Today I was at Barnes and Noble, contemplating the demise of Borders and the state of the publishing world today. I felt conflicted. Let me give some context for this. As an English-y person, I have kind of become a bookstore connoisseur. I go to all bookstores and libraries- independent, corporate, independent-used, and coffee shop bookstores. I have even been to a bookstore with a bar. I have never been incredibly discriminating about my bookstores, at least not the ones I will go into and purchase a book from. If there are books there, usually I will buy them.
However, since I have moved to Seattle, a place where local business thrives more than anywhere else I have ever lived, I have been going to a ton of great local bookstores. For example, yesterday afternoon I was in a charming bookstore in my neighborhood, one I was seeking out even on short visits before I moved. So yeah, it’s that amazing.
Anyways, at said charming independent bookstore yesterday, I had the best customer service I have ever experienced in a bookstore. I as having a casual conversation with an employee there who was really friendly. He was stocking books and we began discussing what I like to call “Bus Books.” I ride the bus to work every day, and so far I have finished 3 books on the bus. I don’t read them anywhere else- they are just for my commute. They have to be both light, and intriguing enough to grab me at 6:50am when I may have slept 5 hours the night before.
He knew exactly the book he thought I should read. One by Thomas Hardy- Far From the Madding Crowd. Apparently there is also a very amazingly cheesy looking movie. I have not read much Hardy, but from what he described from the story, it seems perfect for both me and the bus. Has anyone else read this one or seen the movie?
At the corporate bookstore today, I just wasn’t feeling it. Everything felt so sterile, despite all of the books on the shelves. All the books were shiny and new, many were hardcover, and almost all of the employees were wearing suits (it was in a fancy pants shopping center downtown). Compared to the bookstore from the day before, I felt isolated and uninspired to buy.
I have not been buying most of my books at full price this whole summer, but more for cost-cutting and a sort of pseudo rebellion against capitalism. However, I feel guilty about it. About only buying books from my favorite, local, bookstores. Conflicted, as stated earlier. Why?
If we don’t support the bookstores that buy their books directly from the publishers, they may stop being able to make books altogether. I do not enjoy reading from a nook, thank you very much. I want that book smell, that physical relationship with the book where you eventually break the spine from reading it so much. So, in order to keep book production going, and be able to go to my favorite local used bookstore, I may need to buy an occasional book from Barnes and Noble. Because if Borders is any indication, the market for paper copy books is diminishing and may continue to decline as online and paperless media rises. So when I finish my current bus book, I may go to a B&N before hitting up my local place for another one.
What do you guys think? Do the pros of local bookstores outweigh the possible cons?