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Random Thoughts: The Bookstore

Bookstores have been closing left and right. And it’s not just Borders. You can see their absence when you drive through your town. Just check the latest articles and blogs and you will find pictures of the store closings. Their dark windows reflecting the emptiness within.

Some people blame the eBook, some blame the online booksellers, like Amazon. Some blame the economy – books aren’t staple goods for everyone. (Although they are to me.) Some even blame the large chains, who, having squashed the smaller booksellers, are now getting what they deserve.

Whatever the reason, these stores that have closed their doors leave us readers with one less place to congregate, to share our love of books with others, to make recommendations, to meet and listen to authors, or simply to browse the shelves and discover a new writer or their book.

What will we do if there aren’t any bookstores?

If movie theaters closed, we might get by. With televisions getting larger, the quality of video at home better and the prices much cheaper, watching a film at home wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. We do that all the time now anyway, with streaming video from Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand and iTunes. And movies aren’t the most social events. The last thing I want to do is listen to someone talk while I’m trying to watch a film. And at home at least no one will be kicking the back of my seat, blocking my view as they head out for their umpteenth visit to the restroom or sneezing on me.

How will we make our book buying decisions? When I go to a bookstore, I love to look around and see what’s new. It’s not always as easy to discover a new book at an online store. It’s not as easy to flip to the back and read the blurb about the author. Without a real life display I might not notice the beauty of a book’s cover.

I love to browse alone and then compare my stack of books with a friend’s and see how many of our finds are the same. We then know the books we’ve both selected are keepers and for the others we ready our arguments as to why they should be chosen.

And I like to hear what other people are saying about books. Sure, I can do this online, but I can’t always tell the passion someone truly has about a book without seeing the joy or animation on their face as they describe the storyline and characters.

If there were no bookstores, where could we go to sit and read? Libraries are fairly scarce. Most are under-funded and so don’t have the latest releases on hand. They aren’t typically open as late as the big bookstore chains. They don’t allow food and beverages.

We have been pretty lucky to have the freedom to sit, drink – even eat – and read. These bookstore cafes are a gift. We can also shop for movies and music if we choose.

This wasn’t always the case. Bookstores were just that – places to buy books. No sitting, no eating. You stand in a fairly narrow aisle, select your book, and look through it quickly before the manager or store owner comes over and asks you to move it along, that this isn’t a library.

We readers could go to a Starbucks or other coffeehouse. But we’d have to bring our already purchased books, fight even harder for a table – if your Starbucks is like mine there are never any seats – accept the fact that people are entitled to be louder and that sitting for hours on end may garner a few angry stares.

But the most likely result if there aren’t any bookstores is that that we’ll buy our books online and read them at home. We’ll form book clubs if we want to meet and discuss books in real life. We’ll join online book clubs if we don’t. We’ll blog about them, read author blogs, read reviewer blogs and we’ll tweet about them just to give voice to our opinions and to hear others.

To meet those authors we love so much we’ll have to meet them virtually and buy their signed books online, unless we’re fortunate enough to attend a book expo or convention.

And in the end, some of us may just not become readers. And this, most of all, is why it breaks my heart to see these stores close.

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