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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Presence, Online and On the Street


Indoors today --
“Do you have an online presence?” one visitor to the bookstore asked me. (Visitors with the most questions are sometimes those least interested in looking at books, or so it seems. They’ll ask if I’m open all year rather than take advantage of the fact that I’m open now and they’re here now, and it’s unlikely they plan to come back in February, anyway.) Well, I have this blog online, and I have a limited number of my special books described on the Dog Ears Books website, but it isn’t one-click shopping. I was an early participant in the first open-to-the-public, multi-dealer, used book marketplace, back in the mid-1990s, but the Internet has changed enormously since then, so now I go my own way, here on Waukazoo Street and online.

Then, lo and behold! In Friday morning’s mail came a letter addressed to me from the online behemoth itself, urging me to sign up for its “local register.” Yes, the behemoth wants to jump on the “local” bandwagon, now that local has become hip and cool and people are getting wise to supporting their home communities. The letter – well, more a flier, really; there was no “Dear” salutation or closing from any particular person with any kind of title – began not with a statement of invitation or a question about my interest but with a simple imperative:

“Accept Payment Wherever Your Business Takes You”

That’s right. The command had no punctuation, and every word in what would, with a period, constitute a sentence was capitalized. Strange? Stranger yet, to my eye, was the meaning of the sentence. “Wherever My Business Takes Me”? As in, away from my business on Waukazoo Street? This would be local how?

Welcome to my world
Okay, you already know it will be a cold day at the center of the earth before I’d sign on with the behemoth, but by coincidence my already-made-long-ago decision received validation moments after I’d opened the unwelcome envelope, with a quote and link in that day’s “Shelf Awareness” newsletter to a very detailed account of the false economy Americans practice when they fail to support local business. No summary or set of quotations from this article would do justice to its contents, so please follow the link and read it for yourself.

How happy am I that the same Jim Hightower now exposing the behemoth’s ugly underbelly has long been a champion of organic agriculture and real local farmers? Very happy! Independent bookstores, writers, thinkers, and farmers: we’re all connected, and we’re all on your side. Question: Are you on our side? “Our” including “your”?

A young Facebook friend of mine commented recently on one of the links I posted there that he supports both independent bookstores and the online behemoth. His take on this was that when he knew what he wanted, he would order from the behemoth, while if he just wanted to browse he’d go to a bookstore. I thought of Tinker Belle asking children to clap their hands if they believed in fairies, and then I imagined her asking them to clap again if they supported those who would kill fairies. 

Believing a contradiction is not uncommon, and even acting on contradictory beliefs is not uncommon. What more can I say? My presence is on Waukazoo Street in Northport.

Okay, I thought of something more to say. We're having some work done on our house this fall, and the new siding came from Northport Building Supply, the new windows from Thomas & Milliken. The money to buy the siding and lumber came from the sale of paintings (David) and books (me) in Northport

Storefront -- today -- 106 Waukazoo St.
What goes around, comes around, as the saying goes. If it doesn't go around in the first place, don't be surprised if it doesn't come back your way.

Looking in/looking out

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