December 19
by Ken Reynolds

Once upon a time independent merchants comprised the hubs of neighborhoods and the centers of small towns. Chains and big-box stores and the internet have all but eliminated those focal points of community commerce. Even the government post office, once “the center” of every community, has become little more than an outdated relic. The world of commerce has changed and we are not likely to return to the old days, but that change has altered our sense of loyalty to the community.

Local businesses have been replaced with franchises, and across America one town is very much like another. Something vital is passing, and like most Americans I am a contributor to the demise.

I have selfishly championed local bookstores for as long as I have been aware that there were such things. Reading and seeking out bookstores and building a personal library became, and are still, important aspects of my life. I studied liberal arts in college, but relatively late came to understand how knowledge and self-discovery are essential elements to the survival of a democratic society.

When personal computers became available my extravagant purchases were insignificant among the monies flowing to Jobs, Gates and the others —but the damned things enthralled me. I questioned whether the World Wide Web would have personal value to me. With no suspicion of the danger it represented, I joined the throng and let it invent ways to entangle me. And then came Amazon.

In a “New York Times” op-ed piece titled Jungle Logic, author Richard Russo described the internet goliath’s latest move to enhance its market dominance. Amazon encouraged shoppers in physical book stores to use their mobile price check apps to compare prices and earn a discount at amazon. Although price comparison is smart shopping, and Amazon is not the only retailer using the technique, I found Russo’s piece and the subsequent reader comments of particular interest.

There is more to shopping than buying at the lowest price.

Ken Reynolds is on the web at