October 27, 2011
I've never been 100% sure of what I want to do with my life but I've always harboured a desire to run my own little bookstore, selling the books I love, about cooking, art, design, and there'd be a special wing devoted to my hero Barbara Kingsolver. I would sell great coffee, let people mooch about, flick through books, offer gift wrapping and hand made cards, home made cake and maybe even host the occasional cocktail evening when Barbara was in town on her regular sojourn. It would be awesome. Kind of like a Black Books with snacks. And customer service.
But it's hard to see how that could ever be a reality. Do people even buy books from shops any more? I know I rarely do. I am an Amazon junkie. If often complain that there is no such thing as Australian Amazon; here, you order from the UK or the US and pay the postage and wait a couple of weeks before you get the stuff you had almost forgotten you'd ordered (when the poms and yanks get their stuff delivered Free! Next Day Delivery!) and brush aside the cost to the environment of getting your $8 book. But that doesn't stop me from ordering again, and again, spending more than I need to because $8 for another awesome book that I've always wanted seems too good to pass up and the dollar is so strong at the moment and who knows when I'll next place an order?
It's a love hate relationship. I love it because you can buy anything, but more importantly, any book, and usually very cheaply. I don't love it because even with the prices as they are, I spend a lot there, and it seems too good to be true, and it probably is when you think about the demise of places like Borders (if they couldn't make it, who can?). It doesn't sit comfortably with my feelings on mass consumerism and the demise of the owner managed business, yet I can't stop myself. I've ordered plenty from Amazon, and always been happy with my purchases, the customer service (because things don't always go right) and the price, no less now that the dollar is so strong and Amazon.co.uk has for the past year or so offered free delivery to Australia. Online shopping, it's the future, you shop from your couch, you pay using credit, you can have anything you want and find anything you need. When you are buying books at the rate we are, and they are so much more expensive in the shops here, what's not to like?
The idea of the losing our little bookstores, like this one, Folio Books, the one place in Brisbane CBD I can while away a whole afternoon, where every book seems to be the one I've always wanted, every book looks so readable, so inspiring, so necessary. The little store is crammed full and is a haven in the city full of children's literature, design classics and staff that make you want to wave your hands around a bit and have a sit down. The day that little store is no longer there, I will cry. (I almost did yesterday when I couldn't for a moment see it amongst all the hustle and bustle and thought it had gone.)
I spent my lunch time there yesterday. I wandered around, bumping into the other people that know it to be the gem that it is, looking at books, and then thinking, 'I must order that from Amazon one day' before realising what a hypocrite I am. So I bought a book. Not a cheap one either, but one that I knew I could get from Amazon for way cheaper but that's not really the point. And in fact when I look back, I have never left that store without a book, and I've just made it my prerogative to never do so in the future. I'm going to carry on ordering from Amazon, but I'm also going to support the shops and places I love, because unless I do, I may as well kiss goodbye to that dream of having my own little bookstore one day.
Damn you, Amazon.