November 4th, 2015

Amazon Books at University Village

It's finally happening and it is NOT a package pickup/return location. It really is for books (and some electronics). The hook appears to be: all books displayed cover out.

"“We realized that we felt sorry for the books that were spine out,” Cast said."

Cast is Jennifer Cast, who is a wonderful person and very, very smart. She was at Amazon while I was there, and I really liked her a lot. Cast is also the person who reached out to the Bezos for marriage equality support:

Bezos has always said he loved physical bookstores, and in conversations I had with him and gleaning from his ongoing remarks to the press over the years, I know that we shared a particular favorite thing about physical bookstores: we loved the display tables in the front where books got extra attention. The review cards are nice, too, of course, but there is something about being at a table covered in books, with those amazingly designed covers laid out to best advantage.

All that said, I really never believed Amazon would open a physical bookstore. I am surprised and weirdly pleased to be wrong. I, personally, loathe the physicality of paper books, but I also recognize that part of that may well be attributable to some personal problems I have (turns out my kids got their hypotonia from me, and I have some wicked allergies). The kindle let me just hoover up the contents of a book, without any of the logistical problems of paper books (acquiring, storing, organizing, de-accessioning, holding upright while lying in bed or nursing a child, etc.). But not everyone has my issues and some fraction of the population is going to be buying and reading paper books for centuries to come. Evolving the bookstore AWAY from how-many-books-can-we-have-on-site (a service better provided through a warehouse and quick shipping, whether the order is placed at home or in a physical store) and towards taking best advantage of all the design work that went into the physical book makes a ton of sense.

Of course, I didn't think of that until -after- I read this article.

Of Startles and Attachment

If you are unfamiliar with the term, "startle" actually has sort of a technical meaning.

That is, if you are startled you aren't just, oh, how surprising! No, this is more of a, jump up out of your seat, move involuntarily, make noise, heart races, etc. sort of thing. (Training a startle reflex to do something really useful is core to some martial arts training.)

Lots of things can startle a person. A loud or unexpected noise or sensation, for example, might make you jump and cause your heart to race, even if it is not, objectively, frightening once you know what it is. This morning, when the van came to pick up A., I had lost track of time and was startled by the horn honking. It wasn't just the horn -- it was the oh, shit, I didn't get A. out to the driveway and now I need to make sure she has on her shoes and jacket and backpack and pause the TV show and so forth.

If you are very attached to a person (again, there's a technical meaning here, in which your autonomic nervous system and their autonomic nervous system become synchronous, at least when you are breathing the same air. When they are calm, you feel calm. When they are agitated, it is hard not to become agitated as well. Happiness, sadness, irritation -- all become contagious in the context of this kind of relationship), and that person startles, you might startle, too, even if you didn't have the same experience they did. So, for example, if a (HEY TRIGGER WARNING FOR ARACHNOPHOBES HERE) spider drops on them and startles them and doesn't touch you, you might still jump out of your chair in a panic because they did.

I know perfectly well that my daughter is that attached to me. But I'm still always kind of amazed when my startle gets reflected in her. The horn honked, I jumped up, and she jumped up and starts describing her feelings of surprise and being scared. And she doesn't even know _why_ she's suddenly surprised and scared, so I'm explaining to her what happened as I pause the TV show and get her jacket and shuffle her on out the door.

Parenting is so ... odd.