I just finished my holiday shopping and realized how life has changed. I purchased almost every one of my gifts on-line this year. There is something almost Machiavellian about the way Amazon has simplified shopping...if it is done through them. Being a "prime" customer affords me two-day free shipping, and next day is offered for a slight up-charge. If you need it in a few hours, heck...they even have drones for that in some parts of the country.
Let's talk about selection. I have yet to have Amazon tell me they couldn't find an item that I am seeking. If by some weird chance they don't have a product in their warehouse, they can always "hook me up" with some outside seller. I have even given up drugstore browsing. I order my shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body soap on Monday, and I am cleaning and deodorizing myself by Wednesday. They generally offer the best price on kitchen and bath goods, but even if not, isn't it worth a little more to avoid the insane crowds and the candle/bath soap odor that permeates Bed, Bath and Beyond?
People, myself included, have an almost cult like fascination with the immediate gratification that Amazon provides, but what have we lost? Those in the know say that soon malls will be a thing of the past. People might still want to browse or try on things before going home to order on Amazon, but stores can't stay in business without true buyers.
An all too sad reminder of this is the demise of the beloved bookstore. I remember loving the hours I spent getting lost in bookstores. I would read the first chapter of ten or so books, select the three that most interested me, and then I would stack them on my nightstand and know that the next few nights would be filled with literary adventure.
There was something exceedingly romantic about meeting a guy in the biography section, seeing his copy of the biography of one of my heroes, and then sharing a cookie with him in the coffee shop area. Bookstores always gave instant topics of conversation, and fellow book lovers to converse with at any given moment, so when Madeline told me, about fifteen years ago, that bookstores were on the way out, I told her she was dreaming. "People will always want to browse," I told her. "Browsers won't pay the book store's rent," she told me. In fact, she said that every time I snapped a picture of a book's cover and then purchased the E-book version on Amazon, I was putting a nail in another coffin of these stores that I professed to love.
I thought she was acting like a modern day Chicken Little, until I watched them all close down, one at a time. Malls, that always had two bookstores among their tenants, suddenly found themselves filling those spots with technology stores. Yet we keep on browsing through malls looking for the perfect thing and then going home to buy it. Life is changing, and our buying habits often precipitate these changes. When I realized that Amazon is now setting up ways to buy your food on line, I began to question the wisdom of my addiction. Maybe next holiday season I will bite the bullet and fight the crowds.
This year though, in case you need one more stocking stuffer or a gift for one of the eight nights of Chanukah, a book from Amazon is your perfect gift. To get in the mysterious holiday spirit, I read Sharpe Edge by Lisa B. Thomas. There is a Christmas party, a dead hostess, and a fun mystery to help solve. This second book in the series will give a nice break from the crazy holiday season.
Friends Like These by Hannah Ellis will also round out your holiday list for those who like to get lost in the world of light reading. While this is certainly no literary epic, it will give any reader that few minutes of escapism that we all need in our complicated world.
Wishing everyone, no matter what you celebrate this season, the happiest of holidays.
As always, complete reviews on both of this weeks books follow this blog.