Oprah Incurs Booksellers’ Wrath

October 29, 2008 | 1 book mentioned 6

Over at the Vroman’s Bookstore blog, Millions contributor emeritus Patrick Brownweighs in on Oprah’s endorsement of the Kindle, saying, “I never thought Oprah was anything more than she is — a corporate shill.” Vroman’s president Allison Hill (a beloved and admired figure in the bookselling industry) also shares her thoughts:

Oprah, if you’re reading this, forget about cashmere pashimas, spa-like shampoo, and new technology this holiday season, remind your fans what’s really important:

A sense of community. Time honored traditions. Human contact. A neighborhood gathering place. Keeping money in the community. Passionate, personal book recommendations. Putting the right book in the right person’s hands to help change their life. The smell and feel of books. A destination where ideas and information and people’s stories are valued and honored.

Your endorsement of a “gadget” has a ripple effect far greater than you may realize. Book lovers buying Kindles and digital content exclusively through Amazon means the further erosion of our sales, and a precarious future for many independent bookstores.

Independent bookstores are protectors of freedom of speech, financial support for local charities, generators of tax dollars for communities, resources for entertainment and education, and insurance against the chainification of Main Street America. These contributions should not be taken for granted, and certainly not put in jeopardy.

When you endorse this new “gadget”, what are you really endorsing? and is it worth it?

What do you think of the Kindle? Is it the future of reading, or will it go the way of the oxygen bar?

is a staff writer and contributing editor for The Millions. She is the author of the novella If You're Not Yet Like Me, the New York Times bestselling novel, California, and Woman No. 17. She is the editor of Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them.


  1. Whatever her motivation, the kindle will not catch on sufficiently tohurt book sales, but enough to make a lot of money for the corporations that are involved.

  2. Nothing wrong with the Kindle. I've got one and, living abroad, I find it pretty useful. Also, nothing wrong with independent bookstores. But you can't fight the future with peevish statements. I'm afraid they're going to have to find a way to adapt.

  3. Mobile reading devices (e.g., Kindle) will catch on with some people. And some people will just use smaller and smaller notebook computers. And some people will just continue to buy printed books. And some people will do both, use e-reading devices and buy books.

    But I suspect that Kindle – if it's still around in 10 years – will be in a very different form.

    I really don't see Amazon manufacturing Kindle 10 years from now since Amazon is in the content and distribution business and not a hardware manufacturer. Amazon is just doing it now to set a fire and create a portable sales terminal that is always connected to Amazon.

  4. I have faith in the aesthetic and tactile pleasures of books to trump the kindle in the end. Also, there are things books can do that kindles just can't: For example, I'd like to see a kindle best my copy of Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in its longtime service as a doorstop.

  5. Protectors of free speech? Give me a break. Independent bookstores are businesses. That's it. If they can't adapt to changing markets then they should close. Readers, including Oprah, don't owe them a thing.

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