Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday's Wandering: Bookstores, Or The Lack Thereof

My daughter was up visiting all of last week, and one day we went down the mountain to our local mall...such as it is. We wandered through the shops, did a little buying, and as we walked down the sidewalk ( we don't have the luxury of an inclosed mall), we passed a large... and empty...building. She asked me about it, and I told her it once was a beautiful bookstore... one of Border's Bookstores. We walked over to the windows and looked in. Empty. Deserted. Not even the bookshelves were left. Another window looked in on the small cafe where I had sat for many an hour, drinking coffee, talking to my husband as we both leafed through the myriad of magazines available. Gone were the tables, the chairs, even the glass-front cabinet where the "goodies" had lain in all their delectable glory. It was so sad.

Bookstores are becoming a relic of our society. Everywhere you look, the wonderful buildings that have for so long been home to literally miles of books are now standing empty. Their shelves are crumbling, the floors are filthy with dirt, crushed out cigarettes, and remnants of rotting food workers didn't bother to throw away. Their glass fronts, once so clean and shiny, are now home to dust bunnies and spiders busily spinning their webs. All that is left are the ghosts of the characters which once peopled their many books, remaining behind to sigh and whisper their laments.

The closing of so many bookstores seems to be symbolic of the coming ( or already here) changes in our literary world. Ebooks and their accompaning readers, the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and so on, are encroaching upon the written word at a speed approaching that of light...or so it appears. It is causing a major upheaval in the way we read books, and are able to publish books.

I have a Kindle, and many books on it, but I will always prefer to read the printed word. I love strolling down the aisles of a bookstore, stopping to admire the cover of a book, picking up another to read the jacket flap, still another to flip through the pages, until finally I decide upon the one ( or several) to buy. I love the smell of books, and the feel of holding one in my hands. I enjoy turning the pages by hand, placing a pretty bookmark between them when I have to stop reading and return to something I should be doing instead... like writing.

Those pleasures are rapidly being taken away from me and everyone who enjoys a "real" book. Is the convenience of having 500 to 1,000 books ( given that you can afford them) ready and waiting in a small 8" x 5" electronic reader really more important, more enjoyable, than being able to linger leisurely among the stacks of books, as you decide which one to buy? Well, not for me!  And I suspect, not for a few thousand others... at least.

Ebooks and digitalization are becoming the "buzz" words of the future, except... the future is now. Even traditional book publishers are opening small sections of their business to begin publishing electronic books. Many new and smaller publishers are open only to ebook publishing, and others specify they will publish in print only those books which do well in ebook format first.

Another trend that is becoming fashionable is self-publishing in the ebook format, or in ebooks that are POD. While there are several reputable ways to do this, there are also many scam artists out there who are out for your money and nothing more. Self-publishing in any format has always been the "stepchild" of publishing, and those who wish to take that route must now be all the more diligent in finding an honest and reputable way of doing that with ebooks.

For me, ebooks will always be a poor second choice, for both reading and publishing.  I always seek out the bookstores, even though now most of them are of the "second-hand and antique book" variety!  Still, it's far better than not having one at all.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.