In the article titled “The French do buy books. Real books” appearing in New York Times (July 9), the author, Pamela Druckerman writes:

“Recently when I was strolling through my museum-like neighborhood in central Paris, I realized there were seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment.--Do the French know something about the book business that we Americans don’t?

I was in a bookstore-counting mood because of the news that Amazon has delayed or stopped delivering some books, over its dispute with the publisher Hachette. This has prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales in America and its 65 percent share of new books sold online.


I was interested in the usage of the word,”’soul-searching’ over Amazon’s 41 % share of new book sales.” What does ‘soul-searching’ here mean?

CED defines ‘soul search’ as: Deep and careful attention to private thoughts, especially about a moral problem.

OED defines ‘soul search’ as: Deep and anxious consideration of one’s emotions and motives or of the correctness of a course of action.

Merriam-Webster Online defines ‘soul searching’ as; Examination of one's own thoughts and feelings

Common notion of ‘soul search” of the above dictionaries is attention to, or examination of one’s own emotion, feeling or motivation.

I wonder if the expression “soul searching Amazon’s 41% sales share, which is an objective figure, not personal feeling and motivation is suitable to the original usage of ‘soul-searching,’ or not.

BTW, I am interested in the usage of ‘in a bookstore-counting mood.”

Can I apply “in XXX-counting mood” to any other subjects, for instance, “I’m in a counting-mood of the present administration’s failures in Economic policies,” “I’m in a counting-mood of my boss’ mishandlings of business”? Can it be well-understood by native English speakers?

  • If Amazon controls book sales, then it is a matter for moral pondering when they decide to hold back the supply? Is this complicated?
    – user126158
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:32

5 Answers 5


I was in a bookstore-counting mood, see: there were seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment.

You could use this if you wanted "I was in a xxx-counting mood," but you'd best explain it afterwards, e.g.:

I was in a house counting mood, so I counted all the houses on Main Street.

The author explains her "counting mood" by mentioning Amazon's current situation.

prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales, I want to say the use of soul-searching here just seems wrong. Like the definitions you posted mentioned soul searching is talking about ones own morality, motives, etc. and Amazon selling books has nothing to do with the authors morals nor motives. Sometimes when trying to be fancy while writing mistakes like these will be made. What is trying to be said is basically it makes people wonder how come; how come Amazon, despite not delivering some books or delaying some books, is still able to hold such a big share of sales.

  • 2
    The fact that 41% of book sales in America are from Amazon might well prompt soul-searching in Americans, which is what the author is saying; is convenience really worth handing over such power to one company? Jul 11, 2014 at 11:00
  • Well I guess that's why Americas are so well accepted across the globe...
    – Mou某
    Jul 11, 2014 at 15:35
  • @TimLymington "Put all of your eggs in one basket. Just make sure it is a really strong basket."
    – user126158
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:34

The OED definition you wrote for soul-searching is the applicable one:

Deep and anxious consideration of one’s emotions and motives or of the correctness of a course of action.

In this case, it is referring to the continued support of Amazon by the book-buying public, to the detriment of physical book stores and other online book-sellers. Amazon's clout in the book industry is unprecedented, and so they can do things like stop selling books from a major publisher and it's the publisher that is harmed, not Amazon. Contrast this with Paris, where there is apparently a multitude of independent bookstores, of which the author is in a mood to count. The author wonders if maybe buying books from Amazon is wrong.

I don't think there is necessarily any particular reason that "morals" have to factor into this. The author is implying that she supported Amazon before, but is now reconsidering her position.

Re: bookstore-counting mood: This means in a mood to count bookstores. If it were a tree-counting mood, it'd mean that she wants to count trees. A bookstore-robbing mood would mean she felt like stealing books. etc. Any kind of object-verbing mood is possible.


There are two different bookselling models between "Paris" (physical bookstores) and Amazon (online book sales). When Amazon stopped delivering books, it put the writer in the mood to count bookstores in Paris, and caused the writer to "search her soul" to see if the "Paris" model isn't better.

  • Perhaps the conundrum is that when people DO go to an actual store, they can still be thwarted by the online provider not supplying books. It would be like a TV network providing the players for a baseball game - a conflict of interest which does neither any good. But if all the games stopped being played, people would likely go home and watch TV anyway. Some are more equal than others in this zoo.
    – user126158
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:42

'This has prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales in America and its 65 percent share of new books sold online.'

Amazon has 41 percent share. That is, as you say, an objective figure. But the soul-searching is over this fact. This implies that knowing that Amazon has 41 percent share (a lot) and having a dispute with a publisher has caused some people in America to soul-search, i.e. to think deeply/anxiously consider the implications of what Amazon is able to do with its power.

'I was in a bookstore-counting mood'

'Counting' is linked with bookstore (conveniently enough with a dash) not with mood (except for being a normal adjective). Here 'bookstore-counting' acts as an adjective to the noun 'mood' (similarly 'good mood', 'bad mood'). So you can be in an 'economic-policy-failure-by-the-administration-counting mood' or a 'boss'-business-mishandling-counting mood' even though probably noone would really say that except maybe in written form in very specific circumstances (humour,sarcasm et al.). In any case this has nothing to do with counting and mood acting together. You can have a 'postage-stamp-counting machine' as well as an 'increasingly-bad mood'.


If we provide a convenience, like superstores (Walmart etc) or an online bookseller, but that causes the usual channels to fail, we end up with a world where only the one possibility is available, and the others cannot re-arise. It makes for a narrower, less interesting world.

Eventually, even places like Paris might wind up with lots of closed storefronts and no local culture. So, we ponder how our choices for convenience might result in fewer choices later on. Our selfishness might actually be self-defeating and not ultimately what we want.

Is this a new question? I guess the bigger question is: do enough people really care what happens to small stores or local culture? If not, no amount of pondering will do any good.

  • I am not in a down-vote-counting mood.
    – user126158
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:50

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