The Pope Hates Black Friday, Too! (I Assume.)

Pope Francis and Carrie … the next buddy comedy?

I didn’t want to write about Black Friday this year … but the pope made me do it. Every year, I talk about how hurtful Black Friday specifically, and our big box corporate retail culture in general, is for our families and our economy. This year, with most big stores opening Thanksgiving Day instead of at midnight on Black Friday, the problem is even worse. These stores are asking us to give up time with our families — some of the only time we have all year to just be together and reflect — in order to race around to retail stores in a quest to buy as many Christmas gifts as possible for the least amount of money. Basically, they’re telling us to leave our families in order to buy a lot of stuff that we will turn around and gift to our families in an attempt to prove how much we love them. The irony is profound and absurd.

I didn’t want to write about that this year, because I’m tired of being the bearer of bad news. I’m tired of seeing the commercials about power gifters and Christmas tree farms full of Lexuses and all the fake merriment that successfully convinces us that we don’t really love our families unless we buy them Microsoft Surfaces and Target sweaters and diamond jewelry.

But then I saw the pope’s apostolic exhortation, released yesterday. I’m not Catholic and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but his words about materialism and greed were powerful. “The culture of prosperity deadens us,” he says. “We are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

His words are so accurate and on-point. What is Black Friday but one big market thrill that deadens us to the real fact that many people suffer because of this shopping holiday? Black Friday is bad not only because thousands of American retail workers are forced to spend their holidays away from family in exchange for being exposed to mean, demanding, greedy shoppers who don’t understand that the people they yell at from behind the cash wrap are almost never the people who are actually responsible for the problems they’re encountering. But Black Friday deals often center on electronics and toys, two of the markets that are are most dependent on slave labor and other abusive labor practices. You may think you’re suffering by getting out in the cold to chase down discounts, but those discounts exist because people have to suffer in ways that are incredibly severe. Real people are forced to work without breaks, without proper pay, without being able to go home at all because they live in factory dorms, and without even a sliver of humanity, all so we can get discounts on more stuff.

As the pope says, “To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

I understand that some businesses need to be open on holidays. My own business is open until 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving, but we are only staffed with owners (Cal and I will be working) and another barista who volunteered (thanks, Sri!). I’m not saying we can’t ever shop on holidays. I am saying that we shouldn’t make it so central to our holiday experience that we depend on it and create an ever-growing market for it.

When it comes to talking about the benefits of shopping locally, I tend to want to give up. But the pope has a few words of hope for me on that front as well: “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses.” Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9).”

I will try not to be a sourpuss (how awesome is it that the pope said “sourpusses”!). I will try to be hopeful that more of us will prioritize giving time and attention to our families instead of showering them with gifts. I will try to believe that this fight matters, and to be less aware of my frailties. And, this Thanksgiving, I will try to enjoy the time I have with my own family.

Pop-up Fever: Pop-up Shops Get a Hand from Mom-and-Pops

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Books from my non-pop-up-shop Church Street Coffee & Books make friends with beautiful pieces from local artists at the Design Week Birmingham pop-up shop.

If you live in Birmingham, you can’t escape having heard about pop-up shops or REV Birmingham lately. But just what is a pop-up shop? Generally, it’s a temporary store that provides a chance for artists and potential entrepreneurs to get exposure to new customers and to test whether or not their products would benefit from permanent storefronts. Or, as one of my friends had to explain to her twin sons when they asked why their new favorite donut shop, Doughboys, had disappeared: A pop-up shop is a store that won’t be here next week.

I’m excited about the pop-up shop movement, and it seems like the stores are doing some pretty amazing things in our city. I’ve been introduced to some fantastic new products and brands — I’m in love with the chapstick and body oil from Freedom Soap Company, my leather keychain from Hide + True, and my tiny owl earrings from Little Forest — and I’ve enjoyed the convenience of visiting Freshfully each week in a different location. My favorite shops have been the ones who turn their temporary space into an almost magical oasis, like Rugged and Fancy and Little Forest. But what really excites me is when pop-up shops collaborate with existing stores, strengthening the small businesses that struggle through the lean times as well as the exciting ones.

Through my shop, Church Street Coffee & Books, I was lucky to get to curate a book selection for Rugged and Fancy in their downtown Birmingham shop, and again for Design Week Birmingham (in the former Bare Hands Gallery space) that opened last week and runs through the end of this week. I love selecting books that speak to a specific (and new) audience, and I love that these pop-ups were generous enough to open their spaces to existing vendors. It helped Church Street find new customers, it helped the shops extend their product lines, and it helped pop-up shoppers discover even more to love about their city when they visited the stores. Using the fresh excitement of pop-ups to highlight not only new businesses, but also existing mom-and-pops, seems like a win for everybody involved.

It’s also exciting to see that local pop-ups might not be limited to local shops. Today at West Elm, a couple of my good friends and fantastic Southern artists, Alison and Robert Belcher, will be showing their art at West Elm from 11 am to 3 pm. You can go check out their stuff, and you can also make a purchase from the artists while you’re there — I think reaching out to local artists and craftspeople like this is a pretty positive step for a corporation to make, and I hope we see more ideas like it from established businesses.

This week, you can visit the REV pop-ups in Woodlawn, check out the beautiful Design Week Birmingham pop-up (with my books!) on Richard Arrington Blvd. and 1st Ave. South, or go see Alison and Robert’s work at West Elm at the Summit. That’s a pretty great line-up of pop-ups, and an opportunity to benefit some stores that have chosen to put down roots as well.

This Introvert Gets Social

I look calm, right? It’s an illusion.

I’m throwing a party tomorrow night, and it’s making me crazy. There’s no drama, no venue problems, nobody backing out at the last minute — none of the usual party problems. No, the only issue with this party is that I’m an introvert, and I’d honestly rather be hiding in my apartment with a book than doing … well, pretty much anything else.

So why am I hosting a party? Because I want to do more than just shop small. I want to enjoy shopping small. When we think about shopping independently, I think we feel like it’s a responsibility and a burden — we feel guilty about it. But guilt doesn’t feel very good, and I don’t think it’s very motivating, either.

The truth is, shopping small can be really rewarding and fun. In my year of small shopping, I met wonderful people, enjoyed my shopping, and found lots of fantastic new products and gifts. I want to share that experience. I want to share the fun part.

My friend (and social media professional) Kathleen and I were talking about this over coffee one afternoon and came up with an idea to try to spread the love of small shopping. Our plan? Each month, we’ll invite people to a free party with free food. We’ll choose five new businesses to spotlight each month, and guests who follow those businesses on social media will be treated to free cocktails, plus a coupon for 20% off to use at one of the shops we’re highlighting.

We’re calling our party Shop Small Social (it’s like an old-fashioned ice cream social … but with cocktails instead of ice cream), and our first party is tomorrow night (Thursday, September 26) at Church Street Coffee & Books at 7 p.m. We’ve been so excited about the reception we’ve had so far from the businesses who are sponsoring us and by people who plan to come tomorrow. I’m incredibly nervous about hosting (like I said, I always get nervous about parties), but I’m also excited to celebrate local business in a way that I hope is fun, welcoming, and totally guilt-free.

I’d love to see Shop Small readers tomorrow night, and please share the event with your friends — we’re just starting out, so we can use all the help we can get spreading the word. Find out more about Shop Small Social by following our blog, or finding us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @shopsmallsocial.

For this first month, we’re offering discounts and door prizes from Church Street, Ivory and White, Laura Kathryn, A’Mano and The Pantry. See you tomorrow!

New Bike, Old Grudges

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Cyclist Lesson One: It’s hard to take a selfie with a bicycle.

Cyclists are cooler than me. I see them riding up to bars and shows while the rest of us drive, and they look so happy. I don’t ride my bike much — I’m pretty sure I look stupid, and I’m not very fast. And my old bike looked kind of dumb. But cyclists don’t look dumb. They look like they’re having fun together, and I don’t like it. It’s hard to like people who are cooler than you.

The problem is, the cyclists at the Bici Coop are kind of impossible not to like. They’re actually nice (even to people like me who write blogs about hating them), and they’ve been working for over four years to run a non-profit bike shop in Birmingham, a little beacon of awesomeness in Highland Park that runs totally on volunteer labor and exists just to get people like me, who are intimidated by cycling and can’t afford to invest money into it, on bikes. Bici’s like that popular cheerleader who inexplicably takes the nerdy girl under her wing and introduces her to the cool kids. Why do they do it? I don’t know. It’s just really nice.

You can find out how nice this weekend at Caldwell Park, because Bici’s holding their Kitty Cat Alleycat race. It’s a perfect event for beginners and wannabes (like me), because it’s fun and low-pressure. You can find out more about the alleycat here, but I’ll tell you right now that it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt on bikes. This race is “girls” only, so men can race, too — but they have to wear skirts. See what I mean by awesome? It’s worth coming just to see a bunch of cyclist dudes prancing around in their girly finery. Plus, I’ll be there judging everyone (no, really — I’m a volunteer and I’m judging the fashion show). If you’re not up to racing, come hang out anyway. It’s a $10 donation, or $5 if you bring a potluck item to share (my potluck item is Breakup Cookies from Church Street, so that’s another reason to show up).

And if you can’t come to the Kitty Cat, pop in on a Monday or Thursday night at the Bici Coop (pronounced “beachy co-op,” btw) to get your bike fixed, see about getting a bike of your own, or just to hang out and learn a few cycle-y things (or follow them on Facebook here). I got a new (new-to-me) bike from Bici just a couple of weeks ago. The bike was $75, but I had a trade in bike (the ugly one I mentioned in the first paragraph), so I only paid $15.

I still don’t exactly feel like a cyclist, but I do love my new bike, and I’m actually riding it (the old one just sat by my door). Anna (one of Bici’s founders) helped me pick it out (it was so dirty that I swear I thought it was gray until I cleaned it up), and Ross, another volunteer, non-judgmentally helped me fix a screw that I’d stripped because I can’t even screw things in correctly (seriously, if you’re worried about looking stupid, don’t be — I promise, you won’t look stupider than me). Then volunteer mechanic Cameron got me new tires, new brake lines, and new other-things-I-don’t-remember-the-names-of. Cameron worked on my bike for two hours before I found out he wasn’t even supposed to be volunteering that night — he just stayed and helped me to be kind.

Well, thanks for restoring my faith in humanity, super awesome cyclists of Bici. Sorry I said I hated you.

The Kitty Cat Ladies Alleycat is at Caldwell Park on Sunday, September 1. Any men who participate are required to dress in drag, i.e., wear a skirt or something. Registration is at 3:00 and the race starts at 3:30. Food and party afterward at the park. $10 requested donation, $5 if you bring food to share.

Is the Crestline Piggly Wiggly Disappearing?

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As I write this blog, I’m sitting in the window seat of my bookshop, looking out the window at a beautiful blue sky (the rain’s finally stopped, at least for now) and a classic brick clock tower. Moms are pushing strollers, families are out for midday walks, and I still see a runner or two getting a bit of exercise, even in the middle of the day. And peeking out from behind the clock is the smiling logo of the Piggly Wiggly, a happy piglet wearing a jaunty little hat.

But that smile, a fixture in Crestline for 30 years, might be gone soon. I don’t know all the facts, but the pretty-solid rumor is this: The family who owns the building that houses the Pig has been offered more rent money by a drugstore chain. The Pig can’t afford the raised rate, so it looks like this little piggy is about to be given the axe.

I’d personally be sad to lose The Pig. I do most of my shopping at Alabama-owned Western, but it’s convenient for us at Church Street to be able to quickly pick up something we’ve run out of, like flour for the Breakup Cookies, or bananas for our morning muffins. (And it’s been an unexpected draw for out-of-town authors — two of our last three authors have asked for a tour of the Piggly Wiggly after their author talks.)

But the real reason I want the Pig to stay is not so I’ll have a convenient place to pick up milk. It’s because their space, at the heart of our village, is a destination point for lots of families who are picking up dinner, or grabbing a quick lunch, or shopping for the week — and those families come to my store to buy coffee and books while they’re in the neighborhood.

Mountain Brook is designed to be a very walkable community, so people can head to one shop or restaurant and visit several others while they’re here. I’d say that half the people who stop by the Pig visit at least one other local business while they’re in the village, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. If that kind of community center is replaced with something as ubiquitous as a drugstore, it will hurt the whole neighborhood, not just the Pig.

Of course, the family who owns the Pig’s building has a right to accept whatever business they choose, and to raise the rents as they see fit (full disclosure, the Pig’s landlord is Church Street’s landlord, too). But it is also important to consider how changing a business can change the character of the neighborhood. As a Mountain Brook business owner, I pay very high rent in order to be located in a community that’s carefully planned, almost curated, to have character and be attractive to shoppers. Replacing a long-term business that brings a lot of customers to our neighborhood with yet another unnecessary drugstore just doesn’t do that.

To be fair, the Piggly Wiggly is not a fully locally owned business — as far as I know, it’s a franchise. But that’s still more local than a drugstore chain like CVS or Walgreens (I’ve heard different reports as to which chain wants the space). The Pig pays a lot more in taxes than a drugstore does, and it hires a lot more people. And it’s worth noting that there are two other locally owned drugstores, and an existing CVS, within a quarter-mile of the planned location, which not only means that a new drugstore is unnecessary, but also that it would hurt shops that are locally owned.

If you live or shop in Mountain Brook and you don’t want the Pig to close, it’s not enough to share news of the closing on Facebook, although that’s an important first step. For one thing, show up tonight at the community meeting organized to talk about this subject — and encourage your friends and neighbors to come, too (it’s tonight at Emmet O’Neal Library at 5 p.m.). You can also sign this petition, and contact city officials.

But the most important step in saving local stores? Shop with us. I can’t count how many people tell me they love books and local bookstores who’ve never bought a book from me. I’m sure that many people who want to save the Pig do a lot of their grocery shopping at Walmart or Publix.

The fact is, no matter where you shop, you’re creating something with your purchases. If you really want to save local shops, certainly you should get involved when they’re being attacked this directly. But you have a chance to save local stores every day, just by shopping with us.

Boycott Black Friday

Yes, this is really how I sleep, with my hand raised (Am I dreaming about answering a question in school? Probably.) and my hair around my head like a mountain lion. Now you know.

Congratulations, everyone — this weekend, you can take a stand for social justice, just by sleeping in. Oh, and you’ll also be helping your local economy. And the national economy. And you’ll probably take a lot less stress off your family, and be taking a stand against materialism. All by skipping Black Friday.

I know, Black Friday offers good deals or whatever. But think about where those deals come from. Here’s the thing: If you’re offered huge savings, it’s your responsibility to ask yourself why, and to decide if that’s really worth it. If the price is so low it seems like a steal, it probably is — but just who are you stealing from?

You’re not stealing from the corporate retailer. They’ll make up their loss with all the other crap you’re going to impulse buy when you’re in line at the register. You’re stealing from Americans who lost their jobs to outsourced labor. You’re stealing dignity from the people in China and other countries who actually do make your products, because in most cases the labor costs are kept low because the companies are mistreating employees. Your TV is cheap because the people who made it aren’t allowed to watch television, because they’re not allowed to go home at the end of the day. That’s not melodrama. That’s a fact.

But let’s go closer to home. In many cases, the employees at the stores where you’re shopping don’t get health care or a living wage. Employees at Walmart are striking on Black Friday because they’re so mistreated. There’s a lot of debate over this strike, which is at least partially instigated by unions, and whether or not that’s right — I’m not sure if unions are the answer, but I do know there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed somehow, and Walmart isn’t going to address it until they’re forced to. In my opinion, not even the walk-out will make them to deal with their problems. What will? When we start refusing to buy from retailers who prioritize low prices over human decency or over our own economic growth.

And even when the issues aren’t that serious, Black Friday is pretty terrible for anyone who works at a retail store. Skipping out on Black Friday when you work at a mall or a big chain store usually means losing your job, so employees who have family out of town can’t spend Thanksgiving at home, since they have to report back to work at midnight in most cases. If you’ve ever worked retail on Black Friday, you know that it generally epitomizes the worst of the human condition — there’s a lot of desperation, a lot of inconsideration, and a lot of greed. Basically the opposite of everything the holidays are supposed to stand for.

Several of my friends say they need to shop Black Friday because they can’t afford Christmas otherwise. Oh please. These aren’t basic necessities we’re talking about. Nobody’s offering doorbuster savings on beans or canned soup. You’re standing in line so your kid can have not only a princess doll, but also all her accessories. So your son can get a game system and six games instead of two. I’m not saying that’s all that terrible, but it is terrible to pretend you’re doing it for the economy, or for your budget, or for any other reason than you want to own more stuff.

Do I think you’re a horrible person if you shop Black Friday? No. Some of my best friends are Black Friday shoppers, and I love them and think they’re wonderful. But I do think they may not be totally aware of what their choices mean for other people.

So I’m proposing you boycott Black Friday. Stay in your pajamas, sleep in, and spend the last few hours of all-too-rare family time with your family, instead of with a bunch of discount-hungry zombies (The Shopping Dead?). It’ll probably be the easiest, most relaxed boycott you’ll ever be a part of. And if you really miss all that shopping excitement, save it up for the next day and celebrate Shop Small Saturday, when you can buy local, buy American, and know that the extra money you’re spending is actually doing good in your community.

Shop Small. Tweet Local.

Don’t get excited; it’s only a 4S.

Want small shops to succeed? Make sure you’re talking about them on social media.

Even people who understand that shopping small has a positive impact on the community (supporting building roads and schools as well as providing more authentic, community-focused options) often have trouble actually buying locally, partly because it seems expensive. Well, you know what’s not expensive? Twitter. Facebook. Instagram.

Saying positive things about small shops on the Internet — even just mentioning that you’re visiting a small shop, or tagging us in a Facebook or Instagram post — has a huge impact on our business.

Partly, this is because most people don’t have enough time to take a chance on a small shop they know nothing about. When we go to Target, Best Buy, or Barnes and Noble, we know exactly what to expect. When we head to an independent, there’s a lot of mystery. And we don’t always like to make room in our lives for mystery. When you take time to tell your followers and friends that you visited and loved a small shop, it makes them feel more comfortable trying it for themselves. After all, they like you, and you liked the shop. Chances are, they’ll like it, too.

Basically, tweeting (or Facebooking or Instagramming) about an independent is free advertising for that store. In an economy where budgets are being slashed, and where independents are struggling to keep prices as low as possible in the face of cutthroat national competition, this is really helpful. We just don’t have money for commercials, print ads, or those super-annoying Facebook coupons. (Seriously, how obnoxious are those? I really don’t care if you saved a buck at Academy Sports, and it just makes me wonder why you didn’t go to locally owned Trak Shak.)

For some reason, Birminghamians are pretty great about spreading the word about local restaurants — not so much about other stores. I have lots of friends who come visit me at Church Street, but you wouldn’t know it from their Twitter feeds. It’s so frustrating to see Instagrammed pictures that are taken at the shop that don’t tag us. Those are opportunities to help my store that are routinely missed. (And it seriously breaks my heart when they Facebook about books bought on Amazon.)

I understand that social media isn’t for everyone, and I certainly don’t want anyone to promote a shop that they don’t like. I also get that location tagging takes away some privacy, and I respect the desire to not constantly tell the whole world exactly where you are and what you’re doing. But if you’re active on social media, you are sending a message to everyone who follows you — are you telling them about your favorite local shops, and promoting more community involvement? Or are you parroting offers from Starbucks and Target that actually drive business away from your community?

A tweet is only 140 characters, but it can still be really helpful (or harmful) for local business.

Fading Out: Goodbye, Shop Small

I’ve been sitting at my computer for two hours, trying to figure out how to say goodbye to Shop Small. Today will be my last post here, since I’m concentrating more on my new blog, PostScript, which launched today.

Lots of you have encouraged me to keep writing Shop Small, and I’ll admit that it’s tempting. There are so many things I wanted to write about that I never got around to: I wanted to switch to a local bank or credit union, but I never had time to research the options thoroughly enough to write about them. I was dying to do a post on cash mobs. I haven’t written about (or even been to) Avondale Brewery, and I’d hoped to use the blog as a chance to finally splurge on a dinner at Bottega or Hot and Hot.

So, yes, it’s tempting to keep writing Shop Small. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on PostScript, a blog that will (hopefully) build my business, Church Street Coffee & Books. And building my business matters, because it helps the local community, both economically and socially — that’s something Shop Small taught me.

So now, Shop Small is up to you. My life has settled into new buying patterns that take me to local shops instead of big box stores, and I never want to go back — the rewards are huge, in everything from my bank account to peace of mind to quality of life. I hope you’ll think about making changes in your life, whether they’re huge resolutions like mine to totally fast from corporate shopping, or just a few small shifts in where you shop.

If reading Shop Small has reminded you to buy locally, please remember that you can do exactly what I’ve done — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs are extremely powerful tools that you can use to build up small businesses. When you shop locally, brag about it. Post a picture, change your status update, check in on Facebook. Build your community with your purchases, then exponentially increase that impact by telling other people about it. As a local business owner, I can tell you that your involvement in social media means the world to us.

Goodbye, and thank you for reading.

Good People Make Good Neighbors

I just got a text telling me that Good People is donating a few cases of beer to Sunday’s PostScript launch party, and I immediately reflected on the beauty of community.

Okay, that’s a total lie. The first thing I did was get excited that I’ll be able to drink Good People for free. The second thing I did was text Zack (my co-worker in the barista trenches), who’d heard a rumor they might donate some beer and asked me to text him the second we knew for sure (beer and free things are pretty much Zack’s favorite things in life). The third thing I did … well, you don’t need to know the details. But, eventually, I did reflect on all that beauty of community stuff.

When I decided to throw this party, I thought it would be a small reception at the store. Then Jim from local record label Communicating Vessels heard me talking about it and volunteered to host the event at their new studio space. And get bands to play. AND take care of other details like a Facebook event and posters.

But the goodwill didn’t stop there. When they heard about the party, City Arts Boutique (next door to the Communicating Vessels space) decided to stay open until 9 p.m. so partygoers can check it out. Some of my favorite bands, Great Book of John and The Green Seed, offered to play. And then, this morning, Good People offered up their amazing beer.

So now, instead of a few people milling around the shop, we’ll have a real party, complete with great bands, free beer, mini Breakup Cookies and Kahlua Cake Balls from Church Street, and lots of my favorite people — plus a pretty great sampling of the best of what local businesses have to offer. All this because a few local business stepped up to help us, not because we’re paying them or because they’re getting anything out of it, but because they’re … well … good people.

The party’s from 7-11 p.m. at 15 55th Place South in Woodlawn — here’s a link to the Facebook invite. I hope you’ll stop by!

A Toast to the Future: Goodbye Shop Small, Hello PostScript!

Why is this picture so yellow? I’m hoping it’s the reflection from the golden glow of my future! More likely, the light was just weird in my kitchen.

Of all the issues I’ve talked about over the past year on Shop Small, the most controversial has been my attitude toward Amazon. It’s easy to say that the reason I hate Amazon is because they’re my competition (I’m a bookseller), but that’s an oversimplification. After all, I also sell coffee, but I don’t vilify Starbucks (far from it — I’ve actually praised them in several blog posts).

But why do I take Amazon’s actions so personally, if it’s not because of my business? It’s because, in my opinion, Amazon embodies the worst of big box stores. They bully their way into markets and slash prices too low, giving consumers a distorted view of a products’ worth: For example, Amazon sells their Kindle Fire for less than it costs to actually make the tablet, then runs television commercials with snobby women in beach chairs implying that iPad buyers are getting ripped off. They get artificially low margins partly by undermining their competition, and partly by underpaying the people making, packaging and shipping their products.

Of course, many businesses would love to be in Amazon’s position. I’m sure Apple would like to control the tablet market. Clearly, Barnes and Noble (or even my little shop) would be overjoyed if our competition disappeared. I’m not pretending that any business, small or big, has pure motives. But, in Amazon’s case, their entire business strategy is to manipulate consumers, kill competition by any means, and control the market. Any business is dangerous when total control is the core of its strategy.

I detest these practices in any market, but in the business of books, it’s particularly harmful. I’m spending my life selling books, not because they have sentimental value to me (although they do, of course), but because they’re important to society.

Books teach us different ways of looking at the world. They communicate new ideas, challenge our beliefs, give us an incredibly intimate way to experience another person’s perspective. They help us grow into better citizens, better family members, better people. Easy access to ideas is a huge part of who we are as a country (that whole “freedom of speech” thing is moot if no one is allowed to hear it). So, yeah, I think the fact that one company is trying to manipulate the flow of information, that they’re preying on people’s love of discounts in order to control what ideas we’re exposed to, is a pretty big deal. We should give no one total control of our books: not publishers, not government, not independent bookstores — and certainly not Amazon.

As I’ve reflected on my year of shopping small, I’ve finally decided what my next blog project will be. Because I think books are so important, and because I think the battle of independents versus Amazon is such a great Small Shop case study, my new blog, PostScript Blog, will focus on books — kind of.

I say “kind of,” because it will really be about more that books. There will be book reviews, and I’ll talk about publishing (and Amazon) sometimes. But mostly, it’ll just be about interesting stuff — movies, music, shopping, community — and the way books intersect with those parts of our lives. I’ll write a lot, but I also have a great team of writers and artists contributing some amazing work I’m really excited about sharing. Plus, for the true Shop Small fan, you’ll be able to shop locally through my new blog, because all the books and ebooks bought through PostScript will come through Church Street Coffee & Books.

PostScript goes live Monday (you can follow PostScript on Facebook or bookmark the link now), and I hope that you’ll follow me there, and tell your friends and followers if you like what you read. Monday will also be my last post at Shop Small, and, although I’m very sad to leave here, I’m proud of what I’ve done and so humbled by the welcome you’ve all given me. If you’d like to meet up and say goodbye to Shop Small and/or hello to PostScript, join me Sunday night at our launch party — click here for details.