Recently my friend Cammy and I made our annual trip to the local Main Street Holiday Celebration. My friend and I strolled the street, shopped and enjoyed the discounts, the atmosphere and a fantastic cup of hot chocolate! Our last stop was a quick trek into our local, independently owned, bookstore. As we passed through the door I averted my eyes and generally tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I felt like a lapsed Catholic walking into a church. Please don’t let lightening strike me down.
My name is Lee and I am an e-book reader, exclusively and I feel REALLY guilty. I believe in the power of the small business I’ve owned several small businesses myself I understand the need, the drive, the desire to make your own way through this world. Books are so wonderful, I truly can’t imagine a better product to bring to the marketplace.
As a kid I remember Paperback Booksmith, the bookstore at our local mall or as I knew it Nirvana. I could get lost in the young adult section in the back left corner for hours. The walls were lined floor-to-ceiling with dark wood shelving and the wood floors creaked when you walked on them. The cashier looked down upon customers from on high and was The Oracle of Knowledge with regards to what was available and what was out-of-print.
College and graduate school took a major toll on my pleasure reading. After grad school when I was working and had the time to read, the mega-bookstore had emerged. I was lured by the giant selection never mind that I had no interest in a 400 page retrospective of the hub cap (does anyone really?). There were books lots of books oh my! Then came marriage and motherhood and that huge time suck that is parenting. By the time I came out of the haze of diaper changes and sleep deprivation Amazon.com had firmly entrenched itself in the public psyche and the psyche of one very tired overwhelmed mother who relished the idea of good books inexpensively delivered right to her door.
Before I knew it, I’d fallen in with the herd mentality and independent books stores were paying the price with their balance sheets. Still, I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted to. It was too much work and much of what I wanted to read was not available in large print. Then came the Kindle. That was probably the final nail in the coffin of the independent bookseller for me. The Kindle rocks my world. I’m visually impaired and small print has always been a problem. The Kindle changed all that. Within the 1st year of receiving my first Kindle read more books than the previous 5 years combined. I could read. I could read a lot without eye strain, and it was good.
Oh, but the guilt! As traditional publishing has floundered and Amazon has assimilated itself in almost every nook and cranny of our collective retail consciousness, the independent bookseller has struggled. I buy local when and where I can but I can’t extend that thinking to my bookshelves. With very few exceptions if it’s not available on the Kindle I don’t read it. This is especially true now that I’m in my mid-forties and short arm syndrome has set in (a rant for another post). I need the flexibility of being able to enlarge the font and the reduce eye strain.
To independent bookstore owners everywhere, I’m sorry, really, I am.