Under the Onion-worthy headline "Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money," Panos Mourdoukoutas, author of The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership, wrote a Forbes piece suggesting that Amazon "should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock."
Seeming to ignore the wide range of essential services that libraries provide, Mourdoukoutas was also less than well-informed about the current state of print books and independent bookstores.
"Then there's the rise of digital technology. Technology has turned physical books into collector's items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services," he wrote. "Of course, there's Amazon Books to consider. Amazon have created their own online library that has made it easy for the masses to access both physical and digital copies of books. Amazon Books is a chain of bookstores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local bookstore. It improves on the bookstore model by adding online searches and coffee shops. Amazon Go basically combines a library with a Starbucks."
The bookish Internet quickly responded. A sampling:
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.: "We're also a place that sells books. Libraries are a national treasure that create exponentially more human wealth than they cost in money to maintain. Free, public libraries are just smart investments for communities to make.... Libraries don't need 'innovation' as librarians are already some of the most innovative people in books, nor do they need disruption as they are also some of the most responsive institutions out there. They just need adequate funding to do their good work.... 'Privatizing' isn't the solution to every money-based 'problem.' In fact, a lot of the most successful 'private' bookstores are successful b/c they act as much like libraries as they can and keep the lights on."
East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif.: "This is too catastrophically dumb even to link."
Author John Scalzi (responding to @PMourdoukoutas's question: "Did anyone read my article"): "Of course we read it, that's how we know it's trash. Your understanding of the short and long-term economic benefits of public libraries is so remedial that whatever institution gave you your Ph.D. should probably rescind it out of sheer embarrassment."
I Am Books, Boston, Mass.: "And here it is! The stupidest thing to appear on the internet today!"
Furby House Books, Port Hope, Ontario: "The bookstores and Libraries offer more than coffee and online searching. If the author of the article ever visited either place he [would] know they are literary salons. Bookstores provide a unique intersection of art, business, community and self-improvement, and provide community spaces unlike any other. Libraries provide, at no charge, a curated collection of materials for loan and assistance accessing services and technology to EVERYONE!"
Michael Kindness, sales rep for Penguin Random House: "Dear @Forbes A couple of things: Physical books aren't 'collector's items.' E-book sales have been in decline for a few years. Digital and physical books aren't free at Amazon. Libraries offer both physical AND digital books (and audiobooks) at no charge. Wise up."
@bibliotudinous ("Hippie-ish librarian"): "The ideas in this article were debunked 20 years ago; ironically, a librarian could have helped the author turn this into a well-researched pro-library piece."