January 13, 2012

One critic’s New Year’s resolution: Quit Amazon and practice “reverse showrooming”


“I suspect I’m not the only person starting 2012 with a resolution to buy fewer books from Amazon,” writes Laura Miller in her newest column at Salon.

She’s not. In fact, some people didn’t wait for the new year — nearly 13,000 union workers in Pennsylvania boycotted the company during the Christmas season, according to a Morning Call report.

But Miller thinks “Resistance to the e-commerce giant and its crypto-monopolistic ways crystallized just before Christmas, when it offered customers a 5 percent credit to use its price-checking app in brick-and-mortar stores, thereby undercutting local businesses.” (See our
report on that $15 bribe here.)  As she puts it, “those stores will vanish if we don’t make a point of patronizing them.”

Still, how to do so if you, like Miller, prefer ebooks over print books? Not so easy, right?

Wrong, she says: “You most certainly can purchase e-books from your local independent bookstore.”

I’ve done it myself several times since I made my resolution to avoid buying them from Amazon if at all possible. Two of my favorite New York booksellers — Greenlight Books in Brooklyn and McNally Jackson in Manhattan — participate in the Google e-books program. You can visit their websites, find the book you want and purchase it through Google, which gives the bookstore a cut. The prices are comparable and the Google Books app works as
well as the Kindle one.

Not that buying from indies is quite the smooth process with indies yet that it is with Amazon—Miller even quotes me about the problems with the Google ebookstore. And Amazon is unbeatable for information, she notes: “Amazon has the richest and deepest online books database, where I can instantly find out whether a title is available in e-book (or audiobook) format, scan reader reviews and follow reader-generated tags to find similar titles.”

But she loves to take that information from Amazon and then buy the book from an indie — something she calls “reverse showrooming.”

In short, she says, “there’s no need to wait. You can make the switch from Amazon to indie e-books right now, and do your part in the coming year to keep your town or city a more bookish place.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him at @mobylives