Quaker books and self-defeating bargain hunting

Got an email in the book­store today from a poten­tial cus­tomer who chose Ama­zon over my employ­er Quaker­books, a niche inde­pen­dent book­store, because of their cheap cheap prices. I got a bit inspired by my reply, includ­ed here.

Sub­ject: book prices

I real­ly want­ed to buy the below book [Why Grace is True], but I checked ama­zon. com. Their prices: new is $16.07, or used from $5.94. Your price is $22.95.

I know how hard it is to be com­pet­i­tive, but I want­ed to let you know that peo­ple do com­par­i­son shop.

Bless­ings, C. 

Dear Friend,

Yes, Ama­zon, Wal­mart and the rest of the glob­al media/distribution jug­ger­naut will always be able to under­price us on the main­stream books.

What we offer is a much wider selec­tion of Quak­er books than any­one else. We don’t just have the more watered-down books aimed at the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion (most­ly with the unsaid premise “what you can learn from those folksy Quak­ers”), but a whole list of books about Quak­er reli­gious edu­ca­tion, Quak­er vision, Quak­er belief, Quak­er his­to­ry and what it means to be a Quak­er today. We don’t just have the Harper­Collins titles, but those from Quak­er pub­lish­ers that Amazon’s nev­er heard of. We eas­i­ly beat Ama­zon in selec­tion and we cer­tain­ly match them in speed and cus­tomer service.

We give a more ground­ed con­text to what these books mean to Friends – the reviews on our site’s If Grace is True are writ­ten by Friends for Friends. We try to know our books. When peo­ple call us up we’ll help with their selec­tion. When they’re try­ing to decide, we’ll read the table of con­tents to them. Quak­er pub­lish­ers and book­sellers talk about the “min­istry of the writ­ten word,” which means remem­ber­ing that there’s a pur­pose behind this book­selling. These books aren’t com­modi­ties, they aren’t units, they’re not ISBN num­bers to be packed and shipped. We’d rather not sell a book than sell a book some­one wouldn’t val­ue (which is why we’ll include neg­a­tive book descrip­tions & comments).

Pay­ing a few extra dol­lars to sup­port us means your also sup­port­ing the out­reach and Quak­er self-identity our cat­a­log pro­vides for many Friends. Plus you can be assured our employ­ees get liv­ing wages and health care (for which I’m per­son­al­ly thankful).

So yes, cus­tomers can save a few bucks at Ama­zon. Always will be able to. But your pur­chas­ing deci­sions are also deci­sions about who you sup­port and what you val­ue. There’s a price to dis­tinc­tive­ness, whether it’s cul­tur­al, reli­gious, region­al, or culi­nary. By buy­ing from Ama­zon you’re financ­ing a Wall Street-run com­mod­i­ty sell­er that doesn’t give a jot about Quak­erism or even whether grace might be true. If enough Friends choose price over con­tent, then Quak­er book­stores and pub­lish­ers will dis­ap­pear, our only rep­re­sen­ta­tion being main­stream books sold at gener­ic shops. That will cost us a lot more than sev­en bucks.

Well, I hope you enjoy the book. I’m sure Ama­zon appre­ci­ates your patronage.

In friend­ship,
Mar­tin Kelley

  • Just a follow-up about the price-shopping Quak­er… Our Friend did place an order the next day with Quaker­books. In my con­fir­ma­tion email, I apol­o­gized if my response was a lit­tle “over-argued” and he wrote back:
    bq. “Not at all. I don’t even shop at Wal­Mart for the same rea­son. I want Quaker­books to suc­ceed and be around forever.”
    Aww, how sweet. It’s nice to know there are Friends like this. It makes me a bit more hope­ful for the future of the grand Quak­er project!

  • Joe Gua­da

    Loved your com­ments about Quaker​books​.org. I make an attempt to sup­port it as often as I am able to, espe­cial­ly when order­ing Quak­er or oth­er relat­ed books. I par­tic­u­lar­ly like to order Chris­t­ian relat­ed things via them to remind them not to for­get about THAT aspect of Friends. 🙂 (By the way, they do a fine job NOT for­get­ting it, thank God!)
    Also: love your blog! I’m not a yonger Friends (just turned 45), but hearti­ly agree with many of your con­cerns about us unpro­grammed lib­er­al Friends here in the States. Well done, Friend!
    PS: I also appre­ci­at­ed your links to oth­er Friends doing blogs. Nice resource.

  • Hi Joe,
    Thanks for using the FGC book­store. I’m all in favor of you using your selec­tion to pro­mote Chris­t­ian aware­ness among Friends! I’m always hap­py to sell the more Quak­er­ly mate­ri­als, as my staff pick will attest to. At 37, I’m not all that far behind you in the younger Friends cat­e­go­ry but a lot of my “gen­er­a­tional” con­cerns aren’t deter­min­is­ti­cal­ly age-related. Good to hear from you, glad you like the blog.

  • poocer

    I first found Gohn broth­ers in The Whole Earth Cat­a­log, which for me was one of the great­est pub­li­ca­tions ever. How I miss it! For years I wore the drop­fall pants and found them to be supe­ri­or to jeans for gen­er­al use. Of course, the uni­form in those days and our set was over­alls, them­selves like jeans a polit­i­cal state­ment. Now I have almost a dozen pairs but sel­dom wear them __wife bought ‘em__ as they bind the knees and the paunch. (Not as easy to shed the paunch at 74 as at 34) And I’m real­ly bored with well-meaners tak­ing me aside and whis­per­ing “Your flies are open”. Big deal! With the social rev­o­lu­tion of the 60s and 70s jeans became the world­wide demo­c­ra­t­ic lev­el­er, like the tee shirt and lat­er, flipflops.
    Jan de har­tog, in his won­der­ful nov­el Peace­able King­dom, says that ear­ly Quak­ers would not wear indigo-dyed clothes as pro­cess­ing the plant for dye was so dis­agree­able that only slaves could be made to do it..
    Sim­ple cloth­ing comes nat­u­ral­ly to me, although for years work­ing in archi­tects’ offices had me in the pro­fes­sion­al uni­form: Oxford gray wool-and-acrylic suit with 2 pairs of pants, all navy-blue socks for ease of laun­dry sort­ing, button-down blue Oxford shirts and knit ties for draft­ing. Chi­nos were for days when I could get away with no jack­et, but the tie stayed, a bow tie in col­or­ful Indi­an silk or Madras cot­ton. Long gone togeth­er with my 30 inch waist!
    Our family’s ear­li­est immi­grants came to Delaware 40 years before William Penn, spoke Swedish and lat­er Dutch and Lenni Lenape. They were sol­diers, traders and farm­ers. One was actu­al­ly a trans­la­tor between Penn and the Indi­ans. Then came the Quak­ers and the Anabap­tists respond­ing to Penn’s offer of reli­gious free­dom, and many of them spoke Ger­man for sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions. (Eighty per­cent of Penn­syl­va­ni­ans spoke Ger­man in 1776.) I don’t know how they dressed, but being in the heart of Chester Coun­ty, the Quak­ers at least sure­ly wore gray. Sev­er­al ear­ly towns in Penn­syl­va­nia were found­ed part­ly by my ances­tors, among them Upland (renamed Chester by Penn) and Germantown.
    Even my par­ents had very few clothes by today’s stan­dards. All of both’s fit nice­ly into one small clos­et. Many were home-made. Nei­ther wore jeans, tees or sports shoes. Mom nev­er wore slacks.
    Now that I’m retired from archi­tec­ture and spend most of my time gar­den­ing I’m ready to sim­pli­fy. It may be dif­fi­cult, how­ev­er, to con­vince my wife to give away the suits and blaz­ers which she loves to see me in. I wear car­go shorts almost all the time__to Meet­ing, too__and Red­wing boots in the garden.
    I’m inter­est­ed in the plain­ness state­ment. I nev­er mind­ed look­ing dif­fer­ent, always had a beard unless it was for­bid­den by an employ­er. Now (the last few months) I have an Amish beard and after shav­ing my bald head since the 60s (very odd then; “I’m not bald, I just shave my head”) I have begun to let my thin gray hair grow down to a blunt cut at ear and nape and will not flat­ten it. Since the 60s I have worn a hat against sun­burn and sun­stroke, but not the Gohn Broth­ers kind. There are no vis­i­ble Men­non­ites here in Shas­ta Coun­ty, so I sup­pose I’ll stand out. I will not aban­don my tiny gold ear­ring, how­ev­er. How’s that for contradiction?
    I admit to being mild­ly nar­cis­sis­tic. Always loved being in cos­tume on stage and in his­tor­i­cal pageants. It’s amaz­ing how much a sim­ple change in hair and beard style evokes a par­tic­uler peri­od. Some re-enactors and dancers are so attached to their cur­rent style that they can’t con­ceive of chang­ing. Not me! But I can­not see wear­ing the full Amish out­fit. Too contrived!
    I am non-thieist, non-religion, anti-religious (includ­ing reli­gious prop­er­ty). I attend the small Month­ly Meet­ing in Red­ding, CA.
    Inspired by these recent­ly dis­cov­ered sites on plain­ness, I think I’ll sim­pli­fy my wardrobe and red out my stuffed closet.

  • roberth­coop­er

    Please two questions

    1-I assume all cloth­ing and good are american?

    2-are clipon’s with plas­tic tips or just met­al teeth ones.

  • cab­in­green

    Does plain dress allow for neck­ties or mod­ern men’s rimmed hats like the Blues Broth­ers look?

  • Vin­cent Duff

    Sir,
    Interesting,interesting…I remem­ber Gohn Bros. pants from some 25 years ago..just
    remembered,actually,and was just explor­ing about them.…Suspenders,please investigate
    Per­ry Sus­penders in Decateur,Il..EXCELLENT product..got plas­tic clips thst hook over one’s
    belt..may not seem like much,but is an excel­lent inno­va­tion. NOTE;I’ve recent­ly seen some Per­rys in Walmart..Of COURSE they’re WAY infe­ri­or to ones direct from Perry.

  • philips­mall

    I have been par­tial to a Cabela’s Lite Felt™ Out­back Hat (Choco­late) for many years. I am on my sixth one. Gohn braces: my wardrobe is ful­ly com­mit­ted to the 3/4 tab

  • Csmith

    Gohn Bros hats, espe­cial­ly the fur felt ones, wear like iron. They are great qual­i­ty and well worth the cost

  • Snowflakey

    I have worked in Mid­dle­bury for close to 30 years. I shop @ Gohn Broth­es and can tell you with cer­tain­ty that the broad­falls and oth­er plain cloth­ing is made upstairs above the retail store below. They have hard­wood floors and you can hear the sewing machines down­stairs while shop­ping ;-). We’re lucky to livein Amish coun­try and have plain/practical goods avail­able to us!!!

  • I attend­ed a Friend’s meet­ing in New Eng­land years ago, wear­ing plain dress, some of it from Gohn Broth­ers. A few Friends thought that I was a Men­non­ite, and had no idea that some Quak­ers still found mean­ing in plain dress. When I tried to explain my lean­ings towards it to sev­er­al peo­ple at cof­fee hour after meet­ing, I men­tioned George Fox, and some of them didn’t know who HE was. I thought they might be vis­i­tors from oth­er denom­i­na­tions or faiths, but no, they assured me that they were Quak­ers. Go fig­ure. Plain­ly, of course.

    • I had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence as yours vis­it­ing a meet­ing­house in the upper Mid­west. It’s edu­ca­tion and out­reach to our own as well. I actu­al­ly feel more of a tug toward plain­ness when I’m more embed­ded among Friends. 

  • Juli

    Eons ago, ok, 30-some years ago, I was a sopho­more at a Quak­er board­ing school.  Some­how, it became a “fad” to wear broad­falls, for both gen­ders.  I just found one of my pairs from back then.  I was try­ing to remem­ber the term so I googled, and this site came up as a hit.

  • Neil Mar­tinez

    I was first intro­duced to Plain liv­ing in the late 70s and ear­ly 80s. I went with some friends to a Quak­er meet­ing in New Canaan, CT (which is a decid­ed­ly un-plain place). I was a New Age-y kind of guy back then and felt a kin­ship with the organ­ic, spir­i­tu­al flow of thought and speech at the meeting.

    I then vol­un­teered for work at a Quak­er camp in Ver­mont as an off-season (win­ter) crew mem­ber. There were a cou­ple of peo­ple there who were Quak­er but most were young folk like me who just want­ed a groovy, live off the land kind of place to be for a sea­son or two of our lives. Dur­ing that sea­son, I heard about Gohn broth­ers and bought a cou­ple of pair of the broad­fall pants you describe with the but­tons for braces. Just the thing to wear going coun­try danc­ing in New Eng­land or to col­lect maple sap, or chop wood.

    In between the first instance and the sec­ond, I lived briefly in San Fran­cis­co and made going to Green Gulch Farm, an appendage of the Zen Cen­tre, on Sun­days. For me it helped me detox from liv­ing in the city. but the “plain” life espoused by the Zen monks also called me.

    Now, 32 years lat­er, I live in New Jer­sey like your­self. I am a born-again Chris­t­ian and admire the Amish / Men­non­ite con­vic­tions of being in the world but not of it. I, have also been con­vict­ed of van­i­ty and pride that goes hand in glove with wear­ing  clothes as an adver­tise­ment, rather than as the func­tion of cloth­ing. Am I “ortho­dox” in my prac­tice? No. But I, like you, just want to wear clothes as a sign of humil­i­ty rather than pride. Grat­i­tude rather than arro­gance. To be able to say that the clothes I wear are also sup­port­ing a busi­ness and a lifestyle I strong­ly sup­port, is also a big plus.

    I have just request­ed a cat­a­log from Gohn’s. I can’t wait to see how lit­tle it has changed in 32 years.

  • DC

    Just want­ed to send an FYI out there- looks like Mid­dle­bury, IN has put up a few videos on Youtube about Gohn Broth­ers. When I came across them, I imme­di­ate­ly thought of this post and want­ed to put a com­ment up with the link to them. Not sure if it is ok to link to Youtube in your com­ments sec­tion Mar­tin, but you can find the 4 videos here- http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​i​n​M​i​d​d​l​e​b​ury. They are short videos, but post­ed a month ago. Hope oth­ers find it inter­est­ing to get a real look at the store.

  • Gordy Ban­jo­man

    I have worn their pants, shirts, and hats for 37-years and can report that they are exact­ly as I have wished. Good sol­id clothes made well and com­fort­able. I admire the peo­ple that pro­duce and sell them. They are doing some­thing right every day. Thank you good people.

  • David Reed

    A Quak­er friend from Durham Friends Meet­ing in Durham Maine. Thanks you for the infro