Cafe con Libros is not Anti-Amazon.
We are Pro Connection. Pro Slowing Down. Pro Community.
Community, I promise, if we were anti-amazon, I would have no issue in saying so except we aren't. Rather, we are a small business who is directly and materially impacted by the way amazon chooses to show up and not share space.
I'm writing this piece to incite a deeper dialogue.
This blog rises from my own sense of accountability to you, my community, to clearly explain our position. It is important that no one in our community feels shamed or reprimanded for the decisions they make to survive. The truth is, like so many things in life and especially, life in a pandemic, sh*t is complicated. Rather than live in the suffocating space of either/or, I choose to live in what often feels like the freedom of both/and. I hope by the end of this blog, you understand me more and that I've achieved what I set out to do.
Our participation in the National "Boxed Out" Campaign; a media campaign sponsored by the American Booksellers Association and executed by DCX NYC, admittedly held no punches in calling amazon all the way out, is important to us despite our politic of not being anti-amazon. The fact is, life is thorny and oftentimes, uncomfortable. We live an existence where two completely contradictory truths can and often exist at once. This summarily describes our relationship with amazon.
Like so many Americans, I have a rather tricky relationship with capitalism. Some participate fitfully. Some happily. Some greedily. And a growing number of us, consciously. In the case of amazon, many of us have indulged in their services for a variety of reasons ranging from convenience to economics. And we have all done so along the spectrum of fitfully, happily, greedily and consciously. There is no judgment on my end.
I'm careful not to demonize. Not only because it's simply not my style; I feel most comfortable in the nuances and gray of life. I am also a person who has had a very uncomfortable and ever shifting relationship with amazon which this pandemic has really forced me to examine.
I've been reflecting on my own actions specifically, during my recovery from giving birth to our first son, Kaleb Emiliano by C-Section. Ryan and I did not know what we did not know and every missing item felt like the end of the world. I lived in perpetual fear and with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. So, I relied heavily on amazon to feel as if I had a sense of control. I clicked add to cart to ease the angst of feeling like I wasn't exposing our baby to life threatening germs because somehow we missed burping bibs. Two days later, we had a box full of supplies, I had one less thing to worry about and I saved our baby from our ignorance. For that, I am grateful.
This may sound glib. Comical even. It's neither. I'm being truthful and exposing my layers. As I was relying on amazon to quell my new mom insanity, I was also struggling to keep the business open - living as frugally as possible while managing the overwhelming sense of defeat as folx shared that our books, then priced 10% lower than MSRP, were too expensive. You read that correct: in 2018, our books were priced 10% lower than MSRP and some customers still felt they were too expensive. And in an amazon world, they're correct. Amazon is able to sell the same book for up to 40% off.
As a Feminist bookstore, it's hard to argue with womxn who feel the books are expensive. Due to the well oiled white, straight and male patriarchal machine, we have less pennies to spare.
This is the tragedy of amazon - it's unscrupulousness. It's lack of community accountability. It's greedy participation in capitalism. It's betrayal of the very market on which shoulders it stands. Amazon is in a position to out price, out deliver and out market every single independent bookstore in the world. That level of power and what feels like an uncaring wielding of said power deserves scrutiny and admonishing. Even rage. And some mockery.
However, even more urgent, as independent bookstores all over the country close their doors for good, we need to aggressively and flamboyantly remind folx why shopping local is critical. I do not want to preach to the choir so I am carefully measuring my words. So as I often do, will rely on Grey's Anatomy to do my bidding:
"I love you, in a really really big, pretend to like your taste in music, let you eat the last piece of cheesecake, hold a radio over my head outside your window...
So pick me, choose me, love me." - Meredith Grey.
Choose your local business as they have chosen you - chosen your neighborhood, your needs, your family. Practice patience as small businesses adjust to the new world. Plan your shopping list ahead of time and start making purchases in anticipation of a holiday season in a pandemic. If you can, donate. If you can't and you can live without gifts for one year, ask friends to send donations to your favorite indie shop. Think "outside the box."
Family, it is clear that we cannot rely on our government for bail out and even in a pandemic, we can't rely on amazon to be in solidarity with independent bookstores, so we have to show up for one another. Shop with intention. Shop with conviction. Shop local. And if you have to shop amazon, shop consciously and wi