Bookstores and My Soul

There’s a battle going on for my soul, and I struggle with it. On the one hand, I have a lifelong love of books and of reading. And bookstores? Oh my word. The wonderful smell, ambiance, contents of my neighborhood bookstore. Doesn’t this bookstore in the Loire Valley sum up everything wonderful about the eclectic nature of bookstores?

But I’m no snob. In its day, I loved Borders and Crown Books as much as the corner bookstore. And the airport bookstore saved me from hours of flight boredom so many times.

So now my confession. I was one of the first users to try electronic books, when the first readers came out 10 years ago. And I thought they were marvelous for two big reasons:

  1. No clutter in my house. This was huge for me, because we bought so many books that I had to fight the good fight to keep from qualifying for Hoarders with all of our piles and stacks of books.
  2. No bricks in my briefcase. My jobs always required significant travel, which meant lots of down time, which meant lots of reading, which meant taking lots of books, which translated into tight muscles and backaches.

Those early readers were clunky, with very limited libraries to draw upon. Conflicting formats became another problem. Frustrated, I gave up on my e-reader. Until the Kindle came out. And my life changed. And yes, when the iPad came out, I kind of fell in love with reading books on that wonderful backlit device.

Do you see my problem? E-readers solve my clutter and bricks problems. With wifi and Amazon’s very cool 3G downloads, I was never far from satisfying my reading jones.  I spend more for books now than I ever did before. I share them with our daughter and my husband. We all benefit.

But. I’m disloyal to bookstores now, and that troubles me. Worse, I don’t know how bookstores can survive. I see them going the same way music stores did once the iPod came on the scene. Oh, I try to patronize my neighborhood store, with books for my grandchildren, travel journals, wine diaries, etc. But they can’t survive on that kind of business, and I know it.

Books and my conscience. I want to support writers. I want to feed my habit. I want to be kind to my back and keep my house neat and tidy. But bookstores? I’m so, so sorry, but I don’t see a bright future. Which makes me very sad.

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