Although we live near the huge Barnes and Noble store, and have ready access to Amazon, I was delighted that an independent bookstore opened a few minutes away from our home. River Bend Bookshop, in Glastonbury(Connecticut, not England!) was opened by a woman who retired from the insurance industry to fulfill a life dream of owning a bookstore. Making a small business successful challenges the best entrepreneur, and selling books in the present climate presents an additional hurdle. Why, when I can get a book for a few dollars less from Amazon, should I frequent an independent shop? Why, when I can look at thousands of choices at Barnes and Noble should I go to River Bend instead?
Amazon presumes that my most important value is saving money. Barnes and Noble presumes that my most important value is choice. River Bend Books, on the other hand, presumes that my most important values are being around readers, getting personalized recommendations, meeting writers, and getting to know the booksellers. While I do value saving money and having vast choices, I value most highly personal interaction. Currently I find books I want from reading reviews or looking at Amazon. I then call River Bend and order the books. When I go to pick up the books, not only am I greeted by name, but I also have an opportunity to talk books. Reading is often a solitary pastime, and talking about books satisfies my intellectual side.
American society teems with lonely people, treated impersonally in shops, checking out their own purchases, ordering on-line without talking and seeing only the delivery van, rarely even the driver. We have collectively traded community for economy. We have lost much without really stopping to consider if it was a worthwhile exchange. Going to River Bend Books reminds me that many of us have made a bad bargain. Thankfully and surprisingly enough, independent bookstores are doing very well again. I must be part of a larger group of readers than I knew.