Up to $150 off some laptops. As much as $75 off high-end Bose noise-cancelling headphones. An Insta Pot for $58, 40 percent off the regular price.

It's grown increasingly hard to escape the hype of Amazon's Prime Day, with nonstop media coverage, countless social media posts and many online ads.

The 36-hour sale for Amazon's more than 100 million Prime members, who pay up to $119 a year to get free shipping, streaming television content and other perks, has turned into a major event, with seemingly every national media outlet publishing a "best deals" rundown and many joking online they were saving so much money because of early glitches that stranded many on the website's home page.

Amazon created the 36-hour shopping event to goose sales during an otherwise slow summer period. Local merchants said they see no noticeable downturn on Prime Day when millions of people are scouring for savings on electronics, everyday essentials, clothes and more online, but that the societal shift toward online shopping is being felt or changing the way they do business.

"I try to educate people about what happens when they shop online while ignoring small businesses," It's Just Serendipity owner Karen Maravilla said. "It's huge nowadays. People are busy and sometimes want to buy something without leaving the house or having to go to a store. But it's a conscious choice that affects small businesses and keeps the money from staying in the community. When you spend money at a small business they in turn spend it at local dry cleaner's, restaurants and donate it to community causes. What's the likelihood that Amazon will donate to your community fundraiser? Not good."

Amazon, which went from an online bookseller to an all-purpose retailer that sells everything from pop to washing machines, changed the bookselling business, said Jim Roumbos, co-owner of Miles Books. While more than 600 new bookstores have opened over the last few years, most sell used books. Bookstores that sell new books have declined precipitously.

"Our customers are loyal to independent bookstores. They like the personal touch we give them," he said. "We care about what they read. While we don't push them to anything, we might tell them if something comes well-reviewed or is of poor quality."

Roumbos used to sell used books through Amazon, but now prefers to sell through AbeBooks and other online outlets. The retail giant has affected his pricing.

"We're competitive," he said. "I know the prices. A book might be $3 online with $4 for shipping, and we'd have it for $7 here. We offer shipping for free as a normal courtesy to our customers."

Keep reading for FREE!
Enjoy more articles by signing up or logging in. No credit card required.

Roumbos marvels at how much free publicity the media gives Prime Day.

"All it really is is a sale," he said. "They take 5 percent off $100, and it's $5 off. I don't know why they get all that free advertising."

Mary Freeman, owner of The Cats Tale bookstore in Dyer, said Prime Day didn't slow down traffic in her store and that many customers still prefer to sit and chat, or browse for unexpected finds.

"They're missing something when they shop online," she said. "They might pay a penny for a book, but then have to pay $4 for shipping and don't know what shape it's in."

People still appreciate searching through used book stores for rare finds, such as baby books from 40 to 50 years ago a customer wanted for a baby shower.

"The Amazons of the world have their place, but the Cats Tale Bookstore has its place too," she said. "I don't try to compete with them. If I did, I'd go to work for them in the corporate world."

Communities run the risk of becoming no longer vibrant and interesting if no one shops locally for anything, Maravilla said. 

"Stores add ambiance and appeal, and they support jobs," she said. "Every time you shop online nothing comes back to the community. You're making a choice how and where you spend your money. You don't want these things to go away."


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.