In Amazon vs the bookstore, the bookstore wins

The year was 1993, and Jeff Bezos was looking for a change in direction for his career. Bezos was living in New York, working in the financial sector in Manhattan.

The year was 1993, and Jeff Bezos was looking for a change in direction for his career. Bezos was living in New York, working in the financial sector in Manhattan. The internet was on the rise, and web functionalities and availability was increasing day after day.

Bezos saw potential in the web, quit his job on Wall Street, and moved to America’s West Coast, to Seattle, in Washington State. A year later, the first form of the online store we all know as Amazon, came to light.

Originally, it was a bookstore, but, it was not for a love of books, as a piece in The New Yorker magazine earlier this year detailed.

“It was totally based on the property of books as a product,” his former deputy, Shel Kaplan, told the magazine.

Amazon took off quickly, gaining more exposure at book festivals and industry events across the country, most notably, according to the magazine, in Chicago in 1995, at the industry’s annual gathering. At the time, most people flocked to bookstores to find that special book, and if they wondered if one was in stock, one phone call to your nearest neighbourhood bookstore did it all.

A swift change

Nearly twenty years later, as a love of bookstores remained, and Amazon diversified its product range, Bezos again shook up the book industry and started a new chapter – the Kindle. People rushed to Amazon sites like those lining up at Apple stores trying to get the latest iPhone in order to get their hands on the latest piece of technology, a piece that would likely cause a revolution in the modern digital culture, but that of our personal habits.

No longer need you walk or drive the few odd miles to find that book, to rekindle that relationship between you and the words on a page. All of the books of the wider world were available at your fingertips. In the war between the bookstore and Amazon, Bezos thought a landslide victory would be his, with the power of this new device.

Not quite.

An unbreakable bond

For you see, there is something special when it comes to the relationship between an individual and a bookstore. Bookstores, in the words of Canadian author and radio personality Stuart McLean, are safe places, happy places, places where you could duck in and be called by name. A Kindle is stagnant, as one stares at text, flipping pages with the touch of the screen. A Kindle is loud, dynamic and not truly personal.

A bookstore is an experience, a cultural asset, a place where you can forego reality and immerse yourself in a different world, either by yourself, or with your friends. It reflects the relationship between a person and a book, where one can speak to you as your eyes wonder shelf to shelf, free of obligation, free of the rush—just you and the book.

Even if you don’t end up purchasing a book, you notice the love of the bookstore from the people and scenes you come across. They pick up a book, have a look at it, and then sit down, cup of coffee in hand, and relax, entering the world they have chosen through that specific piece of literature.

They want to forget their troubles, have not a care in the world, and open the cover to the first page.

Bezos may be at the advantage technologically speaking, but he’ll never catch up to the love that people have of their neighbourhood bookstore, for it is a bond that has been sealed for all of time, a bond that no Kindle can break, a bond that internet competition cannot sour, a bond that will remain no matter what form the industry takes.

So pop down to your neighbourhood bookstore. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Happy reading.

What do you think about bookstores? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: wgreaves / Wikimedia Commons