Two days, 40+ local artists, 9000 gallons of beer.

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In case you hadn't heard,

The second Shadow Art Fair is taking place tonight, December 1 (8-12pm) and tomorrow, December 2 (11am-8pm), at the Corner Brewery. Be there. It's worth not doing whatever lame thing you were planning on doing this weekend.

Also, in honor of Buy Local Week (this weekend through next), you can take the Buy Local pledge. Simply repeat after me: "I pledge to do my Christmas, Hanukkah, and assorted other holiday shopping at independent, locally-owned businesses, or from independent, local artists."

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So does the downtown A2

So does the downtown A2 borders store count as independant and locally owned? Or is it evil and corporate because its success as a local independant business has led it to grow into a media empire?

Three answers.

a) Borders stopped being an independant, local company once they became a publicly traded company, an action which distances ownership from reality, let alone any particular locale.

b) Borders stopped being a small, independant company at about the time they gained monopsony power, meaning that their purchasing patterns began to trickle back up and influence what got published in the first place. Too-big companies = market failure. (And, just in case nobody noticed the "Borders dictates publishability" fact, they made it explicit when they started selling publishers the rights to stock certain sections.)

c) Borders stopped being an independant, local company when they undertook union busting against employees at Store #1. Bite the hand that feeds, much?

The Grocery Argument

Look at a place like Hiller's. It's independent and locally owned, but they still accept slotting fees for shelf space. That's not any different from category management by Borders. Has Hiller's stopped being an independent, local company too? Did REM become sell-outs when they released Green?

More about the monopsony

While I have some distaste for pay-to-play arrangements of all sorts, be they bookstores, pop radio, or groceries, yes, including Hillers, I don't think Hillers is comparable to Borders. For one thing, Borders has (Google gives me sources ranging from 13% to 26% over the last ten years) of national market share in retail books, while I doubt Hillers can claim 13% of even Ann Arbor's grocery market. Hillers doesn't have nearly the monopsony power of Borders, and it's this that I take issue with.

Further, I think there's a qualitative difference between books and groceries. While all goods and services, indeed, encapsulate some amount of values in the philosophical/moral sense of the word, this is much more clearly the case when you're dealing in books.