It seems that everybody is up in arms about Amazon these days: the company’s recent fight against having to pay sales tax and the release of a Price Check app are two indicators that Amazon thinks they are better than any brick-and-mortar retailer… and that they are willing to do anything to gain the upper hand during this holiday shopping season.
Blair Elliott, owner of a small record store, called Amazon “kind of evil” upon hearing of the new app and the one-day promotion, which happened this past Saturday, where Amazon shoppers could collect a $5 discount on up to three eligible items if they participated in what basically amounted to a spy mission, using smart phones to collect pricing information in physical stores and giving the info to Amazon. This undercover detective work will allow the company to make sure that they are never undersold — and reduces physical stores to little more than showrooms for Amazon’s products.
While the outrage applies to nearly all retailers, it is booksellers, already struggling against e-readers, who most keenly feel the effects of the questionable practice. Stories of people coming into Barnes & Noble– or worse, independent bookstores– and taking pictures of ISBN numbers and price tags. They would then buy the book online at Amazon, often while they still stood in the bookstore.
As a result of the heavy-handed price app, many booksellers and book lovers called for a counterattack called Occupy Amazon, which encouraged consumers to shop locally instead of online. But are shoppers willing to pay slightly higher prices to support local merchants?
I understand the impulse to find the cheapest possible price, and Amazon is an attractive option. But I feel too strongly about bookstores and books in general to succumb to their warehouse philosophy. I use Amazon as a research tool to find out more about the books that I might want to read. I will buy the ones that I find especially intriguing at a real bookstore, and the rest I will check out from the public library– another inexpensive option that many people seem to have forgotten about, but one that I still feel comfortable supporting.
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