Shore Leave is the non-Trek culture arm of the Deep Space Spines website, posted every other Tuesday and made possible by donations to the site’s Patreon.
Well, Spiners—can I call my readers Spiners? Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical—we’re due for another round of Shore Leave, and I haven’t done any of the sort of sort of new and exciting (or even new and boring) thing at any point during the last two weeks that would normally populate this biweekly space. So this week, I’m taking a different tack.
As you know, Next Generation reviews are imminent. We’ve already reached Encounter at Farpoint, and #1, Ghost Ship, is due up at the end of August, and at that point this will no longer be a strictly TOS-oriented website. So, naturally, it’s time for me to start purchasing TNG books in earnest. With your Patreon dollars, I recently picked up four TNG novels (pictured below) from a site I learned about from a friend called Better World Books.
These days, increasingly fewer of us are taking our conveniences for granted. We’re beginning to truly grasp the shape and the scope of the labor that goes into our two-day shipping, and it’s a grim picture indeed. People are starting to ask themselves tough questions about their participation in a system that essentially abuses its labor force. Can there truly be, as the saying goes, any ethical consumption under capitalism? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s a hard notion to shake once it gets under your skin. But while I and others grapple with that quandary, Better World Books at least helps me feel a little more in control.
Typically, sales of used books benefit one person: the seller. Buying through Better World Books can help change that. For every book you purchase through Better World, they donate a book to someone in need, sending them by the tens of thousand to African countries and giving out no small number of them here in the U.S. as well (one of the recipients I found on the impact map was a middle school in a small town about an hour away from me). Purchases also fund literacy grants, education nonprofits, and library constructions in places that desperately need those things.
Shipping is “free”—I say it in quotes because in reality shipping costs are baked into the price of each book. For 20 cents more, you can spring for carbon-balanced shipping, which considering all the good you’re doing already, I don’t see why you wouldn’t. And one of the interesting wrinkles to me is waiting for the books. Ordering from Better World made me acutely aware of how long it’s been since I waited—really waited, two days is nothing—for a shipment to reach my house. One of the books came from the UK and was projected to arrive in three to five weeks; it came in yesterday, only 13 days after I placed the order. I purchase these books well in advance of when I’ll actually need to read and write about them—many months ahead, sometimes even years. Why should an Amazon warehouse worker break their back to get a book to me in 48 hours that I won’t review for another ten months?
Being a responsible consumer is a daily battle. I won’t lie: we’ve got Prime, and that two-day shipping has really come through for us in the clutch on more than one occasion, but for me at least, it’s getting increasingly difficult not to feel like a scab every time I place an order. In fact, I bought the books pictured above in the thick of Amazon’s annual Prime Day, having dropped in during a great sale—Better World regularly has deals of a certain percentage off when you buy four or five books, very similar to Thriftbooks, whose eBay store has also been a valuable asset to this site’s mission. So if you enjoy online shopping and you’re trying to find sites that will help you be a better citizen, Better World Books offers an excellent alternative.
Hopefully this wasn’t too off-putting a diversion from the usual Shore Leave fare. I’ll try to experience some things in the next couple of weeks so we can get back to more of the usual.
Shore Leave was made possible by donations to the Deep Space Spines Patreon. If you like the site and you’d like to see a wider range of features on it, please consider pledging a dollar a month. Even that small amount is super-helpful and will go toward buying the books, keeping the site going, and fulfilling Patreon goals that have been met. Thanks for reading (and also pledging, if you do that)!