So on Tuesday of this past week, Amazon lost (for less than six hours) its ability to sell Kindle editions in the United States because of a technical glitch. What caused it? Those On The Inside suspect it was Harry Potter’s fault. (The fact that he’s not a real person doesn’t matter. This is cyberspace we’re talking about.)

All 7 of the Potter Books became available on March 27 (Tuesday) through Potterworld, and the uploading…. well, it wasn’t  a straw that broke the cybercamel’s back so much as a magic wand.

About a million e-reading people–what is the collective noun for e-readers anyway? An exaltation of larks, a kindle of kittens…. okay, best collective noun response gets a free book from our bookstore, postage included. Title to be negotiated, but we’ll try to accommodate your request–

{Ahem} Back to the blog. About a million e-reading people in downloading frenzy crashed the Kindle sales. The breakdown occurred at 11:55 am PDT, and by 11:58 the news was going viral. How’s THAT for market share?

One of the ironies is that the crash may have been precipitated by Potter, but it was aided by a duel of duelers. The Hunger Games had hit the theatres just a few days before, and loads of people were trying to download that trilogy as well. (Hmm, I’m getting an idea for a plot. Teens dueling to the death over … oh, wait a minute.)

So, as people attempted to download the next teen megahit the previous wunderkind thrust Voldermort’s wand into the clockworks and KABLOOEY!

(Perhaps it was revenge?)

The big question in the industry is, in the six hours before it was fixed, how much money did not change hands?

But in all honesty, what I want to know is, did anyone, in desperation to lay hands to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay, call his or her local bookstore? Because then something very good could have come out of this silver e-cloud’s lining.

Perhaps Amazon’s breakdown can be measured not in market lost but in markets gained, reopened, rediscovered. Remember walking downtown to your local bookstore? Remember bookstores? Yeah, we’re still here, and oddly enough, when we “crash” it’s called closing. As in closing down. Which bookstores do when customers don’t come in.

Why visit a bookstore instead of Amazon? Well, aside from that little crashing thing, how about fresh coffee, pleasant and witty conversation, exercise (physical AND mental), a chance to see who’s reading what, a chance to see who’s written what, a chance to find out about other authors besides Patterson, Collins and Rowling (not that they’re not great; they’re just not everybody), a chance to pet the store cat or dog, and did I mention pleasant and witty conversation?

Bookstores, greenhouses, yarn stores, hobby shops run by independent people are fun. They are sweet. They are little watering holes where like calls to like and knows it will get an answer, rather than a “we are unable to assist you; please try your call again later” or even “you are order number 765843; thank you.”

I’m not against e-readers, but I am aware of the effect they have on bricks-and-mortar bookstores, and of the tertiary effects if all our third places–those tucked-away shops and pubs and gardens that are neither home nor work, where we sit and smile and be ourselves for fifteen minutes–go away. We need them for balance. We need them to be in right relation to each other.

I don’t hate Amazon; as a first-time author, I’m forced to use it as one of the ways I sell my own book. But Amazon is one of six ways one can order a book in America. Six. Count ’em: six. (To see the list, visit the section on pre-ordering my book. You can get any book via those methods. ANY book…..)

So huzzah to Amazon for crashing, and here’s hoping that six-hour window launched at least one reader on a voyage of discovery about the battles for life that really matter.



Filed under book repair, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized


  1. Great post! I’ve tried searching all the local bookstores here (and there’s quite a few where we live now) and haven’t been able to track down any copies of the Hunger Games. I’m guessing people who’ve bought the hard copies are keeping them for themselves…but if you all have a copy of the second and third books of the trilogy I’d happily purchase them! 🙂

    • I think I can find them for you, yes. Give me a couple of days to get through the books people brought in this week. It’s been a spring cleaning week here in Wise County!

  2. I always enjoy reading your blogs! -Fellow Indie Bookstore owner. 😀
    I had to take a stab at the collective noun question!
    A Pity of Pages


    • Oooh, so far you are our first, only and winning entry! Let’s give it a week and see what we net. Where’s your bookstore?

      • We are in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia – The Spiral Bookcase. 🙂
        We will be celebrating two years this July. I’m very happy to be here and be a part of the bookselling community. I am really looking forward to reading your book on the matter!
        Funny enough — I saw your publore post. I graduated with a MA in Folk Studies from WKU. Represent!

      • Ha! What a small world. Folklorists unite, but booksellers double unite! Congrats on two years. If you’re on FB I’ll find you there.

        If you like the book let’s hook up for a workshop or signing, because I barely know anything about Philadelphia, but Jack and I would love to visit. (He’s becoming an American citizen April 5th so he’s going to want to see all the cool places after that.)

        And while Big Stone Gap isn’t necessarily large on anyone’s tourism agenda, if you ever head this way let us know. We’ll show you the bright lights: green to amber to red and back to green…. :]

  3. We would love to have you here! Email me at spiralbookcase (at) gmail (dot) com and I would love to work something out.
    –I want to visit your shop, it definitely looks like a destination! I have family in Roanoke, VA which is at least closer than Philly…so I will certainly let you know when I can get out there.

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