I am an Amazon customer. I have a Kindle. I read Amazon e-books. I search Amazon for deals on various products and buy them. I still like bookstores. I like browsing in them and buying in them. These two likes should not be at odds with one another. And yet, they are.
Amazon is no stranger to controversies, but the most recent one has many people riled up. Amazon announced a new Price Check app and gave people incentive to use it at their local bookstore. A great article in the New York Times explains the situation. First things first, what the app does: “Amazon was encouraging customers to go into brick-and-mortar bookstores on Saturday, and use its price-check app (which allows shoppers in physical stores to see, by scanning a bar code, if they can get a better price online) to earn a 5 percent credit on Amazon purchases (up to $5 per item, and up to three items).” The argument: With this app, Amazon was basically turning physical bookstores into “showrooms” for book shoppers where these customers can handle the goods they wish to buy, then purchase them from Amazon. It doesn’t take much to see that this is one more reason bookstores will have to struggle to survive.
I think the app is a step too far. Sure, customers can see that Amazon is cheaper other ways. But this just seems like a slap in the face to brick-and-mortar retailers.
But why I also don’t like it is because it makes me feel guilty for something I shouldn’t feel guilty about at all! (This, it should be noted, is a trait I inherited from my mother: extreme guilt.) Now, whenever I even so much as take my phone out in a bookstore I worry employees will suspect I’m using the Amazon app and hurting their business. Just this past weekend, I browsed Barnes and Noble while I waited for a friend. She texted, I responded. I scanned the store anxiously for suspicious stares. Nothing to see here people, just an innocent text, I swear!
I should be able to buy my e-books from Amazon, my print books from physical stores, and text without guilt while book shopping. Is that so hard?
Oh, and if you want a more coherent opinion on the matter, do check out the New York Times article “Amazon’s Jungle Logic.” It’s really interesting.