Local Bookstores Take Aim at Amazon | Live Culture

Local Bookstores Take Aim at Amazon


Stacey Mitchell (left) and Olivia LaVecchia - INSTITUTE FOR LOCAL SELF-RELIANCE
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Stacey Mitchell (left) and Olivia LaVecchia
It should come as no surprise that independent bookstores are more than a little miffed at online monolith Amazon. But mom-and-pop book shops aren't the only businesses affected by the retail giant's ever-expanding reach and dominance. The massive corporation captures one of every two American dollars spent online. That's according to a 2016 report published by Stacy Mitchell and Olivia LaVecchia of the nonprofit advocacy group Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

But two Vermont bookstores are fighting back — or at least, talking about fighting back. Phoenix Books, Northshire Bookstore and local news website VTDigger present a pair of public discussions this week with Mitchell as the featured speaker. The idea: Present listeners with enough info to arm them for the coming retail war — or, more likely (and less dramatically), the long, slow, uphill trudge.

The first forum is Monday, November 13, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Burlington. Both Mitchell and LaVecchia will be on hand for the discussion moderated by former Vermont Public Television host Fran Stoddard. The following night, November 14, Mitchell appears at a similar event at Northshire Books in Manchester.

Mitchell's and LaVecchia's report is frightening, at least to store owners. The writers describe Amazon not just as a massive retailer but as a many-tentacled monster — seriously, the word "tentacle" is repeated often — that is slowly taking over the publishing, television, movie and food industries. According to Mitchell and LaVecchia, Amazon even has a partnership with the Central Intelligence Agency.

But the two view Amazon as more than than just an overgrown bully to local booksellers. They see the company as a fundamental threat to the fabric of society itself.

"Amazon’s increasing dominance comes with high costs," reads the report's introduction.  "It’s eroding opportunity and fueling inequality, and it’s concentrating power in ways that endanger competition, community life and democracy. And yet these consequences have gone largely unnoticed thanks to Amazon’s remarkable invisibility and the way its tentacles have quietly extended their reach."

There are those tentacles are again. Clearly, Mitchell and LaVecchia hold Amazon in less than high esteem. But they're not just coming here to complain. At the talks, the two will dive into potential policy changes that could address what they see as Amazon's virtually unchecked power. They'll also highlight ways consumers can support a more diverse and locally rooted economy. (Spoiler: Buy local.)