Saturday, February 11, 2006

Independent Bookstores

Shop at them!

My sweetie's bookstore, Amazon (NOT the web-based bohemouth, but a very cool independent feminist bookstore in Minneapolis) is having its annual Susan B. Anthony sale this weekend. - 20% off and cookies and entertainment to boot. Anyone anywhere near Minneapolis should seriously check it out, though I know it's late notice.

Independent Bookstores are vanishing at an amazing rate. In my own city, we lost The Hungry Mind (Ruminator) a few years ago. Now there are a few "radical" bookstores run by volunteers, a few kids' bookstores, and Amazon. All of those I know about are struggling to keep afloat. A few months ago, M (my sweetie) had the somewhat sad job of calling all of the feminist bookstores that existed in North America a few years ago, and seeing which were still around. The results were not encouraging.

Everytime someone on a quaker list or blog says "this is a great book, get it at" I cringe. It's a little like getting kicked in the stomach.

I think it's one of those ways that I'm surprised and hurt all quakers aren't like me, like some christians are.

For me quaker faith is lived and experienced much in action - it's important how we worship, how we are together, how we seek (and find!) spirit, God. But what drew me to friends is the idea that our lives are lived in God. It's not just what we do at church, but what we do driving (or biking!) to work, what we do at the grocery store, and (is this now too secular?) what we do with our checkbooks (credit cards).

I have never been too big on "charity" (philanthropy) I believe it has its place, but it also finds its foundation in a system of class differences (some people have lots more money than other people, and can choose who of those who need money are deserving) but perhaps that's another entry.

In any case, I therefore find that the ways that we interact directly with the economy of the world around us to be crucial. Every time we spend money we are choosing to do our part to bring about a certain vision of the world. For me that vision is one where everyone earns enough to support themselves and their families, where folks can be proud of the work that they do, where businesses are owned locally (which allows more people the pride of ownership in their own businesses, and allows communities to hold their businesses accountable)

It doesnt' include Walmart (its ugly buildings, its driving-intensive locations, its centralization and distance - both physical and spiritual - between the owners and those they employ and "serve")

It doesnt' include, Borders, Target, or Home Depot either. (all of those commodity needs would be better met, in my opinion, by local booksellers, hardware stores, general stores, pharmacies)

But bookstores are even more a special case. Books are ideas. They are the lifeblood of an educated, informed, involved populace.

When we support huge booksellers, which are primarily (and legally required, if they're publically traded) concerned with profit over all else, we limit our options. There are still a number of small presses in the US (though dwindling as well) - small bookstores buy books from them. They can be bothered. They can respond to individual customers who want those books, and have actual face-to-face relationships with the decision makers at a locally owned bookstore.

Large bookstores already tend not to buy these books. Many to all of their purchasing decisions aer made in a central location by someone who will never see any of the people who buy those books. It's too much of a pain, and why would such a store want to carry a book that challenged, say, capitalism, or corporate structure anyway?

Every time you spend $3 more to buy a book from an independent bookseller, you get a priceless return in terms of a vibrant local economy, diversity, and most importantly, the free flow of ideas.

It's worth it.



this might say parts of it better than I can:


Liz Opp said...

"You can get any book you want at QuakerBooks of FGC!" was a refrain that was sung [to the tune of the refrain "Alice's Restaurant"] a few years ago at a business session for FGC.

I have ordered a Soduku calendar, a couple mainstream DVDs, and a book on women writers, all from QuakerBooks. I've also ordered books and pamphlets for a Quaker reading group, and I have called them (toll free number is on their website) to ask someone for recommendations about a number of Quaker-oriented topics (Lucy, Graham, and Martin--yes, that Martin!--have directed me to wonderful resources I otherwise might not have considered).

I also noticed an article online about the impact on the earth's ecosystem from the demand of so much bottled water--the oil needed to create the plastic bottles; the oil and energy needed to transport bottled water around the world; the pollution created by recycling the plastic... So I am in the early stages of weaning myself off of bottled water.


Thanks for speaking so plainly about supporting independent bookstores and local retailers, Pam.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Legalfrugalbabe said...

Ooooh, now see, that's a tough one for me. I've been finding quite a dichotomy lately between my principles and my actions. Let's support our local business! We can't let them die out! Now what was that book's ISBN and what's Amazon's (the behemoth's) discount on it? Oh, hey, Walmart is having a yarn sale! You get my drift.

It's very easy to agree with Quakerism's tenets and much harder to apply them. I was talking to a Unitarian friend recently who said that we both have demanding faiths, and I think he's right. Finding that of God in every one is a great idea. When I say that, I absolutely do not mean to demean that expression of faith. Rather, it expresses that I have gotten nowhere in applying it. What challenge is there in finding that of God in someone who agrees with you? I should try and find that of God in Karl Rove. I'm having equal difficulty with the peace testimony, especially after the whole Muslim cartoon incident. Does the peace testimony mean we leave our opinions at the door? Am I wrong to believe that freedom of expression includes the right to blaspheme, regardless of how strongly other religions feel about it? Am I wrong to think that some Muslims were wrong to firebomb Western Embassies in what I see as a fit of blind rage?

Sorry; I don't mean to rant on about my struggles. But if anyone has a suggestion on where to find the fortitude to move from words to action, I would welcome it with open arms. In a sense, it's about applying spirituality to every waking moment. And man, that's hard.

Welcome back, Pam; we've missed you. It's good to have you back!

Claire M.

earthfreak said...

Thanks for the welcome, Claire, and for the reminder about Quakerbooks, Liz (I meant to say something about that, but I apparently drowned myself in words before I got there)

I'd have to say that I find this particular standard one of the easiest to meet (well, then again, it depends on where you set your standards - I tend to spend my money at businesses that I think are "worthy" - but I'm quite aware that I spend a LOT of money that I don't need to spend at all. I could get all my books at the library, never eat out, eat very simply at home, never travel for fun, etc - and send a lot of money to the "less fortunate" or support other worthy "causes" - THAT goal seems to continuously elude me)

Perhaps a post on "falling short" is in order. I am reading a novel by Ariel Gore that is about catholic saints, and one of the last lines I read was about how no saint ever felt "perfect" while they were living their lives - they were often frustrated, confused, feeling like failures. It's not about being perfect, it's about things like trying to always act with love, which (for me) is at least as hard as being perfect!