Monday, September 26, 2011

A Bookstore Made Me Sad

I was waiting to get my Volkswagen fixed, for the thousandth time, and wandered into a used bookstore on Melrose ave that I had never noticed before. Of course I did this after going into Golden Apple to check out the comics.

I walked in and a welcoming, musty smell greeted me. The kind only old bookstores have. Two old dudes ran the place, and it was piled from floor to ceiling with used books. And they were also all over the floors and aisles. As I walked in and looked at the piled and piles of books towering over me, I got a bit nervous since we live in earthquake country. I did not want to get beaten to death by literature. That would be a very awkward obituary. “Writer killed by falling words”. But I boldly walked down the aisle and asked where the Science Fiction and Children’s sections were. Something for me, and something for the kids. My wife already had books she was backed up on and didn’t need any more.

I went to the Science Fiction section and found a Ray Bradbury book, short stories about dragons, and an old Marvel Comics Conan graphic novel. I also saw books I had read in high school that I didn’t really need to purchase again. But they were all nostalgic finds. I felt like a kid again. That’s when I became a bit melancholy. Bookstores are disappearing, and small used bookstores and becoming even rarer. I remember spending hours in them as a kid, finding old tomes like a treasure hunter and being elated when I found something really cool.

There are generations now who may never know that thrill. Less books are being published every year and while the internet has made browsing and self publishing accessible, it’s just not the same as going into a dusty bookstore looking for buried treasure. I loved going into the used book store vaults and taking the time and reading the back covers, looking at the artwork, and shuffling through science fiction books that are in no way alphabetized. I was always rewarded.

The truth is, books (and bookstores) were never meant to compete with a constant barrage of faster media from video screens. You have them everywhere. From multiple screens in your house to your phone where you can demand any type of entertainment you want. Why would you want to wander around a dusty bookstore where your purchases could possibly fall on your head? A Kindle is safer. (sigh)

I’m not saying books and reading are dead. If that were the case then the world would truly be ending. I’m saying the way we used to take the time and discover new worlds through books by physically going into a store and browsing may be on the way out. The library may soon be the last place you can do that.

So if you see a used bookstore, go in it. You never know what you may find. These days, it’s the closest thing we have to a time machine. And those old books sitting on the shelves look lonely. They want to be read. Give them a chance.

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