Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Great Bookstore Debacle

It wasn't long ago that Ella sat at our local bookstore listening to a live children's book reading. We purchased her first book in that store. I purchased a copy of What to Expect When You're Excepting when I was expecting Ella from that store. More times than I can remember, my parents took me to that store and bought me books, computer programs, journals, bookmarks and more. A few years ago, that beloved store was replaced by a drugstore. It's sad to think the demand for over-the-counter pharmaceuticals is so drastically higher than that for books.

Tonight, Ella's dad (Danny) and I managed to track down one of The Valley's last bookstores. Upon arriving in the parking lot the store shares with a department store, a restaurant and a few other shops, Danny and I found a dim, desolate establishment whose front door's features were limited to a printout of holiday hours and a handwritten sign that read "We sell, buy and trade books".

Inside, it was as quiet as a library but  not because dozens of people were working independently or being respectful of one another. It was a quiet caused by the lack of people and the lack of respect for every unique, important quality books possess.  The employee on duty happily escorted us to the section we were seeking, but when we arrived there, we found the major subject we were so interested in had been reduced to less than 24 inches of real estate.  As we exchanged confused looks and comments, the employee materialized with two books they'd "just got in today".  The cover of the larger boasted new sewing techniques, but upon further examination I discovered the copyright year to be 1969.  The rest of the books in that section were equally antiquated.

To matters worse, the bookstore had been split into two rooms using a makeshift divider. The side that did not house books, was dedicated to a Halloween store. I'm almost certain that the Halloween store, despite its namesake holiday having come and gone many weeks ago, is still bringing in more customers and revenue than its roommate. The entire experience was heartbreaking.

The crinkled pages of a cookbook freckled with notes that your great, great aunt jotted down while working away in the kitchen have been replaced by shiny plastic screens, unyielding to even the most meaningful edits.  The smell of aged paper has been succeeded by the aroma of newly unboxed electronics.  The dingy, coffee-stained, tear-soaked innards of books are no match for reading surfaces that do not fade or age.

So what really happened to books?  Well, in short, digital killed the paperback star.  Electronic books and easy access to cheaper paper books make the thought of going online to satisfy one's literary thirst very appealing.  In our quest to become stronger, better and faster, we've neglected older and wiser.  And unlike ancient city ruins, we've stripped books of their monuments even in spite of the fact that we still actively use these written relics.

Upon exiting the building, I remembered I'd intended to purchase a DVD or two which we'd passed as the employee guided us around.  I almost wanted to go back until the following scenario brewed in my mind.  If I were the lone employee manning an all but deserted bookstore, I may, with a clear conscience and a healthy amount of justification, lose it on anyone who dared purchase a DVD on my watch.

Well, I am half asleep as I write this, so I’m heading to bed now.  Sweet dreams guys!

<3 n

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