I bought a book, then 5 minutes later found an identical cheaper one online using my smartphone, so I returned it. Was this wrong?
I recently found myself at Barnes and Noble with quite the conundrum. The parking lot was crazy busy. The Nook booths up front were heaving with rabid present-seekers. The coffee shop bustled with students cramming for finals.
I was there, however, for a reading by an author friend of mine. The reading area was, well, quieter. I can say I wasn’t the only audience member since the poet’s mom came too.
After the reading—which was great—I perused the stacks as I considered the wisdom of making a purchase for myself so close to Christmas. But, with great speed, books destroy my powers to delay gratification, so before long I had two in my hands. Thanks to a herculean effort I narrowed it down to one by Neil Gaiman, but I wasn’t certain about it.
So, I brought out my iPhone. No, I didn’t scan the bar-code quite yet, I simply Googled the title, Anansi Boys. After a few flicks, I learned the book was the story of a character from a Gaiman’s previous novel, American Gods. So, I went to find American Gods on the shelf.
They had one edition. Hard cover. $26.99. Tenth Anniversary Author’s Preferred Text Edition. I swithered, but then walked it calmly to the register. A minute later, I had purchased the book for $29.01.
As I sat in the car warming up — this is Fargo, remember — I felt deep regret. $30 is our household’s monthly book allowance (not including school books). I just blew it in one fell swoop. I did really want to read American Gods, but it was mostly an impulse buy. So, on another impulse, I whipped out my phone and brought up the Amazon app. I scanned my just-purchased book’s barcode, and its Amazon page popped up in two seconds.
Amazon price: $17.60. No sales tax. I have a student Amazon Prime account, meaning I have free two-day shipping on most purchases. I bought it one tap. One tap. Then I opened the car door, walked back in to Barnes and Noble, stood in line, returned the $29.01 copy, and drove away with more money in my pocket and a very confused conscience.
Then, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo responded to Russo quite wisely it seems to me, complicating matters entirely.
Loyal readers will know I’m a sucker for small independently-owned book stores. I miss living in bigger areas like Decatur boasting places like Little Shop of Stories with it’s wonderfully curated collection, friendly staff, smart book groups, and glorious story times. (And, get this: Neil Gaiman has visited Little Shop.)
Often, in Fargo, I buy used books from Red Raven, and I’ve purchased several from Zambroz. I try to buy work books through The Thoughtful Christian.com, usually at great discount, but certainly not with two-day shipping. But I do buy a lot of books via Amazon. Most, even. And I’m still wrestling with my Barnes and Noble return.
So, dear Internet, I confess it. But, to be honest, I’m not sure whether I have sinned or not. If so, my penance will be donate the $11.41 difference to a good cause. But, maybe, I was just a savvy shopper with a smartphone and the good sense to take advantage of my student free two-day shipping when I can.
Am I an Amazon app sinner destroying my local economy, or a smart shopper saving $11.41 I can now spend locally?