I was recently listening to a hand wringing airhead fret about the incivility of bookstores. “Since when is it OK to have food in a book store?” She sniffed. My only thought was; “There is indeed a lot of stupid in popular fiction, perhaps I can place the blame on sparkly vampires?”
Then my attention drifted because I’d forgotten book stores still exist. How many are left? Are they located between soda fountains and livery stables? Are they sharing rental space with Blockbusters and the telegraph office?
I miss small private bookstores; they were magic. But they were hunted to extinction sometime during the great cultural revolution during which iDevices with games involving hurled birds supplanted rotary dial phones.
The first to go were the small private bookstore. You know the ones I’m talking about? The little book nooks were owned by earnest hippies, staffed with underemployed (?) English majors, and invariably host to at least one very contented cat.
Faceless corporate monstrosities beat them like a rented mule. Yes, yes, I know. Someone will point out that there’s a bookstore on the corner of Fifth and Main in the village of Riblet Notch located in Corn County, Iowa. Thus proving that small bookstores are no more extinct than the Coelacanth. Since it’s been decades since I’ve seen a good bookstore (or a Coelacanth) I’m sticking with the theory that both are exceptionally rare.
I hated to see little stores go but competition is what it is. Sometimes your favorite team loses big. The chains were devoid of magic but at least they were stocked with books.
Then, oh let’s say fifteen years ago… bookstores devolved into Starbucks with a few books arrayed for scenery. (The books were often outnumbered by archaic circular devices called CDs. These are found only in museums and my garage stereo. By the way; in this brave new world of leased music* are there still “record stores”? Am I dating myself just by asking?) In the chain stores I sought literature but got tired of fending off $4 lattes and limited titles which seemed unusually interested in calendars of kittens and sparkly vampires. Also there was the disturbing matter of a strange national obsession with feeding chicken soup to ones’ soul. WTF?
They self-immolated with the most tragically inept management humanly possible. I’d piss on their grave but the market did it for me.
Then came the last… oh I’ll guess decade… when my favorite bookstore has been a package delivered from the Internet. The selection was excellent and prices were fair. The only drawback was shipping. We all knew the time would come when on-demand books ironed out the last speedbump.
Finally this Christmas the modern world arrived at our archaic house. I’d held back as long as I could but the time had come. We crossed the Rubicon. I allowed a Kindle into the house.
There is no going back. Kindles are crack.
Our household is ripe for Kindle invasion because we’re aggressively dangerously unforgivably literate. All through the house, words are disassembled, deconstructed, folded, spindled, mutilated, adored, trashed, preserved, deleted, savored, swigged, passed around like a joint in Phish concert, consumed like beer at a kegger, and inhaled in a way Bill Clinton denied. Scrabble is a contact sport. We alliterate even when the drapes aren’t drawn. Similes and metaphors are bounced off walls like free radicals in Ron Paul’s brain. Words are mixed in good ways and bad and (in my case) foreign ones are mispronounced with wild abandon. All words are welcome in our house. (I’m the only one who swears but I don’t fucking care if you disapprove.) Further, as you’ve no doubt noticed from reading my blog, I’m willing to walk around in public without using spell check.
E-books haven’t eliminated printed material but they’re trying. As for brick and mortar book stores; e-books have drawn and quartered them and salted the earth where they grew. Driving to a store and buying a book in the age of the Kindle seems as stupid as putting on shoes and walking to New Jersey in the age of the automobile.
We would have been the core customer of a mom and pop bookstore. We would have been the cow milked by a bookstore chain. But the world has shifted. Now that a Kindle has bored into the household, our bookstore is henceforth bandwidth.
A Kindle is said to hold 4,000 books (and that’s to say nothing of the hard drives roaming around the living room). I’ll damn well fill the sucker and buy another when I do. I’m enamored with the magic of having every book all the time.
I’m always reading a Kindle. Except, that is, when some other member of the household has it. In which case I’ll seek the backup axillary Kindle. Which usually leads to everyone in the house (save the one parked in front of the fire with the main Kindle and the cat) racing to claim it. There have been no fisticuffs… yet. A limited resource in literature is anathema to a household that expects the Library of Congress in its hands at all times.
Sometimes I wind up sans Kindle while everyone else reads. I know it’s only a matter of time before we’ve got Kindles stacked like paperbacks in every room of the house. (And yes, there are still books in every room in the house. Usually in neat stacks unless the cat has knocked them over. Cats, because they are evil, don’t like books. Books, because they are heavy, are suitable for throwing at cats.)
Kindles (and other variants of the idea) are the new Gutenberg press. It’s a good time to be alive.
* Some folks will disagree with me calling iTunes ditties “leased”. YMMV. I’ve been begging for over a decade to get a couple Johnny Cash tunes off my wife’s iPod so I can play it in my truck and I’m slowly realizing that I’ll die before it happens. A transaction that would take six seconds with a CD has dragged on through three presidents with an iPod. Steve Jobs has Johnny Cash in a damn stranglehold! Now that I think of it, he’s got Ted Nugent in one too. The madman of motorcity is locked in a database! Anyone know how to jailbreak my wife’s entire iPod onto something cheap that will never ever send a dime to Apple?
** You may note that I loathe iDevices yet refer to Kindles like they’re pets. Rest assured that I have no brand loyalty. Any e-book reader (such as my bargain basement Linux laptop) is as good as a Kindle to me. I also make darned sure I can move e-books around. There will be no Folsom Prison for literature!