I’m seriously bummed. Our local Barnes and Noble is closing at the end of this month, which is just a week away. It is depressing to go in there now to see dismantled shelves stacked up in the back half of the store. We have made an effort to stock up on a number of books recently but the selection is dwindling so we probably have all we are going to get from there. It is supposed to be replaced by a Container Store. Once they open we can go buy bins to put all our books in.
This is the latest in a long parade of brick and mortar bookstores to close their doors. It is also the last one in the area. Once they leave we’ll have nothing. There is a wonderful used bookstore near by but nothing that will have the latest releases or feature a shelf of emerging writers. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall, so to speak, when a year or two ago B&N suddenly devoted about a fourth of the store (just as you walk in the door) to a huge Nook display and retail area. Books—actual hard cover and softbound books made of paper and ink—were squished and shoved off to the side. It was clear that e-books were the emerging business model for them and their e-reader was proudly showcased front and center.
The Nook, Kindle, iPad and all those other e-readers are convenient. Being able to instantly download a book right from the comfort of your own bed or while you sit perched upon your porcelain throne is a benefit. Not having to lug a 4-pound tome in your briefcase to read the latest Stephen King on the bus is another (although everyone commutes with those damnable rolling cases, which I have tripped over more than once, so I don’t know why weight is really an issue). I am not anti e-reader. My book is only available as an e-book. We have both a Kindle and a Nook, yet physical books still pile up on the bedside table.
With a “real” book there is that tactile experience of paper under thumb, the scrape of the edge of the page across the bed sheet (yes I read in bed a lot), the smell of a book which gets richer as a book ages, the act of turning a page to reveal the next spread which is how we’ve done it for hundreds of years (I’m sorry, but swiping a glass screen or tapping a button is a poor substitute). Deckled paper, guilt edged pages, marbled endpapers, leather bound slip cased books all going the way of the dodo to be replaced with retina displays, glowlight, e-ink, touchscreens, charging cords and battery life.
I don’t mind all that. I spend 9 hours a day staring at a laptop so I am used to the screen. What I will miss is going to the bookstore. We considered it an outing, as in, “Hey! you wanna go to the bookstore?” We would have no reason or particular book in mind. It was entertainment. There were magazines and novels and how-to books and the bargain shelf and new releases and featured or discovered authors and thank you cards and puzzles and blank journals and and the information kiosk where you could ask a human being what that new Kennedy biography is written by that guy who’s name has escaped you but he has a public affairs show on cable and he’s got kind of whitish-blondish hair. There were always a bunch of other people doing the same thing. It was community. A Nook can’t replace that. In fact e-readers do the opposite, they isolate us from each other. You can’t pass on a book when you are done reading it on your Kindle (yeah I know you can share it with one other person who also happens to have a Kindle one time for like three weeks). You don’t have to talk to anyone or ever leave your house again to get a book. It’s a shame isn’t it?
So, yes, I am bummed. Our last bookstore is closing. I guess that there is always the library until the internet and budget cuts do away with that.
Question: Do you love your e-reader or are you strictly a page turner?