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Monday, July 18, 2011

On the Borders

Now what?


I walked out of my local indie bookstore tonight, The Tattered Cover, after learning that a book a wanted was long out of print, and thought, I'll check Amazon.

Amazon. It is a great resource for occasions like mine. And, I confess, I'll order a bucket of used books from time to time when I simply cannot afford the list price, or, more likely, when the books I want are indeed old and out of print. And of course, it is convenient. It's a great place for folks who live nowhere near a bookstore.

And it sure beats the heck out of counting on Costco to tell us what is worth reading.

But that's the point, the problem, as stores with actual books with actual covers and jackets and pages with words close. One doomsayer claimed today, "The bricks and mortar bookstore is dead."

Over my tattered body.

This is what I can do at The Tattered Cover -- our Indie bookstore -- that I cannot do at Amazon.

1. Chat with the friendly staff about everything from books to sunsets.

2. Ask for advice about which translation of Chekhov is most authentic.

3. Watch little kids play with pop-up books and make their own choices.

4. Drink cappuccino.

5. Sit in an overstuffed chair and read from seven different books that I'm considering purchasing. There are no missing pages, and holding the book in my hand makes me feel connected in an odd way to the author.

6.My daughter and I browsed together for a bit and picked up books that intrigued us and discussed recommendations we'd heard. We would not be browsing on Amazon together.

7. I discovered a used copy of one of my favorites for $3 and no shipping fee.

8. I picked up and considered books I'd never heard of and would not likely be directed toward even though I have an extensive Amazon "like this" list. I bought one. The store itself is educational -- pointing out ideas via book titles and the books themselves.

9. I ran into a friend.

10. We walked out to another spectacular view of the mountains and a gorgeous sunset.

When I order a book they don't have in stock, it arrives within a few days, often the next day, and I don't pay a cent for shipping.

When I'm not sure what I'm in the mood for, I wander around actual floors filled with shelves holding actual books and I pick them up and read the jacket covers or the backs, and I have an entire array of books in front of me to consider.

The store does the work for me when I am in a fog.

It sells used books for practically nothing.

It gives me a wonderful place to sit and write with friends. And to talk with other writers about our work. And to sit in comfy overstuffed chairs and peruse magazines, books, and eat scones.

There are lots of good features about online bookselling. It is here to stay. And there are lots of good features about e-books. They're not going away either -- not until the next generation replaces them.

But,like movie theatres when VCR's and DVD's came out and we all shouted doom to the places with popcorn and Twizzlers and JuJuBee's, life wil change. Our options will increase. And, I bet you a pile of books, of whichever variety you wish, 'real' bookstores will not go away for good.

Amazon has not ever, not once, given me a comfy chair in which to sit and drink a cappuccino and chat with Christie.

And heaven forfend the day that the only books we have to buy are those Walmart has decided we'd like to read. Can you even imagine?

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