This title is not as condescending as it might sound, because I find myself explaining to people every day how to acquire a copy of Lead Me, Guide Me: The Life and Example of Father Dan Begin. My answer to this simple question is complicated.
Obviously, every bookstore can’t carry every book as part of their inventory, even mega-stores like Barnes & Noble. Only one site nowadays has almost every book you could wish for: Amazon. If everyone always buys books from Amazon, with a click on their computer at 1:00 in the morning, even big box retail stores will eventually vanish. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s often cheap. So why not make Amazon your own personal shopper for books, as well as other things?
You can read up on the depredations of Amazon on the Internet. They include fighting unions and mistreating workers and drivers, depending on fossil fuels, wasting packaging materials, and raking in taxpayer subsidies for new warehouses. Most relevant for my purposes, though, is the harm they do to local businesses. Small booksellers around the country are doing remarkably well, but that’s because of their scrappy persistence.
Bookstore owners have told me that customers frequently browse in their stores, handling actual books!, and writing down titles and information. Then they go home and search out bargains (or perceived bargains) on Amazon. After doing their research in a bricks and mortar store, they buy via the Internet. Thereby putting more cash in a multi-billion dollar corporation rather than keeping that nice little shop, where people say hello and help you find books, in business.
I do the exact opposite. Before the Christmas holidays or birthdays, I search on Amazon for books that might suit my little nephews and nieces or other relatives. Then I go to my local bookstore (in my case, Mac’s Backs-Books on Coventry) to see if they’re in stock. If they’re not, the friendly staff there orders the books for me, and I can usually pick them up in a couple of days. I can also save a trip by ordering with a phone call instead, or ordering on the bookstore’s website. They will even wrap the books for me.
What about the pandemic? you’re asking. What if I don’t want to go out to pick up my book? Small booksellers have adapted by mailing your books to your home or directly to recipients, if the books are a gift. They also have arranged for curbside pickup. No excuse! You can also, always, order books directly from the publisher (information you can find on Amazon!).
All that said, go ahead and slip up now and then. It’s hard not to, because Amazon owns many other companies, including the Washington Post, Whole Foods, Good Reads, and Zappos. Sometimes it’s just too easy to let your index finger make the purchase. Just try not to. Buy some books at your town’s bookstore, some tools at a small hardware store, some takeout at a local restaurant, and some clothes and crafts at retail outlets. Nurturing small business is one good thing you can do, right now, to help the economy, your neighborhoods, and cities.