There were a lot more bookstores around 20 years ago than there are now.

What changed?  Give that man a vape cigarette!  Amazon.

“The” Amazon is rainforest in South America; the “AmazonS” are a tribe of warrior women.  So the name connotes both something large and frankly belligerent.

In a process reminiscent of the early days of Standard Oil, Amazon was able to operate at a loss for some time before turning a profit.  Now it is turning a profit, and it sells not only books but pretty much everything else.  I believe they specialize in kitchen sinks.

They can deliver groceries to your door.  They can stream original programming to your computer.  And when I called them recently about an issue related to my author page, a recorded voice announced that while I was on hold I’d be listening to Freedom Fry or Dream Something and it was part of Amazon’s new “acoustic playlist,” so I guess they’ve branched out into music-making as well.

Let’s face it.  It’s easy to use, and I use it.  I have Prime account.

But there’s one thing that Amazon can’t do: host a book launch party.

That’s what Books Inc., San Francisco’s premier brick-and-mortar store (“brick and mortar” is urban slang for a place where are human beings to talk to) did for me yesterday.  They put up a beautiful display of the books, so that I walked in and saw stacks and stacks of my book.  Seeing copies stacked up like that gives me the feeling that I’ve written not one but fifty different books, as if each book were unique and not just a copy.

Books Inc and other bookstores—the independents and the chains—not only host book signings but they sponsor book clubs.  They hold writing workshops.  They have story times for kids—kids who are thus more likely to grow into readers.

In short, they are community resources centered around the goal of nurturing literacy.

I’m not one of those people who are hysterical about how fewer people are buying books.  Of course fewer people are buying fewer books, just as fewer people are going to the ballet and the symphony.  And ironically, the technology that makes novels more accessible (the e-reader) makes alternate forms of entertainment more accessible as well:  Not long ago, if you went to a café alone you would spend your time either working on your screenplay or reading.  Now with a pair of headphones and a Netflix account, who needs novels?

The answer is that many of us still do, and while Amazon rocks, it cannot take the place of the bookstore, so let’s support them even if we order our kitchen sinks from Amazon.