Recently some members of the industry press were abuzz and atwitter about the fact that Amazon asked some booksellers, including me, whether they could sell Kindles in independent bookstores. I guess this constitutes news, but it is no big deal to me. (We politely said no.) It does make me think about my mixed feelings about Amazon. Some people might be surprised to hear the adjective “mixed” being used. But I have a number of good things to say about the company.
The Good: They are building their headquarters right in the middle of Seattle. I think this is mostly a fantastic shot in the arm for the Seattle community and very exciting to watch. They employ and give a good wage to many families on Mercer Island, many of whom shop at our store. They are an impressively strategic company, forward thinking and creative. I have relatives who work there. I have two terrific employees that used to work for them. They are brilliant designers of customer-centric web services. You can find little tiny parts to things that break easily. And weird shoe sizes.
The Bad: It seems that they are unusually predatory and all about winning market share at any cost. They seem to be after everyone and everything. They seem relatively uninterested in supporting non-profits and the local community. They have made it very hard for small-town brick-and-mortar stores of all kinds. This does real damage to our way of life and the fabric of our communities. I don’t believe they care very much about books, just eyeballs and shopping carts. I believe there is a real chance that they will ruin the publishing world. Their offices and facilities seem to be incredibly competitive and not very supportive places to work … not sure this is healthy for the young.
So I guess in sum, it is just life. Life and the cost of big capitalism. If I could control everything it would be different. But I am just trying to run a little bookstore and serve the nice folks who come in our door. That and keep our garden weeded.
P.S. Regarding big companies and small folks: My favorite image is of Edith Macefield’s house in Ballard. She is the lady who wouldn’t sell her house when she was offerred a million dollars. The big building was built around her. Later people in Ballard started sporting tattoos with her house and the word “steadfast.” It’s the only tattoo I have ever considered ….