In Support of the Bookstore

Local and national bookstores are dying out. Taken over by the mass digitalization of books (both as a medium and as a distribution), bookstores are closing one by one (or, as with the case with Borders, by the chain). I own a mere 435 books at present moment. Many of these have been bought through online distributors, mainly Amazon.com. As a student, I simply cannot ignore the cost effectiveness of online purchasing.

Yet, over the past two years, I have also been a frequenter of local bookstores in Denver. More recently, I have perused the local stores with more care and tact. For in these shops, I am not simply a customer of local enterprise, but a consumer of knowledge itself. One loses inspiration when shopping online. The lovely empirical senses are lost in the online medium. For you cannot walk into an online store and smell the uniqueness of thousands of old books. You cannot physically see the book as it meets your eye. You cannot physically touch the book, flip through the book and see notes of previous owners in the book. For a book does not only contain a story in the content, but a story of its own history. For there is no greater joy in book buying than stumbling across a book with relics from its previous owner.

I understand the benefits of online book purchasing. I do it and I will not stop. And I do not expect you to cease this action either. But remember what you lose in online shopping. The pursuit of knowledge is lost in the digital. What I want to suggest, for those of you who still purchase physical books (I am vehemently against E-readers), is for you to take a portion of your book-buying budget to use at a local bookstore. I am not a person of wealth, but I have set aside a specific amount each month to spend at the local bookstore. This not only helps the small business economy (even minutely), but also enriches my experience with the book. For it is in the store that I have personal interaction with the store workers and begin to build a relationship with them. I seek their guidance, their expertise and their recommendations. It is in the bookstore where I do not need to rush to purchase a book, but rather browse with ease to the book that beckons me. Nostalgia can be overrated, but in the bookstore it reminds the patron of simpler times – times where education and knowledge were valued.

May the bookstore live long.

6 thoughts on “In Support of the Bookstore

  1. Andrew Grillage says:

    Nice piece Michael and I agree on all but one point. Being vehemently against e-readers will increasingly be a fight you cannot win and there is no need to struggle with it. I believe there will always be bookstores and I will always visit them and spend money. Having said that, I really enjoy being able to have books with me at all times on my phone too. There are also many other benefits to ebooks. Don’t dismiss it too quickly.

    1. Douglas Groothuis says:

      Like all technologies, e-readers have advantages and disadvantages. They are more mobile than books and less expensive. However, you cannot give a e-book to anyone; you are essentially leasing it. An author cannot sign an e-book, nor can you inscribe one for a gift. E-books also have no independent embodiment: they are parasitic on the e-reader. They have no heft, and so have less history.

  2. michaeldstark says:

    Thanks for your reply, Andrew. I know it is a trend I can avoid for only so long, but I will do my best. There is a lot of information and research being done about how reading off of a screen affects how one physically reads and also one’s memorization. This is a downfall. For further information on this, see Nicholas Carr, “The Shallows.”

  3. Anthony Grimes says:

    I love this, Michael. I agree with you that the beauty of the book is not only the story in the book but the story of the book.

  4. Douglas Groothuis says:

    Mike points out another crucial issue: we read differently when reading from a screen than when reading from a book. The latter encourages more reflection, since it has one message per page; pages appear and disappear on screens. The bookish embodiment encourages more involvement at a deeper level.

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