Yesterday, a CEO of a mall holding company spouted off about Amazon opening up brick and mortar stores. Like, three to four hundred of them. Naturally, the internet exploded, and then exploded again when Amazon declined to deny the comment. This morning, someone saw a squirrel and everyone has moved on, but there is still some speculation about what is going to happen if Amazon decides to massively enter the retail store market.
Well, from where we’re sitting, probably not much will change. And why is that? Because a successful independent bookstore is more than just a bunch of shelves and a cash register. Sure, deep discounts are always a treat, and watching drones take off from the parking lot will be fun for awhile, but what makes a bookstore more than a “store” is the people who work in it and the people who come visit. A bookstore is a community center.
Which is part of the reason we have comfy chairs scattered throughout the store.
Shakespeare and Company, which purports to be at the very heart of Paris, has a tiny bed tucked away in one of the book-lined rooms upstairs. It’s where any number of authors have spent the night over the years during their early years of being itinerant artists. Third Place Books, which has several locations in the Seattle area, proclaims their advocacy of this idea in their very name. Bookstores are more than portals to imaginary worlds and libraries of ancient history. They are warm-blooded grandmamas who always hug you tight, no matter how craptastic your day has been. They are nimble-fingered grandpapas who will show you how to make kites, model rockets, and fishing lures.
And anytime someone says, “Well, 94% of people who read this book rated it four stars or more,” you’re not in a bookstore. You’re at a kiosk, interfacing with a complex computer algorithm that has no idea who you are or how your day has been going.
Books are for sharing. It happens when the author first puts the words on the page, and when a bookseller accidentally nudges a certain book your way, and when your closest friend runs up to your front door at a totally inappropriate time on Sunday morning, waving a book and shouting “You have to read this NOW!”
When was the last time someone shoved their ereader through your mail slot with a sticky note that you should read the book they just finished?
We’ve wandered into February now, which means most of us have moved past the initial shock of the new year, and we’re starting to settle into the routines we’ve decided to adopt for 2016. For some of you, that means you’ve got yourself a book club. We know this because we’re starting to have multiple requests for titles that have been out for awhile.
We like that folks get together and chat about a specific book while having lunch or tea or drinking moonshine strained through old socks. Some clubs even threaten to come down to the bookstore as a group after they’ve had their sit and talk. We especially like it when spouses are sent in with lists and the express instruction of “don’t come back without all of the books on this list.”
And because we’re delighted about all of this community around books, we’d like to help even more. We see more titles every month than we have space for on the shelves, and regularly someone on the staff opines that a certain book would be great for a book club. We’re working on a book club event for later this year, but in the meantime, please let us know if you have a book club or if you’d like to be in one. Let’s start a conversation about sharing our mutual love for books.
Continuing our minimalist 'One Book One Week' theme, we offer you the cover to Paul Goldberg's new novel, The Yid. You'll just have to come in and find out what it's all about.