Think of some of your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, and bookstores that aren’t a national chain in your community. Then imagine them gone post-pandemic — closed up. …If you’re like me, that’s not a world you like imagining.
Support Local (Especially Bookstores) | 22
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This is The Good List — I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
So I’ll just get this out of the way right at the outset: this episode is NOT about shaming anyone using online ordering of any sort. Right now during this pandemic, the ability to have essentials shipped to your door without having to enter a crowded public building is one of many huge benefits to technology right now. I’m personally using it when I can, so if you are too, I get it — we’re all doing what we can.
But this episode is a reminder for all of us about how much we need to value the local, small shops in our communities. During all this social distancing, quarantining, and city, state, and in some cases, country-wide shelter-in-place orders, it’s these small businesses that are hurting and are living with a giant question mark about their future, quite possibly like many of us with our own family’s economic securities. It only takes a quick search and scroll of the news to read how the giants like Amazon are profiting wildly off this pandemic. And while I’m not one to say a big company shouldn’t profit, I’m also one to really believe that we shouldn’t ignore our small, local businesses at the expense of panic, letting them hang up permanently closed signs while Amazon gets even bigger and bigger and bigger.
Just imagine with me, if you would, your own personal, hyper-local community right now. Think of some of your favorite restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, and bookstores that aren’t a national chain. Go ahead and literally think of them — maybe even jot them down in a list — name 2 or 3 in different categories. Then imagine them gone — closed up. Visualize your daily, weekly, monthly life without these places around you. If you’re like me, that’s not a world you like visualizing. You’re glad these places exist in your life. Imagine them closing up, and giant brand and store names getting even bigger. Aside from the fact that this sort of thing was already happening (I mean, think of how many of us, and for how many years, were already talking about the importance of shopping locally when we can), the coronavirus pandemic has shot this issue up to the next level.
So this episode of The Good List is a reminder for all of us that, when we can, to shop locally. Yes, there are exceptions when we just need to buy out of convenience, and I totally get that. I’m talking about buying locally in ways that both benefit us and benefit our community… So, when you decide to order take-out, to do so from your locally-owned restaurant or cafe. If you’ve got a gift to buy, do so from your independently-owned gift shop in town. When you really miss ordering a coffee drink outside your house, to do so from your indie coffee shop. And to buy any books you can right now from your independent bookstore.
Here’s one way I’m doing that bit right now… I recently discovered bookshop.org, which is an online bookstore that actually supports local bookstores. When you order online, you can designate a local bookstore to fulfill your order, or you can simply have bookshop.org distribute part of your purchase to a wide group of indie bookstores, helping them keep the lights on. And as an online person, one way I’m helping with this is I’ve set up an online bookstore with bookshop.org as an affiliate. Which means yes, I get a small percentage of your purchases through my designated link, but without any extra charge to you — this means it’s a way you can both support indie bookstores AND support indie creators like myself, which is another way of voting with your dollars.
I’ll be honest, the whole Amazon thing is a challenge for me, as an online writer and podcaster, because a percentage (albeit small) of my monthly revenue comes from being an affiliate for certain brands, and one of the most profitable for me has been Amazon over the years. That’s because almost everyone buys from them because they make it so easy. And it’s long been a conundrum for me — I’m a small business owner, so when you use my links for things you’d buy anyway, you’re supporting a small business. However, it’s tough on my conscience whenever I link to things on Amazon, knowing that Jeff Bezos doesn’t exactly need my help in making even more money than the $2,500 per second he already makes.
I’m not making any hard, line-in-the-sand promises on what my long-term business plan is, as an affiliate, but here’s what I’m convicted to do right now, and for the foreseeable future, for my beloved indie bookstores: I’m going to promote my links at bookshop.org for books I recommend instead of via Amazon, even though it may hurt my bottom line. And with that, I’m going to encourage you to buy any books through bookshop.org, or directly from your local independent bookstores. Because I simply can’t fathom or stomach a world where our communities don’t have independent bookstores. Books, and the ideas and stories they hold, are too important in our cultures, communities, history, and forces of change they are to let them be distributed and beholden to one big monopoly. This is one small thing we can do to keep authors writing, keep pub houses publishing work that needs to be put out in the world, and help keep our local booksellers recommending, releasing, and sharing these books with their communities. These places are so important. Books are so important. We need to do our small part in keeping them independently created by the people who love and invest so much in them.
So, the takeaway for this episode is: sometime this week, if you were going to get takeout — do so from a local restaurant (my personal favorite is our pizza place down the street, called 600 Degrees). If you’re gonna order a gift of some sort, do so from an independent seller (right now I’m partial to The Burlap Bag’s candles, especially their current limited edition ones called Don’t Touch Me and 2020 Stinks, which 100% of the proceeds go to help people affected by coronavirus. If you’re gonna go out for coffee, drop by your mom-n-pop cafe instead of a chain, if you can (on Easter Sunday, our family went on a neighborhood walk and stopped by 309 Coffee, a coffee shop behind our house, who’s currently got both a makeshift drive-thru and a walk-up window). And if you want to order more books, either go to your local bookseller’s website and see how you can buy from them directly, or go to bookshop.org and order from there.
I’ve got my own affiliate link to bookshop.org in the show notes of this episode, #22, where I’ve curated a few lists of my favorites, such as my favorite books for little and not-so-little kids, the books I assign to my high school English class, my favorite books about faith and living well, my favorite novels and stories, and even my own TBR list. Head there if you’d like to check out those books, and order from there, which you’ll support both me and local bookstores, which we’ll both be very thankful for.
A little reminder that if you haven’t yet, to sign up for my free weekly email called 5 Quick Things, where I share 5 things I either created or loved from the week. Go to fivequickthings.email to sign up, and you’ll get the next weekly email that goes out on Friday mornings.
I’m on twitter @tsh and sometimes on IG @tshoxenreider, and you can also find a transcript and the show notes of this episode, and all episodes, at thegoodlistshow.com. Show notes this time includes a link to The Burlap Bag, if you’d like to check out their candles, and my own affiliate link at bookshop.org. Head there to check them both out — this is episode 22.
And don’t forget to leave me a voicemail or send me a voice recording, telling me one thing you’re doing to stay sane during your quarantine and social distancing. Leave me a voicemail at (401) 684-GOOD, which goes directly to voicemail; or, simply record your voice and email the voice file to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just state your name and where you’re from, and what’s one thing helping you get through this right now. And we may feature it here on the show.
Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, and thanks, as always, to Caroline TeSelle and Kyle Oxenreider for their help, as well as my furry intern, Ginny. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and I’ll be back with you in just a few days — thanks for listening to The Good List.