"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." – Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"
One of my favorite pastimes is meandering through bookstores. Partly for the obvious reasons and partly for less obvious ones. And I'm not a snob about it. I like both the big chain stores and the small independents. Each has strengths and weaknesses. The independents often carry a more eclectic stock or are sometimes even dedicated to a single genre, such as mysteries. Their staffs are usually more knowledgeable and well read. The big box stores have more variety and selection.
But either way, I look at going to bookstores as a social experience. Even if I say no more than "Hello" and "Thank you" to the clerk checking me out, I have a social experience with hundreds of authors and books.
On the social level I have met women I've dated at bookstores and seen authors I like do signings and readings. Check out a James Ellroy event some time if you want to see insanity in motion. And I've done signings and speaking gigs at bookstores myself.
I like bookstores that stay open late. That I can run to when an urge for something in particular strikes at an odd hour – and I keep plenty odd hours. Sometimes it wasn't a traditional bookstore but some other type of store that also sold books. But it was a place to go. A destination. Before moving out of the city proper (Los Angeles) to a more rural area, I would often hop in the car at all hours to go find a book to satisfy my addiction.
But that's getting harder and harder to do, even in the city. And yes, I also patronize Amazon, but I still patronize brick and mortar bookstores. And there is nothing like browsing through one, discovering new books and authors. Whenever I see a bookstore, I want to go in. Whenever I go in, I buy at least one or two things, hoping to help keep the stores afloat.
A few weeks ago I went to a Borders that's relatively near me. When I got there I found that they were soon to close. The stock had been decimated. But I still spent an hour walking through there and came out with a couple of books. Still, it was a very depressing experience.
I didn't know then that Borders would soon be closing all of its stores. But that news hit the airwaves recently. And I found it singularly depressing.
Maybe the art of the reading won't die. Maybe people will continue to read on various electronic devices, though I have my doubts about that too, at least in terms of what they're reading and the state of the language. Compare today's internet shorthand to how Shakespeare wrote (for example: CAS [crack a smile] vs. "If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow me"). I couldn't find a good analogy for LOL, can you? But even if people continue to read books in e-form there will be something lost. The social experience that I speak of above. The joy of walking through a bookstore, seeing books you might not have heard about, picking them up, discovering new authors, new stories, new worlds. Feeling a new book in your hands. Opening it for the first time. Being in a place where there are like-minded people – people who like books. Who maybe want to be transported to other worlds, other times, other places, whether real or fictional. Who want to learn and laugh. Who also enjoy the experience of being in a candy store of reading.
I will miss Borders as I miss all of the independent stores that are no longer here. I will miss yet another place to go in and browse and while away the time.