A well-wishing reader suggests that I patronize bookstores instead of Amazon.com in order to help slow the seemingly unstoppable death of the old-fashioned bookstore. I have a great fondness for the sort of bookstore he is referring to -- not the big flashy Barnes and Noble kind that seems to have more toys and coffee and tshachkes than real books, but the lovely little academic bookstore that could be counted on to carry all the latest serious works in a wide range of fields.
Now, as it happens, the copy of the GROUNDWORK I ordered was secondhand, so I was in fact patronizing one of the hundreds of bookstores whose stock is linked to Amazon's computers. But that is not the nub of the problem. I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home to the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina system. UNC-Chapel Hill is a large and distinguished campus, with a great many faculty in residence and a large graduate student population. And yet, there is not a decent book store in the entire town! The closest bookstore that is even notionally like the sort of bookstore I remember is on 9th street in Durham, near Duke University, and it really is little more than a supplier of assigned texts in Duke courses. The bookstore in the middle of Chapel Hill turns out to be almost entirely devoted to Tar Heel sports memoribilia.
Since I have only lived here for four years, I do not know whether there ever was a good bookstore in town, driven to the wall by the competition of Amazon.com, but as things are now, if I want an academic book, Amazon is really my only option. The fact that it is incredibly convenient does not hurt. [I mean, at two a.m., when I have arisen for a while, as most old guys do, I can with one click purchase any book Amazon and its network of second hand bookstores offers, and expect it to arrive by mail two or three days later.]