I got quiet and Joanna glanced at me, knowing the secret hatred I hold for the Kindle. Even her customer got quiet. Mine, however, continued to chat about her Kindle. "It's a wonderful book. I really enjoyed reading it on my Kindle. Is that what I put here in the 'reason for return' box -- 'read it on my Kindle'? I think I'll put that" (she begins to write) "read...it...on...my...Kindle." I was silent through the entire rest of the transaction. As I pushed her return receipt back across the counter, she tapped her original receipt and said, "I actually have two copies of this book." "You only returned one," I replied. "Yeah, I have the other on my Kindle. Thanks for your help!" And she walked away.
I slowly turned to Joanna who looked at me with pure sympathy. She said, "So, was that supposed to make you feel better?" Her customer and the two of us laughed but the burn of losing a $15 sale to a Kindle stayed with me the rest of the night.
I understand independent bookstores need to get on the ebook train sooner rather than later. I welcome the challenge and opportunity with open arms. But I hate losing a sale to a Kindle. I hate seeing customers browse my tables, punching the Kindle screen. I hate even more when I spend ten minutes handselling titles to someone who's an obvious bibliophile & then see them sitting in a corner, sipping a coffee, downloading that stack onto their device. But the knife in the heart and the back and the soul was that return. Knowing I was eating a fifteen dollar return and had lost a physical book buying customer to the Kindle hurt.
I know now we need to get moving into ebook culture fast. If our readers are going elsewhere to get their books, we need to go with them. There are no excuses anymore...