Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

The Fruit of Freedom

Poor or destructive relationships persevere by one partner or the other closing their eyes to the other’s faults. In this case, I cannot any longer close my eyes to what I have seen. So I count the cost of separation and move on.

The cost cannot be overlooked. Since I’ve begun this process of separation, I’ve heard concerns about Amazon’s intrusion into the publishing side of the book business and fears that Amazon would disrupt the distribution of certain Christian books. Both concerns should lead us to rethink our addiction to that “Buy Now” button. The latter post says that we should “be willing to pay a small premium” to buy from independent booksellers. I agree in principle, but disagree that the premium is small. It is in reality over 40%, to which my ever practical wife says, “This means we can’t buy as many books for our grandkids.” So, yes. The cost of freedom is, in reality, hefty.

In return I can reasonably guarantee that the books I buy and give are the genuine article. I can be certain that the authors who work long lonely hours pursuing their dream get financial credit for that pursuit. I may re-learn something about the discipline of self-control and the joy of delayed as opposed to instantaneous gratification. And I can take joy in shaking a lonely, rebellious fist in the face of this enticing Goliath. And this is not nothing. My grandchildren may get fewer books but perhaps I can leave them, as well, a small legacy of resistance to the relentless commodification of life.

But it’s the personal gain that is the sweetest.

One Saturday afternoon I invited my wife on a journey. We made the 30 minute drive to WritersBlock bookstore. We browsed the nooks and crannies of its tight book-packed space. We chatted with the clerk who smilingly welcomed us, and we bumped up against, literally, other book lovers. I spoke to one person about poetry. I discovered in the children’s section that Kate DiCamillo had released a new book. I picked up a David Brooks book I’d wanted to read and Barb grabbed a thriller autographed by the authors, James Patterson and Bill Clinton. We pointed things out to each other, and felt in the end like we were a small part of a non-digital human community. For $60, it was a good date, and one that Amazon could never supply.

Years ago Charlie Mora, a good friend and mentor, passed away. When he died I made a visit to Demetrios, the Bradenton, Florida pizza house that he frequented. I knew they would want to know that they would not be seeing Charlie any more. I knew they would care, not about lost business but about a lost relationship. They were glad I had come by. They would miss him.

We may or may not ever develop that kind of relationship with local bookshops. But I wonder if there might not be great joy in the effort. Amazon will never care if any of us dies. But maybe we can again begin to live so that those around us in our neighborhoods and communities will know that we exist, will be encouraged by our presence, and miss us when we are gone. Some fear it “may be too late.” I say that does not matter.

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1 Comment

  1. Jason Strong

    In 1971, I was stationed in Columbus Georgia at Fort Benning and I had joined a radio controlled airplane club.
    The hobby shop a lot of us used was small, free standing building and was packed full of wonderful goodies, and the owner was very helpful to a novice such as myself.
    After four or five months and several purchases later, he told me he was thinking about moving into a much larger more modern building and wanted to know my opinion.
    I told him, one of the reasons I did business with him was because of the personality, not only his, but of the place much the same as you have described with your bookstores. I said it would be a shame to lose that just to have a bigger building in some shopping mall.
    As is often the case, the U.S. Army transferred me (to Alaska) and I never knew what became of that shop. In addition, I started working on my private pilot certificate and did not have the time nor the money to continue with that hobby.

    Hopefully, the hobby store owner continued to be successful and took some of the “magic“ that was the hobby store I loved with him wherever he ended up.

    I hope the same is true with the bookstores you are coming to know and enjoy. 😊

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