So, this is going to be a rare post for me. I say it’s rare because this is going to sound like a paid commercial endorsement. It’s not. Rather, it’s simply an explanation of why I buy the books I read where I buy them. This explanation will, I hope, encourage others to do the same.
Is there anything better than going to a bookstore early on a Saturday morning, before many others are out of bed. You enter the store and are immediately hit by the smell of books. Glorious books. You know the smell I’m talking about–just open a new book and take a whiff. It’s better than the memory of how Grandma’s house used to smell (it smelled like mothballs, especially in the upstairs hall closet). It’s almost better than the smell of my wife making chocolate chip cookies, or that new-car smell. The smell of books that promises to take your imagination on a journey.
The first thing you do, of course, is stop at the cafe’ and order a large coffee. The aroma of fresh coffee is a perfect compliment to the books. Then, look at the New Releases section. Although I write fiction, I also like non-fiction (especially history, the Civil War, the Presidents), so I look at everything. Go over to the section dedicated to the genre you’re most interested in after that (for me, it’s Mystery–I write mysteries). I also stop by the section on writing. My wife says I need to stop reading about writing and just write more, but I’m sure accountants read the latest on accounting–they don’t just account all day.
Then, find a chair and take your book selections and coffee and peruse. It usually takes me about forty-five minutes to look at all the book sections I want to look at, then another hour to just sit there, drink my coffee, and skim through my book selections. By then, our two-year-old son is awake and had his breakfast, and my wife is calling asking when I’ll be home. I take my books to the register, make my purchase, and go home. The perfect start to the weekend.
I share my Saturday morning ritual, in so much detail, because I think it’s important to note that you can’t get this experience from online retailers. An eReader won’t give you the same satisfaction. Now, I do buy ebooks, because I think they’re easier to read sometimes when I’m out somewhere and don’t want to hold up a book and turn the pages (for example, if I’m out eating lunch alone), but ebooks are not the only means of reading in the 21st Century. Often times, it’s still better to hold that book and turn the pages. There's a satisfaction of physically turning those pages, and seeing how much you've read, and how much you still have left.
In the last several years, many independent bookstores, and even national chains, have gone out of business, driven out by online retailers who may be able to sell for cheaper, and have the added convenience of shopping without ever leaving home. It’s hard to get the full book shopping experience on a computer screen, though.
There are three independent bookstores near my house. They all have big, cushy chairs. They all have coffee (one of them even has a full kitchen for lunch). And, most importantly, they all have people working there that love books. They can tell you about books you’ve never heard of, but you’ll love, just by asking about what kinds of books you like.
There are only a couple of national bookstore chains left. They’re good, and I think, even with their financial issues, they’ll be around a while. The independents have a much harder time staying open, and they’re the best. So, buy your ebooks if you must (including my latest short story, on sale at the major ebook sellers now), but don’t forget about real books. And, don’t forget about the independents, the ones that are run by people just getting buy, driven only for their love of books.
And, don’t forget the coffee.