The indies-only release of my new book is timed with Independent Bookstore Day (May 2).
And here is an updated re-posting of my
"Amazon is Evil"
essay from 2013:
If you know me or my books, if you've met up with me on the lakeshore or hiking path or while I'm touring with one of my books, our conversation may have touched on the future of books or the importance of indie bookstores in our discussion of the Great Lakes. As an adventurer who has explored over 3,000 miles of the Great Lakes, I love talking to people about these vast waters encircling my home state of Michigan.
And as an author (and avid reader), "bookish" topics are important to me, too.
I am encouraged in these conversations as more and more people are coming to understand the value of our Great Lakes and the importance of independent bookstores. These lakes are essential to life in the Midwest (almost 40 million people get their drinking water from them), and indie bookstores are vital to keeping literature rich and diverse.
The Great Lakes nurture life, recreation, commerce, industry.
Our indie bookstores nurture our communities, pay into the tax base, are gathering places for discussion, and play an important role in launching new writers.
Am I pushing the parallel too far? I don't think so.
People ask me how I got my book to be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble stores (B&N). The answer is that indie bookstores sold so many copies (my first book was on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List for several weeks in 2011) that B&N began stocking it. B&N will stock what SELLS because the big chain is interested in SELLING. They call their workers BOOKSELLERS. There's nothing inherently wrong with that business model, but the primary focus of this model is to stock books that will sell, not seek to enrich the book world by what they stock.
Indie bookstores want to sell books, too, but the people who own and work at these stores also tend to LOVE books.
I was at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Michigan on my book tour this month, and doing book reviews to post in the store and online was part of the job description for the workers there. READING was part of the job. I've seen listings for positions in indie bookstores that read, in part, "...candidate must be well read..." (in an ad for a job at Women & Children First Bookstore, Chicago). I've seen indie bookstore people greet patrons with exciting news about a new book they know the patron will love because they've had long conversations with that person about books. Book conversations.
Now, I titled this essay "Amazon is Evil" and haven't even gotten around to talking about Amazon.com yet. Let me first say that all the good things that the indies give to their communities (and even B&N supplies on some level), Amazon does not provide. They will not donate books for a fundraiser in your community or pay into the tax base. They don't provide jobs (in general) near you.
But beyond being contrary to the smart-headed "Buy Local Because the Money Stays in Your Community" philosophy, Amazon.com has pushed their business model toward one of being a predatory marketer ("scan the barcode in the store and see what Amazon sells it for" sales pitching), a bully toward suppliers including publishers (they delisted some publisher's books if the publisher dared to disagree with Amazon's discount pricing [article HERE in New York Times), and -- Amazon's most recent move -- they've purchased GoodReads.com (article HERE) in order to market directly to the reader using GoodReads data and to push readers toward the Kindle.
From the New York Times:
Amazon.com Inc., with a market capitalization of $117.48 billion, is the largest company in the Internet and Catalog Retailing sector.
I don't have a problem with big businesses, but I do have a problem with a big business that actively tries to crush small businesses or actively bullies other sectors of the publishing world.
The consumer has the real power in this equation, though, because it is YOUR dollar that these businesses are competing for.
Once again, I am doing an indies-only release of my new book. On May 1, the following independent bookstores will have
A 1,000-MILE GREAT LAKES ISLAND ADVENTURE
a full month ahead of Amazon or chain bookstores:
Battle Creek Books, Battle Creek, MI
Black River Books, South Haven, MI
Brilliant Books, Traverse City, MI
The Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor, MI
Dog Ears Books, Northport, MI
Forever Books, St. Joseph, MI
Great Lakes Book & Supply, Big Rapids, MI
Horizon Books, Traverse City, MI
Kazoo Books, Kalamazoo, MI
Leelanau Books, Leland, MI
Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
Michigan News Agency, Kalamazoo, MI
Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
Reader's World, Holland, MI
[also The Nature Connection of Kalamazoo]
Please support your local indie bookstore or order your books through one of the many indie bookstores with online purchasing.