Amazon Attacks Olympia

     As many Olympia-area residents and shoppers know, the Fireside Bookstore is closing its doors on July 31. Read article in The Olympian here.This wonderful, small, independent bookstore in downtown Olympia has been owned and operated by Jane Laclergue since 1995. Jane has many fans and friends in town, many dedicated readers, grateful authors, and fabulous staff--many sang her praises at farewell/retirement party of Jane Wednesday night. Her passion for books, her charm, her personal approach to book buying has made Fireside a favorite place of mine to buy books over the past several years.
  Though Jane is of retirement age, the closing of the Fireside Bookstore comes at  time when fewer people seem to consider reading a priority pastime and more readers are acquiring digital books or ordering from online distributors such as Amazon. Sure, independent bookstores are not known for their bargain prices, but I think we need to look closely at the cost of our book-buying habits (and shopping habits in general) on  the physical place that is our downtown.
   Every digital book we download is one less book sold at a bookstore. Though I am a tree-hugger and can appreciate the paper being saved through digital books, I cannot overlook the costs to the environment of e-readers and toxic components. Compare "footprint" of printed books to electronic ones here.
  Every book we buy on Amazon or other online booksellers is one less book sold at a bookstore.
  At the end of the month there will be one more empty store in Olympia, one less place to visit. Is Orca Books next? Our only remaining independent bookstore? What about the other used book stores tucked into our downtown? What about Barnes & Noble, our only remaining chain bookstore in the great Olympia area? Oh, and what about all the other stores that offer products that could be acquired online? I fear the worst. And here's why.
   The morning after Jane's farewell party, I heard a piece on NPR about Amazon's plans to introduce a new smartphone. This product has the potential to bring down any downtown in America. Here is what one analyst had to say about Amazon's plans:
       "...Amazon probably sees a smartphone as a way to drive more dollars toward its digital offerings like movies and music. And he says Amazon could add applications to the phone that people could use to comparison shop in brick and mortar stores."
    Brick and mortar stores--like Fireside, like many stores in Olympia and other real towns. 
"Perhaps an app that says, 'Oh, you’re in a store, hit this app, scan the barcode, oh, you can get it on Amazon shipped to your door tomorrow, just hit this button'"
 This is where I lost it. Does anyone think this is really a good idea? Imagine a downtown where shoppers are merely smartphone-toters, barcode-scanning app users, bargain hunters, citizens operating under the illusion that they are saving money when what they are doing is putting stores out of business. What they would be doing (and what we are all doing now if you order anything online) is creating a landscape of empty stores, abandoned downtowns, and roadways plied dawn to dark by gas-guzzing UPS and FedEx trucks bringing our "bargains" to our front doors.
    Would that app also calculate shipping and handling charges from Amazon? Would it calculate the cost to the environment of the bubble wrap and cardboard each and every items is swathed in? The gas for the delivery trucks? The cost to our downtown businesses when we decide to "just hit this button" ?
   We need to make personal appearances in our stores if we want to have a downtown in our future. Downtown does not need more apps. Jane Laclergue said it best on Wednesday night: "Downtown needs your footsteps."

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