the problem with bookstores these days


Books, like newspapers, are how I enjoy reading.

I don’t own an e-reader. I am clueless when it comes to apps and iPads. Yes, I know how to read words from a screen. I do it all day long at work and home.

So, going digital in my reading would not necessarily be difficult.

It’s just. I crave the tangible. The sensory experience of book reading. Visually captivating, curiosity piquing book covers stamped with well-known and first-discovery authors. The smell of the paper, manufactured and sweet, as you turn it page-by-page. The feel of the pages – smooth and silky. The crinkles and whooses of the paper as you delve into the plot and cheer on the protagonist. The weight of the book as it rests on your lap, the way it wants to snap shut before your very eyes, as your arms and hands strive to keep the story open.

Going digital would definitely be difficult for this reader.

Because I love collecting and accomplishing story after story. Learning and loving characters and places I can only dream of visiting. Voices of authors flitting about in my head, bringing a smile to my face whenever I recollect on their genius lines and thought-provoking words.

So, because I will never go 100% digital when it comes to my reading, I adore bookstores.

Wait. That was a premature statement. Because I don’t adore the bookstores that actually exist.

And herein lies my problem with the modern bookstore.

It’s not a bookstore.

When books are crammed and jammed onto shelves, stifled behind novelty toys, CD’s and DVD’s, it is not a bookstore.

When coffee shops and cafes are the main attraction, it is not a bookstore.

When a worker does not greet or welcome, it is not a bookstore.

When teen science fiction and fantasy overrun every single area of the store, with the exact same cover art and titles, it is not a bookstore.

When diet books, cook books, and healthy living titles pop up on every shelf, it is not a bookstore.

And that’s the problem with bookstores these days.

They aren’t accessible. They are not a book-lovers paradise. They are a cheap, quick-stop-mega-store for everything remotely book-related cop-out of a bookstore. A mere imitation of what a true bookstore should look like.

As true as the sky is blue bookstore like The Shop Around the Corner (You’ve Got Mail 1998). Thirteen years ago, that movie hit theaters. I watched, wearing my jean-overalls and Doc Marten-type oxfords, as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks brilliantly played out Nora Ephron’s adaptation of the old-time movie, The Shop Around the Corner. And Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, resonated with a part of my 12-year-old book-wormish-self. And it stuck.

Counted as my top-favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail opened my eyes to the wonder of small-town bookstores. Of local mom-and-pop shops that seek to deliver products of such high-quality, no one can compete with them.

Except for, like in the movie, the mega-bookstore. The store to eat all other stores out of house and home.

Today’s modern bookstore.

With the way the world is today, an even tougher book market (in every facet of the book business), will the tiny-hole-in-the-wall bookstores ever make a comeback? Will we ever be able to experience the beauty of tranquility as we search through neatly organized bookshelves in aesthetically pleasing stores owned and operated by people just as passionate about books as the patrons who browse them?

When will we realize that our need-to-have-it-now society is killing bookstores the way bookstores were meant to be?

Will there ever be a bookstore story that ends on a happy note?

Meg Ryan’s idyllic, feel-good-down-to-your-toes children’s bookstore movie-set was just that. A movie set. A figment of Nora Ephron’s imagination brought to life by Hollywood. Is that what it takes to get a book-lover’s bookstore? A movie script and Hollywood?

I fear it is.

Because bookstores today are not actually bookstores. And that’s a problem. The main problem with bookstores these days.

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