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Comedian Stephen Colbert returned to the airwaves Monday night, and he didn’t waste any time taking a few cracks at Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

Award-winning author and Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett was the guest, telling the story of why she opened a 2,500 square-foot independent bookstore in Nashville following the closure of two large brick-and-mortar book retailers.

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What ensued was some great comedy, and also some insightful dialogue about the state of the book publishing business and Amazon.com’s growing power. (Watch the full segment above, and read a partial transcript below).

It all started when Colbert — in his typical sarcastic style — asked Patchett why a retail store was necessary in the era of Amazon.com. Here’s more from the chat:

Colbert: “Haven’t we already had this battle: In the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” OK. You are Meg Ryan in this, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon is Tom Hanks. And, in that, Tom Hanks crushes Meg Ryan, and then … she falls in love with him.”

Patchett: “That was the 80s. This is a whole new era. We’ve had the cycle. Little bookstore does well, and it gets bigger, crushed by the super store, Barnes & Noble and Borders chains. They were then crushed by Amazon, and now we have cycled all of the way back. Suddenly people are waking up and going: ‘But I want to have some place to take my kids for story hour on Saturday and I want to have some place to go to book club and see an author read.’ The bookstore is gone, but they miss it. This is a tale of redemption.”

Colbert: “It is?”

Patchett: “It is. Yes.”

Colbert: “OK. It could be a good book.”

Patchett: “Absolutely.”

Colbert: “You say story time, book club — what are the things that I can get from a local book store that I am not getting from shopping online?”

Patchett: “Smart people.”

Colbert: “Hey, hey, what are you talking about? The Internet is full of smart people.”

Parnassus Books in Nashville

Patchett: “I mean ones you can go in and talk to. We have so many smart people working in our store. You come in, you tell me what you just read, and I’ll tell you what you should read next.”

Colbert: “No, they already have that. They already have that. People who bought this book also bought a socket wrench set. One of the rare times that I read books is to escape, so I don’t have to talk to people.”

Patchett: “Right. But, if you never, ever talk to people, and you meet all of your needs on the Internet, you wake up one day and you are the Unabomber.”

Colbert: “That’s a strong argument. But you understand that I have a couple books coming out this year, and I can’t agree with you because Jeff Bezos at Amazon, he’s a vindictive man. He clubbed the owner of Borders to death with a tire iron.”

Patchett: “Just like a baby seal on the ice flow.”

Colbert: “He did. He did. And the guy from Barnes & Noble, he slashed his tires. Aren’t you afraid of — you are an author. And if you are trash-talking these online people, aren’t you afraid that they won’t sell your book?

Patchett: “I am so beneath their notice, I am not a pebble in their shoe.”

Colbert: “Of course you are on their notice, you are on The Colbert Report. You are getting ‘The Colbert Bump’ right now. Here is the book: State of Wonder. I want this to register on Amazon tomorrow, we are bumping this right now. No. I won. I just won.”

Patchett: “No, I want it to register at ParnassusBooks.net, where if you buy State of Wonder, you can get it signed.”

Colbert: “Really?”

Patchett: “Now, listen this is what I want from you. When your book comes out, I want you to come to Nashville. You can see your friends Jack White and Al Gore, we will have a party for you…. We will have the Goat Rodeo guys to play at the store as your warm-up, you’ll sign and you will have such as great time. And then the next week, you will take your Sharpie, you will go to the warehouse at Amazon, they will cut the boxes open for you, and you can sign all day. You see which one you like better.”

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