Last Wednesday, Donald and I went to hear my friend Max Gladstone read from his new book Three Parts Dead, at the Harvard Book Store.Â I bought a copy of the book so Max could sign it (and so I could read it, obviously).Â I purchased the hardcover from the Harvard Book Store even though I would have preferred to buy the Kindle e-book.Â I have too many books, and I don’t have shelf space for all of them in my apartment.Â However, I was there, and IÂ figured thatÂ the Harvard Book Store would be more likely to give Max the opportunity to do readings upon the release of future novels if they sold a lot of copies.
I paid $24.99 plus 6.25% sales tax for the hardcover, for a total of $26.55.Â Just out of curiosity, I checked the price on Amazon.Â $11.99 for the Kindle.Â $13.58 for the hardcover.Â Even if I didn’t fall for Amazon’s “buy more stuff you don’t need to get free shipping” ploy, it would have been only another $3.99 for shipping, for a total of $17.57.
The Harvard Book Store has the following on the bottom of the register receipt I received:
How much money stays in your community when you spend $100?
At a locally owned business: $68
At a chain store: $43
At Amazon: $0
I do care about supporting local businesses (I buy most of my produce, at least late spring through fall, at a local farm.Â I buy most of my meat from a Massachusetts farmer.).Â I think independent bookstores are an asset to a community, in part because they can connect authors with readers, face-to-face, at events like Wednesday’s reading.Â I have serious concernsÂ about Amazon, from their blatant attempts to monopolize bookselling and publishing, to reports of unfair labor practices in their warehouses.Â I don’t begrudge the Harvard Bookstore my $26.55.
But I question whether guilting people into buying things they didn’t want (hardcover vs. e-book), at a 50% premium, is, in the long term, a sustainable business model.