Yesterday we got the terrible news that our local book wholesaler, Partners/West, was closing as of tomorrow. In fact, it and the original location, Partners Book Distributing in Michigan, are both shutting down. This is very bad news on many fronts. Why should you care? Here's why:
First of all, there are going to be a large number of unemployed people in the Puget Sound area very soon. Many of them have become friends through the years and what hurts our friends hurts us.
Second, the money that went to this local company through our orders and the payroll of the staff that went into local businesses will now be going out of state. [apply First and Second to Michigan, too]
Third, this will deprive independent booksellers across the western US of an alternative to the two national wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Less competition, fewer choices and alternatives.
Fourth, local and regional publishers may find it harder to find an outlet for their books. The two big national wholesalers may pick them up but they're under pressures, too, and may not. If the publishers do, so will their authors.
Fifth, as when Borders closed, publishers suddenly had a huge flood of returns of unsold books and merchandise. On a smaller scale, this will happen again, potentially damaging publishers of all sizes. At a time when all of publishing is fragile, this will ripple out in numerous and insidious ways. It also means one less company making their books available - one less outlet for publishers and authors.
Sixth, for those of us here in the Seattle area, it means that we will no longer be able to get our shipments the same day we place our orders. That translates into you, our customers, having to wait longer to get what you want and Americans are an impatient lot.
Lastly, for us as a specialty shop that does a great deal of business with collectors and in signed books, we always knew that the condition of the books we'd receive from Partners would be exceptionally good. Less travel, less handling, better packing. That's a great loss for us and for you collectors.
I opened my Seattle Times this morning looking to see how you would cover this important story and there's nothing about it. Once again, they prominently give coverage to SPECTRE when they do not need the coverage. In fact, I'd argue that it is coverage like this - "Amazon Piles on New Dash Buttons" - is nothing more than free advertising for the behemoth. Certainly it isn't hard news.
I'd also argue that this kind of free publicity for SPECTRE contributes to the decline in sales in independent booksellers and cascades into lower orders to the wholesalers and end result is a valuable book distribution system withers and dies. Over the last decade, as people have moved their purchasing to the ease of the on-line world, independent bookstores have closed. As the bookstores close there are lower orders at places like Partners. And the system crumbles a bit more.
I really don't expect The Seattle Times to cover this story with the seriousness it deserves.
But I would like to ask a serious question: in light of this being a city and region that survived the Boeing Bust, that this is a progressive/leftist culture that talks about supporting small businesses and decries Huge Corporations for their sway and heavy hand, and one that is still stung and is still recovering from the collapse of Washington Mutual --- when will anyone begin to apply the issue of "Too Big to Fail" to Amazon?