Sunday, March 22, 2009

Moral Dilemma

As a small town hermit, my personal world is pretty small -- by choice, by nature and by circumstance.

I tend to not read magazines since I let my New Yorker subscription expire.  (Too many of them were piling up unread.)  I rarely watch television and refuse to pay for cable.  Despite spending quite a bit of time online, I don't wander around on the web much.  Social networking sites are pretty much lost on me.  Never having been one of the popular kids, I am much more of an observer than a joiner.

While I see signs of a struggling economy all around me, I have thus far been fortunate enough to not have it hit too close to home.

The other day, however, I found a reason to be genuinely (albeit somewhat selfishly) concerned.

As a self-described book junkie, a significant amount of my disposable (and sometimes some of my not so disposable) income is handed over to bookstores of one sort or another -- some new, some used, some online, some brick and mortar.  Sometimes I give in to the need to have something as soon as it is published and rush right out to a store to pay full retail (although usually minus a membership discount).  Occasionally, I have the patience to wait a few days for a shipment to arrive from an online retailer.  More often, I try to acquire titles, especially if they have been available at least long enough for the hardcover to be issued in paperback, used, either in a shop, online, or at a library sale.  I get more for my money that way, books get a new home, and I feel a little bit better about the piles of paper surrounding me.

In short, I don't have a lot of loyalty to any particular literary resource.  Usually, I land somewhere between efficient use of money and going where I can find the titles I want.

On Friday, seeing the noticeably depleted (perhaps reduced or streamlined would be a better word choice since I don't believe that brisk sales are the culprit) shelves of a fabulous local independent bookseller ( was a sobering and somewhat depressing experience.  As usual, the Toadstool Bookshop had the title I wanted, and I found a few others I decided I couldn't live without.  All three books came off the used shelves in the back.  Also in stock were two newly released hardcovers which have piqued my interest.

Herein lies my dilemma: Do I purchase the two hardcovers at full price (for a total of about fifty dollars) and support a wonderful local business, or do I purchase them online at a discount (for a total of about thirty-three dollars) and save myself the equivalent of a tank of gas?

Of course, the wiser choice would be to wait for the books to be released in paperback (because it is not as if I don't have at least a year's worth of reading in the house already) or become available used.

Nevertheless, the experience made me think a little bit about buying more than just food locally.

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