Sunday, November 14, 2010

Guilt. Guilt!

I share the sad and slightly guilty feelings of many about the disappearance of small bookstores driven out of business by chains and online sales. I mean, it's really too bad, isn't it?

But, as Aunt B describes in this post, in the old days when all we had was small bookstores, a lot of people had no access to bookstores at all. How can you really lament the fact that people living far away from bustling downtowns with thriving and well-stocked bookstores can now go online and order whatever they want?

And yet, how can you not lament the loss of those character-filled independent shops with book loving owners who talk to about the various titles and know their stock backwards and forwards?

If only everyone had access to said shops...but they don't. Of course, that doesn't let me off the hook. Living in a metropolitan area with plenty of access to independent bookstores, I should still feel guilty about buying from Amazon.

I love these lines, which pretty much sum it up: "It’s sad that Davis-Kidd is closing. But the reason why is a pretty spectacular life improvement for a lot of people."



annajcook said...

If you haven't read it already, you might be interested in Laura Miller's Reluctant Capitalists, a sociological study of the latter half of the 20th century and American bookselling (and buying) culture.

My father is a bookseller; I'm in librarianship. I shop at a wide variety of retail venues for books. I have to admit, I don't feel a lot of guilt ordering books online vs. shopping locally if I can find cheap used copies in good condition, or less expensive new editions elsewhere. Someone in my (and, I suspect, your) income bracket doesn't necessarily have the disposable income to pay full-price for a new book. It's sad! But often a reality if I want the book AND have to pay this month's bills.

What I find interesting is the strategies by which independent booksellers have tried to keep themselves afloat post-chain stores and post Internet. The next fifty years will be fascinating to watch from the perspective of economic and cultural history.

Which isn't, of course, to say losing that store you loved isn't sad -- or that the fact that someone who's poured themselves into keeping a small bookstore afloat is now out of a job isn't heartbreaking.

A'Llyn said...

I have not read that book, and it sounds interesting. One for the hold list at the library!

Excellent points.

In a vaguely-related way, I'm also interested in how movie theaters have adapted (little independent theaters closing, big chains opening) and will adapt in the next decades. Are people even going to keep paying lots of money to see movies in the theater, as TVs get bigger and bigger and movies come out on video sooner and sooner?