Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Available At Your Local Bookstore"

Last week as I was driving around, I heard an advertisement for a book on the radio (small bit of irony right there).  The narrative, driven by dark sounding dramatic music and telling us that the novel was ripped "right from today's headlines" ended with the statement "Available at your local bookstore, or iTunes."

Which made me think  "Local Bookstores?"

I remember the bookstores of my youth.  There were two, beyond the library where we got to check things out.  One was a local, single store in a strip mall (I still have some of those books).  The other was "Citadel of Books".  It was this store that formed my impressions of what a bookstore should be:  Towering shelves of books in pine shelves of varying heights with long rows, wandering up and down the aisles lost in literary wonder.

How times have changed.

I lived through the growth and essentially the death of a medium.  I remember the first time I went to a Walden's books.  "Wow", I thought, "so many books".  Then I went to a Barnes and Noble.  "Wow, it is so big"  I said to myself.  "They must have everything."  And then I went to Borders and had a similar experience.  "Wow, so much more like Citadel of Books"  I said.

But Borders is now gone.  The small independent bookstore of my youth is gone.  All that remains is Barnes and Noble as a new book seller.

I do not really enjoy going in Barnes and Noble at all.  The selection is limited.  The prices are high (stupidly high).  And the atmosphere - green themes with dark brown bookshelves - is hardly the sort of adventure I experienced once upon a time.

I shop the used book stores now.  There is far more of a sense of adventure in finding something that you are looking for or even finding the unexpected - and the prices are a sheer luxury.  Sure, I very seldom get the latest books, but those are (generally) not the books I am looking for.

Or  Cannot beat the selection and the prices -if you shop carefully - are just as reasonable as a used book store.

(No Kindle or iBooks for me.  I simply cannot enjoy reading on a screen.  I think this may partially stem from having to look at a computer screen all day.  And the fact that the book is an object, a familiar thing I can manipulate and highlight and easily go back to).

A final thought hit me as I rolled the radio station over to something else.  I have seen the bookstores go, first the independents, then the local chains, then the national chains.  Will I live to see the day that, like a beached whale, the last great bookstore chain goes under leaving only ghostly remainders in the form of empty big boxes and the remains of a once thriving industry to be found only in the kiosks of airports?


Dawn McHugh said...

Its the same over here with book shops, the only one I frequent now is Books For Free, you are allowed to take 3 books for free each visit, there books are donated, saved from landfill, ex library, unwanted books from publishers, its a treasure trove of books, there is a donation pot on the counter if you want to drop a few coins in, I love and pay a visit when ever I am in town also taken my grand kids so they can get books from the kids section, there are more of these shops popping up all over the UK.

kymber said...

TB - my greatest fear is the loss of books and libraries and bookstores. i, too, have lived through and watched this happen. in my early 20's i started collecting all of the classics - romance, drama, political thought, medicinal, herbal and a whole pile of other books. before we moved from the city we gave over 250+ books to our nearest value village - all fiction. we brought 76 banker's boxes of books here to the island - much to the dismay of our friends who helped unpack the 2 trucks. but i have 13 full set encylopaedias and about 5 non-complete sets. plus most of the classic "classics". and some really good fiction.
if the world falls apart in my time - jam and i can help re-teach the world. if not in my time - i can gift this small library to someone who will promise to to care for it and use it when necessary.

sending much love. your friend,

Rev. Paul said...

I could have written nearly every word that you did; we have these sentiments in common. It's always sad when a favorite institution bites the dust; we nearly cried when the Borders store in Anchorage closed its doors.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Wow! What a fabulous idea! In my neck of the woods they have a small home library in front of some houses stocked by individuals (take one, leave one). But free books for donations! The book lover in me sings with joy.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I do not know that I have 76 banker's boxes worth, but I have a bunch (on the whole, more than The Ravishing Mrs TB wishes I had, I suppose). I do not have any encyclopedia sets. My parents used to have an Encyclopedia Britannica set circa 1980 but got rid of it in their move. I sure wish I had that now.

I do collect some fiction, most sci-fi and fantasy and mostly authors that I read when I was a teenager. So much of it is now far more racier than I can stand to read.

Much love! - TB

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I really liked Borders Reverend Paul. I know it was the same sort of chain-ish thing as Barnes and Noble, but somehow it seemed...more like a bookstore should be. Ambiance really is part of the book shopping experience in my world.