Monday, October 31, 2016

Amazon Brick & Mortar—No Fooling!

Ever browse in a bookstore, then look online at on your personal device to see if you can get the books for a cheaper price? You really shouldn’t do that, since it could drive your local bookstore out of business.

But now you can have the same experience guilt-free at an bookstore I visited on foot. No, this was not some virtual experience. This physical store in Seattle’s University Village Shopping Center is one of only three they’ve built.

Inside, they have typical bookshelves. I looked over the science fiction and fantasy selections and saw they were noticeably different from what I see in the three Barnes & Noble bookstores I frequent. That’s because they base their selections on rankings on the website—obviously.

Each book has two prices: For instance, the list price for this paperback Alexander Hamilton bio was $20.00. But if you were an Amazon Prime member, you would pay the online price. Currently, that is $13.27.

I don’t think this is simply a way of driving people to become Prime members—it would be a hideously expensive way to do so. No, many people want to feel a book, weigh it in their hands, and leaf through it before buying.

But at some point in the sick, twisted mind of Jeff Bezos, did he plot on driving other brick and mortar stores out of business, to be replaced by his own? When he saw Borders go through its death spiral, did he know his secret plan was working? 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

No Helicoptering of Children

Not long ago, I saw parents escorting and staying with their elementary school children at bus stops. This is called helicopter parenting, a riff on how they’re said to hover over them.

This is not good for children. In ninth grade, I had to walk two miles to school. Part of it was up a steep hill. Here it is nowadays, with improvements.

It sure didn’t look this way back then. The steps were dirt, which turned to mud the first day I had to hike up it. Many of the girls were quite in distress over it. Later, they added crude steps in the form of railroad ties held in place by pipes that were hammered down. The pipes had no safety caps; just ends of pipes sticking up from the dirt or mud. We had to be careful not to jam our legs on them as we climbed.

Often I had to carry my alto saxophone case, which weighed thirteen pounds, in addition to my books.

Did I appreciate this at the time? No. Was it good for me? Looking back on it, yes. Not just in the sense of physical fitness, but in the sense of building character, which I now believe has to include physical challenges at a young age with no safety net. I never saw any parents escort their children up those steps. Now, parents drive their children to school when they could take the bus. I was shocked to find out some years ago that there were traffic jams around some schools because of how many parents dropped off or picked up their children from school.

But now look at that path. They have installed nice steps, instead of dirt. And there’s a railing. We didn’t need a railing as we toiled up and down with our books and musical instruments. 


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