Obama on Martha's Vineyard: Will he stop by an independent bookstore this summer?

Obama angered some in the independent book world after he praised Amazon's business practices in 2013 and skipped his usual visit to a Martha's Vineyard indie bookstore later that year. Will he pick up some books during his Vineyard visit this year?

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Barack Obama, with his daughters Malia Obama and Sasha Obama, waves to a gathered crowd as they leave the Bunch of Grapes book store in Vineyard Haven, Mass. in 2010.

Booksellers are watching and wondering: Will President Barack Obama stop by an independent bookstore during this summer's Martha’s Vineyard vacation?

In previous visits to Martha’s Vineyard, Obama often stopped by the Bunch of Grapes independent bookstore to pick up a few titles. However, some in the indie book world weren’t pleased when the president traveled to an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee during the summer of 2013 to praise the company.

“The Amazon facility in Chattanooga is a perfect example of the company that is investing in American workers and creating good, high-wage jobs,” White House deputy press secretary Amy Brundage said at the time. “What the president wants to do is to highlight Amazon and the Chattanooga facility as an example of a company that is spurring job growth and keeping our country competitive.”

Some objections were quickly raised after the planned visit became known, with the American Booksellers Association staff and several indie bookstore workers sending a letter to Obama saying that “Amazon’s business practices are actually harming small businesses and the American economy” and that “Amazon … slashing prices far below cost on numerous book titles is further evidence that it will stop at nothing to garner market share at the expense of small businesses that cannot afford to sell inventory below their cost of acquisition.”

During his 2013 summer visit to the Vineyard, Obama skipped going to Bunch of Grapes as he had before, though as Monitor contributor Danny Heitman pointed out, “Maybe Obama didn’t relish the prospect of picking out books with the rest of the world looking over his shoulder.”

So will the president stop by Bunch of Grapes or Edgartown Books this year? Hillary Clinton is signing copies of her book “Hard Choices” today at Bunch of Grapes, which could be a reason for Obama to go or to avoid the area. Either way, the book industry will be watching to see whether Obama goes book-shopping this summer.

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