The other day we got a note from a customer informing us that they would be buying one of our books on Amazon rather than through our online store, because Amazon gave them free shipping.
On the one hand, I found myself saying, "Great, every book sold is a good thing."
But, on the other hand, I thought, "This is how small businesses get stomped by 600-pound elephants."
It's not easy running a small business, juggling everything from accounting to marketing, from production to customer service. Add to that the precarious state of modern publishing (which, outside the lushly appointed halls of midtown NY has never been a highly lucrative enterprise in any case), and the challenge can be daunting.
But we love what we do, and that balances off against quite a few Walmart or Amazon nuisances.
Actually, on the whole, Amazon has been very good for our business, especially in helping people who otherwise might not discover us to find out that there is this small publishing company in Vermont that puts out quality books and periodicals on Russia. And we like that loads of people are reading our stuff on their Kindles.
Yet I would still like customers to consider, from time to time, the value of small businesses and what it takes to help them thrive. It is a bit like the importance of shopping with local companies: if you don't shop locally, if you don't pay a bit more for the pleasure of a coffee on Main Street (versus the java offered over on Strip Mall Lane by Dunkin or Starbucks), then you won't have the right, a few years down the road, to complain about downtown blight, empty storefronts, and the long lines at the Walmart checkout.
If you want small businesses to survive, you have to be willing to pay a few dollars more here and there, because they just don't have the economies of scale of the huge behemoths. What is more, unlike Amazon, companies like ours have to turn a profit to survive.
We run a craft publishing business targetted at a rather specific niche. We do our best to use technology and knowledge and agility to create quality publications and deliver a superior shopping experience. We take great pride in every book or periodical we edit, in every product we print, in every package we ship out the door. We are constantly working to make our online shopping experience faster and more fully featured, with things like express checkout, package tracking and online reviews.
No, we cannot compete with Amazon. But then Amazon can't compete with us for quality of service.
Keep telling us how we can do better. We create these books for you, after all.