The Help Desk: Hypocrisy is so much cheaper when you buy it online

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

I refuse to buy books from Amazon, either in physical or ebook format. The way they shut down bookstores was morally reprehensible.

But I’m ashamed to even type this — I buy everything else from Amazon. Groceries, bedding, electronics. I even got an Echo recently, and now I talk to Alexa when I’m home alone with the thing.

I’ve built up this hypocritical firewall in my brain that somehow just because I buy my diapers and detergent from Amazon, my money isn’t going to the books portion of the company. I’m just lying to myself, right? I’m putting bookstores out of business because I like things to be convenient. Should I pack up Alexa and put her in the garage?

Claudia, Fremont

Dear Claudia,

Here is a brief list of people more hypocritical than you:

  • Football fans who scream "Constitutional freedom!" when it comes to their guns but condemn quarterback Colin Kaepernick for opting out of the national anthem.
  • Animal lovers who kill spiders.
  • Any feminist who has thought about Paul Ryan's abs while in bed.
  • Everyone who loves children so much they let them make all of their clothing and electronics.

It's easy to identify values that resonate with us but nearly impossible to live by them all, so we pick and choose our favorites. For instance, I espouse a healthy basement lifestyle: every morning I start my day with six crunches and a half-minute of calisthenic door squats. At bars I brag to attractive strangers that I am healthy, very popular with introverts, and have never given birth to anything human.

But as my spiders like to point out, only half of them are introverts and my eating habits are actually pretty unhealthy – I have a serious sweet tooth. They say sugar is poison, I say they drink too much, and here we are at an impasse: Who is actually healthier and why do I routinely find myself with a mustache full of cookie crumbs, arguing with wine-soaked spiders about type 2 diabetes on a Friday night?

That is my cross to bear. Yours is the albatross of For what it's worth, I doubt local booksellers care where you buy your diapers. If you're trying to support local booksellers, buy books from them. Boycotting Amazon, while symbolic, won't pay their rent. (If it helps, I've found chanting, "I condemn thee" at my cookies before I eat them makes me feel better about my personal choices.)

And don't let Alexa control your life. The lights, maybe, but make sure to draw the line somewhere.