Today from Shelf Awareness: “In the world of literary culture, the small press is probably the closest equivalent to your local farmer’s market.” So true that it couldn’t be stated any better. I would extend that to indie bookstores, which are mouthpieces of new and independent authors who do not have consignment deal with the mega-lo-marts. I overheard this conversation at coffee this morning:
A: Whatcha doin’ this weekend?
B: I really should go out since the weather is gorgeous. But I wanna get my Christmas shopping done.
A: You’re doin’ that online?
B: Yeah. Walmart got this free shipping thing goin’ without minimum purchase. They even got books and stuffs.
I know we’re all tightening up the purse string and find ways to economize. When mego-lo-marts go this far to boost sales, what they really do in the long run is driving local business to destruction. Like farms that locally grow produce, there are tons of small presses and independent booksellers, spread out over the country, and they’re often run at either no-profit or a loss. But these small businesses can flourish and become viable alternatives with our support. The everyday low prices at Walmart are made possible by outsourcing manufacturing to China and other third-world countries where labor is dirt cheap. Every penny spent is indirectly responsible for taking someone’s job and wiping out local manufacturers because the competitive low prices contribute to a vicious cycle. For the book industry, we’re lucky that most books (except oversized glossy coffee table hardbounds) are still printed in the United States, outsourcing won’t play as much a role as in general retails. But the effect of heavy discounts on the part of big chains is that indie bookstores will go under, sooner or later. I always hear people sighing over a vacant retail space left behind by a CD store or a bookseller. I am even more amazed by how shocked people are. Do they really have no clue what really drives the stores out of business?