not you come to our store to shop, meet, hangout or eat, we love to see you! We have a store that is full of life & inspiration & relationships & activity, and as a consumer, I would much rather support a business like this than transfer files from one computer to the next (essentially), all for the sake of convenience. Prince George has been gracious enough to embrace our business, and for this reason, Amazon and the e-readers can bring it on. We’ll be just fine, with or without them.
Books & Co