The Ethics of Book Buying


I must confess: Ken Kalfus’ New Yorker article, “A Book Buyer’s Lament,” recently reminded me that when it comes to buying books, my immortal soul may be in peril.  You see, I want as many books as I can get, as fast as I can get them.  These desires aren’t sinful in themselves.  The sin occurs when I act on them.  I am an Amazon shopper.

I love Amazon.  When I lived in rural Washington, I had access to none of the bookish things which I had previously enjoyed.  I had no awesome independent bookstores.  I didn’t even have a fully-stocked chain bookstore.  The local college Barnes and Noble couldn’t even manage to get all the new releases out on Tuesdays.  For my books, and for many other things, I turned to Amazon.  Let me tell you, dear readers, the road to hell is made all the more slippery by the ease of 1-click ordering and the delight of free two-day shipping.

It never felt right.  I believe in, and, more than that, I love independent bookstores.  I crave the browse and the bag that breaks with too many books.

But: books!  Fast!  Cheap!

Amazon is not my only sin.  I own an e-reader that made five-and-a-half years of criss-crossing the country to visit my family so much easier.  (Books are heavy, y’all!).  I buy used books, too, depriving authors of the royalties they might have made had I purchased the book new.

I believe in paper.  I believe in authors.


How about this: as penance I’ll make a real effort to read one of the unread books on my shelves and I’ll read a month’s worth of bedtime stories to my cats.

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