Wherever, Whatever

The full-page advertisement in the glossy, nationally distributed magazine displays, almost dramatically, a photograph of the book being offered to readers.

We see its cover and the spine and above that a sales pitch detailing the book’s contents.

Below the picture of the book jacket, the ad states the book is “now available in paperback wherever books are sold.”

Yeah. And just where is that? Where is wherever?

Once upon a time, it was fashionable to bash the “big box” book retailers. You remember. B. Dalton’s. Walden. Barnes & Noble.

Clearly, conventionally wisdom asserted, this triumvirate would spell the death of the independent book shop. The stores we loved to romanticize but not patronize.

And what happened. Two of the three are dead and the last is on its way out.

Amazon, of course, is what happened.

So, today, we demonize Amazon. Though we have yet to figure out a way to get the word “Big” in front of the name. Which is required when one demonizes something. (See, e.g., “Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Pharma.”)

And so it goes. In fact, Amazon has put booksellers out of business.

Even used (or second-hand, or rare, or out-of-print) book shops have suffered as a result of Amazon’s marketplace dominance. Not that authors or publishers much care since neither one benefits from book sales on the secondary market.

So profoundly has the market for books changed that the livelihood of authors and publishers is threatened. And, more significantly, we readers are deprived as well.

Amazon uses books as its loss leader. Still not profitable, corporate Amazon deeply discounts books, leveraging them as their gateway drug to induce customers to become Amazon buyers for all the other stuff they’re selling. Profitably.

“Wherever books are sold.”

When will that expression become quaint?