Another Baffling Bookstore Article By Farhad Manjoo
Farhad Manjoo is at it again, trying to walk back his controversial anti-bookstore tirade with another article in Slate that... still doesn't make any sense to me.
In case you missed it, Manjoo wrote an article last week that caused a tizzy in the book industry. It bashed independent bookstores for being expensive and offering too small a selection, while praising Amazon and its steep discounts. Manjoo may have raised some good points, but many people (including me) took exception to some of his facts and a lot of his tone: That bookstores were gouging readers, fostering an elitist attitude, and were ultimately enemies of literature.
Now Manjoo believes that indie bookstores can fight back against Amazon by adopting technology like that offered by AisleBuyer. If bookstores had apps that helped you find recommendations and buy books, they'd be competitive.
And it's at this point that I realize Manjoo is probably the kind of guy who e-mails his colleagues to ask them questions even if they're sitting four feet away.
His first article was predicated on price: Amazon is so cheap that indie bookstores can't compete. And yes, the economics are stacked against bookstores. Amazon gets bigger discounts for buying in bulk, doesn't have to maintain storefronts, and can afford to sell certain items at a loss. Indie bookstores don't have those luxuries.
Now Manjoo thinks it's all about technology. Except, not really. Again: My office is in an indie bookstore, but I'm also an Amazon shopper. I can say with some confidence that I doubt the bookstore would be more competitive if we had an app telling people which books to buy. Because they come in and ask! That's specifically why they come to an indie store! To get recommendations from people who know and love books!
Regardless of all of this, I'm sure Amazon isn't worried. They just announced that they're opening four new distribution centers, two in Virginia and two in Tennessee. They'll create close to 3,000 jobs (and in this economy, that's a good thing). They're getting stronger and stronger.
And maybe one day soon all the bookstores will be forced to close and Manjoo will get his wish, and we will get all our book recommendations from computers. What a brave new world that'll be.
My bitterness aside, seriously, how many of you would use an app in an indie bookstore? Am I the only one who thinks that's ridiculous? What, specifically, would you get from an app that you can't get from a website, or a knowledgeable employee?
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