My Desire to Buy Local and My iPad Love Affair

I’m increasingly trying to buy local because I really believe that a small business keeps money in a community. Its not terribly easy in Lebanon. But, food has been easy: My weekly pilgrimage to Souk Al Tayyeb and patronizing my local mom and pops stores has been a joy- I know the people picking my food and baking my bread. That extra few dollars is worth it to me. But what happens when the desire to buy local conflicts with other values? Or lifestyle? Unraveling the pitfalls of consumerism has truly kept my mind busy lately…

So, I have an iPad, and it has served me well. After moving countless times in the last 8 years, I am tired of packing up all my books and letting them sit in my Dad’s basement- the iPad allows me to keep the books I buy with me wherever I go. As a masters student, I download all my reading onto my iPad instead of getting it printed at the printer, saving thousands of pages in a single semester. This iPad also does other magical things, like deliver books wirelessly to me that I would not otherwise be able to buy in Lebanon. eReaders in general save paper in many other ways- on my iPad I get 4 magazine subscriptions, buy countless books, and read the New York Times every day. All those pages must add up.

But what about that voyage across the Pacific that my iPad took? Do the toxins emitted from that ship cancel out all of my saved paper? What about the economic system that has placed that iPad factory in China in the first place? Do my few thousands of saved pages make up for the fact that a woman in China is making next to nothing to put that iPad together? Or what about the fact that my own country will inevitably suffer from our position as a tireless consumer of imported goods? Or…what about the fact that I can only buy these online books from major corporate, profit-driven booksellers such as Amazon.com and Borders?

That’s what has me worried- I don’t want to go home to Point Reyes this summer and be a hypocrite. I want to buy books from Point Reyes Books. Point Reyes Books supports my local community with donations, by hosting great events, and by employing locals. But Point Reyes Books can’t zoom books onto my iPad. When I leave after the summer, I will have to leave my poor books behind, sitting on the shelf, when I wish they could be with me.

So far my solution is this- there are books I have not been able to buy on my iPad. Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities is one of them. Apparently a major American classic is not worthy to be on the iPad. It was, after all, written in 1961.
So, instead of being tempted by Amazon.com’s cheap prices, I will head down to the bookstore when I arrive in Point Reyes and buy my copy there. At least then I can hang out with the Smart Meter protesters that I have been admiring from a far (I will make sure not to bring my iPad and offend their electromagnetic sensitive sensitivities) and not feel like a total hypocrite…

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know about the incredible impacts a small local business can have. I wish I didn’t see the consequences of the neo-liberal economic mantra which is rotting my country from the inside out. I wish I could tell myself that the pollution created by these corporations that feed our consumerism is really just us using our God-given ingenuity on this earth God gave us because that is what God wants us to do. But I can’t.

 

 

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About kimberlyrose

Former defense policy analyst, current housing project coordinator, and full time birder, outdoor adventurer, fisherwoman and hunter.
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5 Responses to My Desire to Buy Local and My iPad Love Affair

  1. Jim says:

    >I wrote something here about electronics and wine but the google deleted it. I think . . .

  2. Saad says:

    >Sorry to snipe one sentence from your post, but do you know of any booksellers that are not in business to make a profit?I mostly agree that there are a lot of benefits to building bonds with local businesses. I think your point about e-readers is pretty interesting here. I think the most important thing about e-readers is not the hardware, but the software infrastructure supporting the technology. If e-readers evolve into a closed platform, then we may be stuck with one, or a few, large distributors who are the gatekeepers of all content (e.g. Amazon, BN). On the other hand, if the platform evolves in an open way, then e-readers may well destroy the local bookstore, but they will have the power to bring readers into direct contact with authors, cutting out the publishers and distributors.

  3. Kimberly says:

    >I probably should have phrased it differently- the pursuit of profit isn't the problem. The problem is the profit from BN and Amazon never make it back to my community. Point Reyes Books actually points this out on its website, trying to convince shoppers to buy locally. I understand it is part of their advertising scheme- at the end of the day, an attempt to increase their profits. But, they do a lot for our community, and that is something that cannot be said about Amazon- though BN is left out (whoops 😉 ) on the "taxes paid" portion- there a LOT of BN's in California that pay their fare share of taxes. "THINK LOCAL FIRSTWhy shop locally?When you shop at local businesses, like Point Reyes Books, you also support the local community. Contributions to Local Nonprofits in 2009Pt. Reyes Books $60,000Amazon $0Borders $0Number of Author Events Hosted in West Marin in 2009Point Reyes Books: 42Amazon 0Borders 0Sales Tax Paid to the State of California to Support Education, Parks, Social Services in 2009Independent Bookstores: $18.5 millionPoint Reyes Books: Over $60,000Amazon $0Number of Local Businesses Supported Through the Purchase of Goods and Services in 2009Point Reyes Books: 35Amazon: 0Borders: 0"

  4. Sarah Adams says:

    >I have a question about "the neo-liberal economic mantra".I don't know what that is.Can you please expound?S

  5. Kimberly says:

    >Well, rewind to the economic framework promoted by Reagan and Thatcher which is underpinned by the idea that private enterprise is more efficient, creative, and best suited to drive "the market." Ideologically, it calls for government to step back and play only a minor structural roll in the market, and should consider its job to be keeping markets free for the corporate sector to operate in. This ideology considers private property rights to be sacrosanct, and tends to favor all types of deregulation, the privatization of state enterprises and the liberalization of trade markets.

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