It’s getting harder to avoid Jeff Bezos. I had sworn off buying books, joining Prime, or anything else from Amazon when the pop-eyed titan clashed with Hatchette book publishers. In 2014 The New York Times reported “(Amazon) controls nearly half the book trade, an unprecedented level for one retailer. And the dispute showed it is not afraid to use its power to discourage sales.”
The desire to own the universe has expanded since then to some of my favorites. Amazon is now the force behind the Washington Post, Audible, Goodreads, Whole Foods, Airbandb, and Uber. And “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is only available on Prime Video. I may not be able to hold out much longer from the persuasion of persistent marketing.
Yes, Virginia, I did finally give in and subscribe to Amazon Prime – bingeing on Mrs. Maisel and Jack Ryan. I christened my Whole Foods account today with a sweep of my App, buying many of the tempting (but not needed) Prime Savings items. I laughed at John Kelly’s article in the Washington Post with his stack of unread New Yorkers (he knows me well), and I dowloaded more books on Audible. I’ve read and enjoyed most of the Goodreads Choice Awards including Moyes’ Still Me and Hannah’s The Great Alone, but I still wonder why most of the prestigious book award winners were not included. Where were?
- Pulitzer Prize winner Less by Greer
- Pen/Faulkner Award winner Improvement by Joan Silber
- National Book Foundation Award The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
- Man Booker Prize Winner Milkman by Anna Burns
On a quick search, I found I could, if I wanted to, order wine from Amazon, as well as my favorite Illy coffee, products from Trader Joe’s, and live goldfish – but no puppies…yet.
I hope Jeff Bezos appreciates my contribution to his space race – but I doubt he’s noticed.
Bookstores are closing; e-books are gaining popularity; Amazon is positioned to publish without paper; would-be authors can self-publish – reading books is not what it used to be. In her article for Sunday Business in the New York Times – The Bookstore’s Last Stand – Julie Bosman targets Barnes and Noble as the last bastion for brick and mortar publishers. Ironically, the megastore now in jeopardy was one of two (Borders now gone) that threatened the demise of independent bookstores (just like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan: Fox Books vs. The Little Shop Around the Corner).
Banking on the Nook to save their storefront operation, Barnes and Noble may have to follow Amazon, expanding into toys and games to attract customers. Evidently, books may not be enough to tempt buyers.
Independent book stores are hanging on, supported by their faithful customers, using the social media like Facebook and Twitter to connect with the electronically bent. Book Soup, conveniently positioned near the stars in West Hollywood, regularly offers book signings and discussions with those rich and famous, who also wrote books. Others, Like Politics and Prose, in Washington, D.C., maintain a following with newsletters, events, and posts that reach beyond the Beltway. Some small bookstores offer a flavor of comfort and exclusivity, and readers seek them out – like the Annapolis Bookstore on Maryland Avenue.
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore that you frequent? Have you bought a book there recently?
Related Article: Don’t I Know You From the Dust Jacket
With the promise of being able to download a library book, I asked Santa for the new Kindle (cheap version, not the Fire) and he delivered early – before an overnight flight to Germany. Like many libraries, the Hawaii State System recently connected to Amazon to offer free downloads of their electronic books. Unfortunately, the system had a long wait list for most books, and clicking on the “books ready to read” offered slim pickings – My Father’s Tears by John Updike or Christina Dodd’s Move Heaven and Earth.
The plane ride was bumpy and a movie I had missed – Martin Sheen in The Way – offered a pleasant distraction (beautiful scenery and worth renting if you haven’t yet seen it), but I managed to read through Dodd’s medieval romance – an easy formula read with the swashbuckling hero and the intelligent yet beautiful maiden. Since Dodd’s Move Heaven and Earth was like following a Middle Ages soap opera, the book was a good primer for learning the assorted buttons on the Kindle. If I pressed the forward button too long and skipped a chapter or two, I really didn’t miss anything.
Amazon’s marketing was successful; I’ve now purchased a few books for my Kindle. The convenience of a thin pocket-sized contraption that can hold thick books and pages of story is hard to pass up – especially if you are trying to carry on luggage. But, I did bring a few actual books along (just in case), and bought another in the Heathrow terminal en route. The Kindle is nice, but turning pages is still better than pressing an arrow.