Harry Potter and the Plight of the Independents

Last week, I preordered my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Cody’s, so that I knew it would be there when I attended the anticipated midnight release party. Cody’s is offering a 30% discount on the book to individuals who preorder, which is a substantial difference from the 46% that Amazon is currently offering, or even the 40% that Barnes and Noble is offering to their customers.

So why buy from Cody’s?

Because supporting independent bookstores is important to me.

Were I to order from Amazon or B&N, I would be supporting big box bookstores, a sector of the economy that I am not a big fan of. Independents sell more interesting books, have more dedicated staff, and contribute to their communities. Big box bookstores are happy to take your money, but they will not route it back into your community, and their staff tend to be underpaid as well.

The book costs more at Cody’s because they cannot afford to discount the book much more. The big box stores are counting on the sales of other books in tandem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to make a profit, while Cody’s and other independents cannot afford to take that risk. Unlike Amazon, they have to pay for actual store space and skilled personnel to staff it.

At Cody’s, I can wander in and say “hey, there was this book in the Chronicle book review with a, uh, red cover…”

And someone on the staff will go:

“Oh, yes, was it this book?”

Amazon cannot do that.

At Cody’s, I can get a recommendation based on an actual person’s opinion, and that actual person will take me to the spot on the shelf where the book is, tell me about similar books, and often provide a brief and interesting note of history, as well.

Barnes and Noble does not offer that—the last time I was in a B&N, the staff was unfailingly rude.

At Cody’s, I know that the money I spend stays here in the Bay Area, because the store is locally run and operated, and that means that I am supporting my own economy, rather than a distant one. Cody’s also has book events and donates to their community, and come midnight on 21 July, I’ll be paying a little more for an eagerly anticipated book because…well, because it’s worth it to me, that’s why.

Is it worth it to you?