Thanks, Farhad Manjoo

The firestorm over Amazon continues: On Tuesday of this week, Farhad Manjoo,resident tech-wonk at, took a running shot at brick-and-mortar bookstores,calling them,”…cultish,moldering institutions…”, and, “…a frustrating consumer experience…”.  There’s been a lot of response to his article from authors, journalists and booksellers. I want to take time to offer Farhad my thanks.

Because of his article, Manjoo has kept the argument about the survival of bricks-and-mortars alive.  He has kept the fire burning under the witches’ cauldron that is Amazon World Domination (yes, with caps, because it’s far too easy to see Jeff Bezos sitting in his office, rubbing his hands together, going,”Bwah,hahhahhh.”), and has provoked responses that might have otherwise been unthought and unwritten.

If Farhad has had a bad experience in a bookstore, then booksellers, real live give-a-damn booksellers, need to know. If he just doesn’t like human interaction, well we can’t help that. Shopping at Amazon is just right for him, see-ya, have a nice life.  And cheaper? Sure.  But I’ve got a story to relate that makes his little whine-and-cheese party useless.

On Wednesday of this week, I sold lots of inexpensive books to a group of kids who not only do not own a wireless device of any sort, some of them have never owned a book.  They had been given a generous donation by an unknown benefactor under the condition that the money be spent on books.

I’ve done this gig before: the first time, I busted out one kid three times for trying to buy books far outside the appropriate reading for his age.  This time, I had only one child who tried to purchase something inappropriate, and neither the child nor the teacher accompanying the group would have had any reason to know this book was inappropriate.  It turns out that I did know; I had picked it up and read a part of it. In the meantime, these kids were completely into the idea of owning a book.

So go ahead, Fahrad: tell us booksellers how useless and frustrating we are, keep the fire burning.  In the meantime, I want to riff on the comment made by Andy Meeks of The Memphis Daily News : a four star restaurant and a fast-food restaurant may both sell meat and bread.  The differences are everything, and you’re gonna get what you pay for.

Love ya, Andy. You’re a gem.


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