Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Digital Books Killed My Local Bookstore

A sight almost lost
Maybe it is anachronistic in this digital world to believe that there remains a place for brick and mortar bookstores, that there remains a tactile benefit to holding a book in your hands, smelling the freshness, the promise the unopened, unread pages seem to spread from fingertip to brain to heart. Maybe the world is outpacing my tolerance because for me there is a benefit, a thrill I feel in being surrounded with words, little realities distinctly their own.

Being in a bookstore is like finding yourself a god in flesh-form with the power to peek into one thousand thousand worlds just by extending a hand and grabbing hold.

My local bookstore is closing.

I’m old enough to remember the grocery store in town, the one with the sloped wooden floors, that hand tallied the groceries. Now you can get an app on your phone that scans your products while on the shelf and if it takes more than five minutes to get your groceries scanned and bagged then the cashier must be an idiot.

Progress.

I hear folks saying, “It’s more convenient now, we have more time.” Only really, though we have more time, what do we actually do with the extra hours?  Yeah, it’s easier to go online and instantly get a book I want to read and nobody really likes long lines at the grocery store but what the hell.  What has convenience and progress gained us?

I still only know one language, I haven’t written a tenth of what I currently have kicking around in my head, I don’t see my mother enough, my garage remains a wreck and you know what else? I haven’t even bothered to cure cancer, either. And neither has anyone else. We have, as a society, managed to find a way to bitch more effectively, to produce more crap and voluntarily embrace  a progress that only manages to isolate us more each day.

There were some nice older ladies who worked at the bookstore who won’t have jobs and though I don’t know their names save one, that means there are four or five more folks I won’t see anymore just so I can push a button in my house in the name of convenience. And that, folks, just sucks.

This digital world pushed one more bookstore onto the refuse heap and there are many who would applaud that and say that we are following a logical, necessary and desirable path forward.

I say bugger you.

I say that even while acknowledging my own hypocrisy because here I am, just another digitized dick bitching.

11 comments:

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

There is nothing sadder than seeing a bookshop close down.

And I quite agree with your statement: 'We have, as a society, managed to find a way to bitch more effectively, to produce more crap and voluntarily embrace a progress that only manages to isolate us more each day'.

Well said.

MT Nickerson said...

Feeling my mortality today, Wendy, as life seems to become less tangible and at the same time, more contentious.

Super bummer.

Rory Green said...

Thanks for this post because you speak for so many of us who are standing by, aghast, attempting to raise children and make sense of this world. A world where we can no longer shepherd ourselves or our kids into a shop and stand by as we introduce them to kingdoms of promise and possibility and truth and imagination. Let alone, real people who can tell them of the tales they have read and loved. I needed to read what you have written today. I am doing the same as you.... feeling like a hypocrite, and yet without this forum, our words and worlds might never have collided. Everything you say rings true for me. Do we await a revolution?!

MT Nickerson said...

Rory-

Your words were brilliant and though, for a moment, I was inspired to in fact jump from my couch, pen in one hand and a massive collected works of Shakespeare in the other, a revolution requires more than our two voices.

When I have children, I know that they will have a life that is more amazing than mine in terms of technology but I can't help but think that something essential will be missing for them, something I can tell them about, but they will never experience first hand.

Thank you for your comment. It's nice to know that there are still a few like minded folks out in the world who still value the non-digital world.

Karen Watts said...

You should be ashamed of yourself not curing cancer. All that free time you've created for your self.

Enjoyed yoru blog, very true and think of our poor kids. They'll never have to leave the house for a single thing.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Sad.

MT Nickerson said...

Karen-

Since, according to my wife, I can barely dress myself or function in proper society, I guess curing cancer would be a stretch. And it's true, one day our kids won't ever have to leave the house.

It is truly sad.

Robin K. Blum said...

Great post. I have seen so many indie bookstores decimated in the twelve years that I've had my small sidelines business In My Book. But I refuse to give up and I beg you too to keep repeating the gospel about physical bookstores.

We need them, we love them, we want to bring the next generation to visit and enjoy their bounty. There will always be bookstores, though now there may be fewer; we must keep reminding people to patronize them, to buy their books in their communities, and not from the behemoth law-breaking Amazon.com, who recently proclaimed that THEY own the book reviews that you write and place on their website. Grrr!

Keep the faith MT!

Jennifer Lane said...

Very sad about your local bookstore closing. I'll mourn with you. The swift technology developments affect us in ways unknown. I wonder what we'll be saying 50 years from now about this era.

MT Nickerson said...

Robin- I agree that Amazon and their rapid influence is troubling as there seems to be no limits on what they can and can't do. Unfortunately, what are the viable alternatives?

MT Nickerson said...

Jennifer- You make a great point. It's hard to imagine what the book landscape will be, even five years from now and how writers will fit into that landscape.