So-called “independent” bookstore owners have far more in common with the large chain stores and online booksellers they denigrate than they have differences. Small bookstore owners have as little respect for both writers and readers as do the chains, they exploit both the writers’ work and the readers’ money with as much avarice and single-mindedness as the chains.
What they do differently is a matter of marketing. They use language that glorifies their own situation and belittles the chains, pseudo-political language which attempts to rhetorically frame the issue of competition in terms of morality. Patronize the chains, they say, and you support exploitation, you support global cultural homogenization, you support limitation of free speech. These are the same people who treat their customers like cattle, who staff their businesses with glib, half-educated, self-satisfied bureaucrats who have as much in common with the writers whose books they sell as do the CFOs of the book chains, and who candy-coat the gouging they inflict on their customers.
So instead of the spreadsheet-driven homogeneity of the chains, we get the petty tyrannies and nepotistic clubhouses of the book peddlers. Because the “independent bookseller” and the corporate chain are different only in size, I go to whichever source – book peddler, corporate chain, corporate website, “independent” website – offering the book I want at the lowest price.