Good independent bookstores have personalities of their own. Often located in the middle of town, they are the kind of places that beckon one to enter with possibilities of surprising discoveries and are generally owned by people who genuinely love literature and sharing their knowledge.
Ironically, the more globalized the world becomes, the less reason there is to even leave home. Why travel from Seattle to Munich if all you see are McDonald’s, Starbucks, The Gap and Body Shop? Cities begin to look more and more generic in that sense and once they are interchangeable, you may as well just stay at home and order everything through the Internet.
Just so there is no misunderstanding, I love using the Internet and I love the concept of Amazon. However, I loved it more in the beginning when it was new. My kids were small and the browsing at a bookstore with a toddler and baby in tow was anything but leisurely or enjoyable, so my chief source for books was Amazon – not to mention that it was the only place I could get English books from easily in Germany. Ralf used to joke that Amazon would go bankrupt if I stopped buying from them. One Christmas I received a thermos mug from Amazon as a thank-you for being such a good customer. (Ralf did not.) Of course these days are long gone.
Because I don't want the independent bookshops around me to disappear, my solution for years has been to buy all German language books from our local bookstores. Kilgus when I lived in Pfaffenhofen and Slawski here in Buchholz, and using Amazon for most of my English language books.
If I send an E-Mail by late afternoon, usually about 4 p.m., to my local bookshop, the books I have ordered will be waiting for me around 9:30 a.m. the following day! When my brother Finn visited last May, he was amazed to hear how efficiently that works here.
He also told me that in the US, books are often cheaper through Amazon than they are at local bookstores.In Germany and countless other countries* as well, there is a so called Fixed Book Price Agreement which means that a (new) book has to be sold at a certain price everywhere. One positive effect of this is that large companies cannot muscle small independent bookshops out of the business by sheer force of size.
So let me introduce you to my favourite place to buy books – Slawski in Buchholz - it’s an integral part of where I live and an atmosphere like this will never be found on the Internet.
*Argentina, Austria, S. Korea, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg (domestic), Mexico (for the first 18 months), Norway, Holland, Portugal, Slovenia, Belgium
Interesting libraries I come across will be added here.