How the Amazons Killed Christmas

December 25, 2008 at 3:59 (News, Season's Bleatings)

Well, it’s Christmas alright.

Just got through wrapping the last few hit-and-run gifts I picked up in town today.  I know, I know: an actual shop.  I should know better by now, surely – and I do, largely, but there’s something to be said about the experience of an afternoon on the high street.  On the internet, you’ll find honest reviews and impressions and advice everywhere you look.  When it comes time to check out, you’ll have found exactly what you were looking for at a more reasonable price than you have any right to expect.  The thing of it is, though, that you’ll only ever find what you’re looking for.  I went into Stirling to fill in a few gift-giving blanks and came home weighed down by bags of bright ideas that I’d have been none the wiser for surfing through lists of bestsellers and recommendations on Amazon and Play.  For a few of my nearest, my dearest, Christmas morning will be all the better for today’s trip to town.

And for all that the internet gives, it’s worth remembering that it takes, too.  I can’t speak to how equal the measures are, but lately, at least, you don’t have to look hard to see how online shopping is hurting high street retail.  Strolling around the empty aisles of a soulless Woolworths earlier on, watching its remaining employees Scrooge around the store either because it was Christmas Eve or because they were losing their jobs (or because it was Christmas Eve and they were losing their jobs); you don’t have to look hard at all.  Woolies has always been a little of everything and not enough of anything, but it’s place in the high street of my mind is front and center.

All the run-down old stores in the arcade I used to love, gone.  All the seedy little haunts I hung around growing up, with nary a trace.  There’s no place for a second-hand bookstore with the sort of mark-ups owners are forced to levy just to stay in business when Amazon’s marketplace will gladly load you up with a mint copy of any old novel you can imagine for a fraction of the RRP and free postage to boot.  On one hand, I miss the musty, smokey smell of my old bookstores.  I miss the too-eager staff and the claustrophobic spaces and hunching over in whatever space I could find to read the back-cover blurb of a proudly named and coffee-stained Clive Barker.  All of these things, and so many other, but alas, there’s that nagging little question of convenience.

If I’m honest, I haven’t been to one of the very bookstores I like to claim as my own since since last Christmas.  Worse still, I turned my nose up at a book I suddenly realised I had to have today on the grounds that it’d be cheaper online – and what you know, it is.

It can be an absolute bitch, sometimes, to find out that you’re right.

Sincerely, though, I hope you all have a great Christmas.  Only remember: for every lovingly selected present you find under the tree in the morning, some poor soul is tearing the wrapping paper off a Russian doll of digital download codes.

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