Friday, September 2, 2011

A Real, Live Book Store!

I went to a book store.

There was a time I practically lived at a book store. My local Barnes & Noble is the only chain book store in my city. And, before Starbucks staked a claim on just about every corner in our town, it was the only place to get a decent non-fat latte while you were writing away at your novel.

At that time, my co-author and I were working on our depression book and the book store coffee shop was the writer’s community in our area. We knew the people who came and went. They were avid readers or wannabe writers. We sat and sipped and talked and, frankly, seldom wrote a word. But, it was community! It was warm and inviting.

Things have changed. I seldom go to my local book store anymore. Why would I have to? My church has added a coffee shop so I can spend time there working on my books. The money spent on coffee goes to a mission project. I read blogs and check out book reviews for new books. And then, I just pop open my iPad2 and order the book through iBooks or Kindle or Nook. Simple. Clean. Fast. Efficient.

Case in point. Our local apologetics group invited the collegiate minister in our area to speak to us on the state of college kids and the threat to them of losing their faith in a secular higher educational institute. He held up a book, “The iY Generation” and started quoting statistics. I have a keen interest in teaching college bound students how to defend the faith and to think critically. So, I opened my iPad2, found the book on Amazon, ordered it and downloaded it in less than a minute. By the time our speaker found the page with the statistics I had the book open on my iPad2! Isn’t technology great?

Or, is it?

This past weekend, my son and I decided to go on an adventure. I took my old nook (don’t need it anymore with the iPad) and we visited my Barnes & Noble. I decided to revisit my old habits. I walked through the front door. I realized instantly how I had missed that unique and enticing blend of fragrances. Coffee and paper with a hint of dust and what was that exotic tinge? Ah, yes, cinnamon. I went to the New Arrivals table. Lots of books I had not heard about. For free, I was able to sample the book with my nook. I grabbed a skinny latte with sugar free vanilla and began to wander and explore. My son and I compared reading lists and touched and handled real books. We sampled chapters and read passages out loud. We opened “The Fellowship of the Ring” and took turns reading aloud some of our favorite passages.

We had a blast! I realize now how much I miss the book store and the sensory experience of real books. This is something we have lost in the Kindle era. We have traded depth for expediency and I fear we are much less for it.

On a table near the back, we found a treasure. Classic books by authors had been compiled into large tomes with dark, rich leather and gold leafing. These were some of my favorite authors and their books had become works of visual art. I picked up two of them even though I have old paperback copies and also copies on my Kindle. Is this the future of books? Render them into works of visual art to be displayed on our shelves?

And, there sitting at a table was an old friend I had not talked to in years. He was a little grayer, a little more stooped but we sat and talked and shared mugs of coffee and we had -- community!

Do you miss the book store? Are we richer or poorer for our Kindles and Nooks?


Jillian Kent said...

Hi Bruce,
I'm late getting around to reading our blog posts. This fits in with the adventure to Borders I had this Saturday. I'd dropped my daugter off at the animal shelter where she volunteers and I went looking for a place to write. I accidentally found a Borders that was going out of business in an area of town I rarely visit.

I experienced mixed emotions. SALE! BOOK SALE! But they were closing and I can't stand to see all these book stores closing. I'll miss them so much.

I left with David McCullough's, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris and Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Both were 60% off and I really wanted them. But still that sinking feeling of another bookstore closing followed me out to my car along with my purchases.

Bruce Hennigan said...

My only local book store, the Barnes & Noble I mentioned is on the verge of closing. I'm making it a personal mission to encourage everyone in my area I know to go visit the store and buy something. It is disturbing to think these stores will close and the community that will die with them.

I am also concerned what this means for the QUALITY of future literature. So many "millionaires" are being made through epub and I've tried to read their books and they are atrocious. The death of the book store may mean the death of well written literature. I hope not. At the very least, I hope our children will keep the book stores open because they mirror the school library experience. Unless, they start closing libraries!!!!