Recently, a few people asked me where I find the books I read. The honest answer is that I find most of them through Amazon, either directly or indirectly, but I found that I hesitated to give that answer. There is a great deal of noise about how we should be supporting independent booksellers and other platforms and so on and so forth, which is all well and good, but upon reflection, I was angry at myself for being uncomfortable with the truthful response. Quite frankly, there is nowhere else that I can go to consistently, easily, and accessibly find quality copies of the often esoteric texts I want to read.
Amazon started as a bookseller. My mother made an Amazon account back in the nineties for the express reason that they made it easy and convenient to find the books my father would request for gifts for holidays, instead of being obliged to scour, often unsuccessfully, multiple bookstores in such a search. Whatever else they have become, they remain unrivaled when it comes to finding and distributing books. I can pick a book off my reading list, and find even the most esoteric of them within a few minutes, often as a close-to-free Kindle edition, a Kindle lending library version, or a quality used version, including books that are now out of print.
Yes, I like my Kindle. I don’t like to read on a backlit screen, like my phone or a computer, but the Kindle, with its e-ink and month-long battery life, offers a reading experience much like a real book, without having to cart around a variety of massive tomes. I can obtain new books whenever I want, either purchased or rented through a library setup, and I can have, for instance, a whole series loaded at once, available whenever I need reading material. It’s remarkable that I can carry around the entire collected works of John Locke, HG Wells, and Aristotle in my pocket. Physical books have their place, and I don’t want them to disappear, but the Kindle offers a convenience against which, for many circumstances, it is very difficult to argue.
There are concerns, of course. I don’t like the idea that Amazon could arbitrarily remove files from my Kindle Library, which is a big reason I’ve been moving more towards print books now that my lifestyle is a little less mobile and necessarily Spartan. While I don’t use audiobooks, I’ve heard that they’re throwing their weight around, perhaps inappropriately, with Audible, and the sponsored book suggestions system (which I also don’t really use) is probably a bit more market driven now than it once was (as opposed to algorithmically driven based on reviews and book descriptions and so forth). I’m not here to comment on those matters – I haven’t done nearly enough research – nor am I here to give them my stamp of approval or disapproval. For how and what I read, it’s hard to beat a free, lightweight, pocket-sized download of everything Plato ever wrote.
If there is another organization out there that can offer me what Amazon can in terms of variety, access, simplicity, convenience, and options, I will happily support them, as well, but I haven’t found it yet. I do browse local bookstores, and sometimes I’ll see something that sparks my interest, but I usually have something specific in mind to read, and most of those books aren’t carried at ‘real’ bookstores. So yes, I get most of my books, one way or another, through Amazon. And I’m not the least bit sorry for that.
Note: this post was not sponsored by Amazon, I am not compensated by Amazon in any way, and I don’t even have any stories available for sale through Amazon. These are my own views, and I stand by them until someone can convince me otherwise.