The Demise of the Book

On March 16th, the Vancouver Sun ran a story with this headline: Book Warehouse to close after 32 years. It almost made me cry. Another independent book store gone – just like Duthie’s which closed after more than 50 years of service.

There are two things that make me sad here:

  1. The demise of the Independent Book Store.

While Amazon and Chapters can offer us amazing deals on practically any book we could possibly want, no one at either of these establishments knows my name. Oh sure, I get emails from Chapters all the time, addressed to me personally with book recommendations made just for me. But these make me laugh every time because when I do buy a book from Chapters, it’s usually a gift, often for a child, so the book recommendations that are designed for me are based on what I bought, not on what I actually  read. On the other end of that email is a calculating computer, not a nice, kind, book-loving human being like Rob at Brown’s Books in Burnaby or David, the Book Man (who’s now got two stores in Chilliwack and Abbotsford!) or Lando at House of James in Abbotsford.  Doesn’t this matter? Shouldn’t this matter? Clearly I am a thrift-lover and a deal-seeker but what happens to us as human beings when it becomes all about the price and we leave relationship behind?

The beautiful interior at The Book Man in Abbotsford.

  1. The demise of the book itself.

You and I both know that the other thing driving the close of independent book stores is the death of the paper book.  I know that I’m going to sound hopelessly old-school here, but there it is: I LOVE BOOKS. Tangible, paper books, with beautiful cover art and a photo of the author on the dust cover. I love the smell of books. I love the look of my bookshelves… row upon row of beautiful spines that beckon to me with stories of love, loss, adventure, laughter, fantasy, teaching, philosophy, encouragement, hope. While I realize that these exact same stories are available on an E-Reader, I’m sorry, but an E-Reader doesn’t smell the same. It doesn’t feel the same. How does one curl up with a screen? And am I ever going to lend my E-Reader to someone? Probably not, but I lend my books out all the time.

books i purchased a while ago, some already read, some still waiting patiently beside my bed

The one thing that E-Readers have over paper books is that E-Readers make travelling easier. But honestly, what did we do before now? We just travelled with books, for Pete’s sake. OR, we found an independent book seller or used book store in the place where we’ve travelled to and  bought another one! I just can’t see myself lying on a beach with a screen.

And don’t give me the green argument. I’m not convinced that E-Readers are greener than paper books.  Many, many books are printed on recycled paper, or paper that is not from old growth forests. A book can be recycled at the end of its shelf life (a life which I’m guessing is decades longer than an E-Reader’s life is going to be.) What will happen to your E-Reader when it dies? And the world wide web – which I use every day, and houses this very blog – is not as green as we’d all like it to be either. What do you think it takes to power the massive computers that make this web exist? In many places, it’s coal and why is that? Because it’s cheap. So we’re back to dollar vs relationship, this time relationship with the earth.

books i purchased this weekend for a wedding present

So there’s my long rant. I look forward to your replies because I’m sure there are others who agree with me passionately and others who disagree with me passionately – let the great debate begin!

 

 

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19 Responses to The Demise of the Book

  1. Chris says:

    Darnell and I were talking about the impact e-readers have on sharing. For me, sharing is a large part of the reading experience…

  2. I love this post, and I agree with you on every level. I love independent bookstores and am always so sad when they go out of business. I love having books on my shelves, I love turning the pages, loaning favorites to friends, the cover art, the spines… Sometimes I feel like such an old-fashioned person (and I’m in my 20’s…) but there is just something different about reading from a real book (same thing goes for newspapers), and there is something different about finding a new book at a bookstore with a great atmosphere where I just want to dig through the shelves for hours. I’m preaching to the choir here, but I just had to do a little book gushing after reading your lovely post! I like the environment argument, too. I had yet to come up with a good response to that, and I totally agree with what you said. Lots of energy goes into the manufacturing of those e-readers, running the internet, and charging the batteries repeatedly that just doesn’t apply to books.

    • i totally agree with you about newspapers too. my favourite thing to do is take my tea and breakfast into bed with me with my newspaper and browse, read, crossword, read some more, discuss with hubby… my fingers get black from news print but it’s such a wonderful tactile experience and that’s what the internet just does not give us.

  3. I’m with you! An e-reader can’t bring me back to childhood and the sensation of turning a crisp page while drinking lemonade on a sunny day. I wrote about this too on my blog at http://womaninreallife.blogspot.ca/2012/03/letter-to-oprah.html

  4. Eileen says:

    I so agree! E-books are here to stay and that’s fine, but I want a choice–and my choice is a Real Book (aka print). One tactic I’ve taken is to contact my favorite authors to thank them for providing their work in print. According to a recent USA Today article, 80% of books are still sold in print form. Long live print!

  5. Let me join the chorus and say that I agree completely. The demise of bookstores makes me so incredibly sad. I’ve discovered so many authors and books just by browsing…and browsing Amazon isn’t at ALL the same. I have a feeling there may be an e-reader backlash someday. I work at a university where the trend is towards using e-texts, yet our [young, hip, tech-savvy] students demand traditional paper options. Gives me hope! 🙂

  6. crystalwheel says:

    I will always buy books, we have thousands – both to keep and sell. There will always be books at our house…
    A good thing about the internet though is that just yesterday I communicated with one of my favorite authors, John Crowley who wrote Little, Big….never would have happened without the technology we have today.
    Best of both worlds, I say.

  7. Terri says:

    When I travel I can see the advantage of an e-reader. So small, so convenient. But I still vote for real books. I love to read and a real book is part of the experience. An e-reader on the beach? in the tub? And I admit I’m the person I’m sure many hate because I have been known to bend back the cover because I’m trying to get in just one more page while I brush my teeth. (sorry)
    Did you hear Vinyl Cafe this past Sun (March 31)? if not down load the podcast. It’s about books & books clubs and the pleasure of reading. (I also love Stewart McLean, but this episode was both great and timely)

  8. I totally agree with you and remember the last book I bought at the warehouse – Mark Bittman. I’ve never commented here before, but I really enjoy your blog. So, I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Blog award. See my post http://reducereuseandrummage.blogspot.ca/2012/04/spreading-liebster-award-love.html
    to see why and what the award is all about.

  9. Ian says:

    Books are special; e-books serve a different purpose = travel is one of the best. your blog isgreat except for one thing – who is the kind person called Rob at Browns Books. Unless it was sold recently the owner is a man called Roger who is one of the rudest people you could ever deal with. The place is an asthmatics nightmare and while he may knowledgable he has the people skills of a gnat.

    • Ian, all i can comment on is my experience at Brown’s. The man who served me was indeed named Rob and he was knowledgable, friendly, and kind. I had no experience of rudeness whatsoever. As for “an asthmatic’s nightmare” i’m thinking that any used bookstore will have that element to it, dusty books will affect anyone with asthma. my experience at Brown’s Books has been super positive every time i’ve been there, i encourage you to give it another try.

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