Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rant of the week - Boycotting the big boxes

Readers - and writers - may have lots of good reasons to visit Chapters or shop online at Amazon. Hundreds of good books (along with candles and yoga mats and coasters and music and notebooks and games and other stuff which seems to rise up in ranks and offer the buyer so much distraction that they may never get as far as the actual bookselves).

The reason many people shop there is because they can get their books cheap. And fast.

Which seems to be the priority for most consumers these days.

But what about supporting the independent stores whose owners live in your neighborhood, who are in touch with what you want and need, who ensure that local issues are reflected in their bookstock, that local authors get exposure?

You won't get that from the big boxes.
What about spending just a little more, waiting a little longer, and eschewing (I've always wanted to use that word, never have found a good reason until now!) the allure of more and quicker products in favour of closer to home.

As a publisher, I have good reason to aviod the big boxes - they just don't care about the little guys. It took us over two months to even make contact with a 'real person' in the national purchasing dept. of Chapters (couldn't even get the time of day from the local store manager) and having sent sample copies of our books to them about six months ago, haven't heard since.
And can't even get a return call when we try to contact them.

But not all independents are so friendly, either. Blackberry Books, one of Vancouver-area's oldest independent bookstores won't even consider independent publishers offerings, although they're more than willing to spend an hour flipping through a national distributor's catalogue and sneering at most of their offerings. (I know. I had the dubious pleasure of sitting in a public cafe and overhearing the poor salesperson being turned down on every page.)

While many independent bookstores obviously get more mileage from ordering from a big distributor, they will, if aproached properly, consider smaller publishers' books.

When Metta Publishers approached Munro's Books in Victoria - one of my favourite bookstores in the province - they said they didn't handle small publishers' work. But when we were in town, they were willing to sit down with us. At which time they said they'd buy two of each book, changed their mind and ordered five, and have since reordered both books.

Left. Munro's bookstore, Victoria, BC

Independent bookstores get my support - as a consumer and a publisher - and my dollars every time.

I don't even like Starbucks coffee, so I never have a good reason to even enter Chapters. And in my work at a library I use Amazon regularly to track down new books that customers are looking for.

But I prefer to spend my money elsewhere, in my own community.

It's worth the wait, and the expense to support the little guys.

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