With the closure of both local bookstores (like Nashville's beloved Davis-Kidd) and big chain book retailers (like Borders), it's getting harder and harder to get your hands on a good (printed) book. As of May this year, Amazon.com's sales of e-books surpassed those of hardcover or paperback versions.
But a world without books? I don't want to imagine it. It's almost as dreadful as the Twilight Zone episode of the bookworm who gets his wish to be alone with his books and then finds that his glasses are broken. How tragic! And how tragic a world where books do not exist. But it seems that we're headed ever closer in that direction. I know, I know: We have e-books. And, yes, they're still books — just in a different format. But, somehow, it's not the same.
I've been contemplating the purchase of an e-reader. It's something I'm ambivalent about. While I would welcome the ease and convenience of reading Web articles, blog posts and other digital media on a screen that is neither too bulky (laptop) nor too small (iPod Touch), I just can't seem to make the jump. I look at the row of books on my bedside table and feel like a traitor to a treasured thing that I have come to revere. From early childhood, books have been like my friends. How can I betray them by replacing them with bits and bytes?
Recently I found myself once again struggling with the unsettling notion of a bookless world when I viewed an ad for a trendy new product: a decorative iPod/iPhone dock made from a "recycled" book. It's the latest cool accessory for your nightstand. Something about "recycling" a book by gutting it just seems sacrilegious to me. Maybe I sound old school. But I don't care. I am not a Luddite. I have Klout. I blog. I tweet. I Facebook. I surf. And ... I am also an unabashed lover and reader of real books. I prefer the feel of a cold, hard spine in my hands, along with the familiar smell of paper and ink. Aaahhh ... there's just nothing like it.
Perhaps I have no room to complain about the current state of the printed word. In recent years, more and more of my book purchases — albeit printed versions — have been through Amazon.com, not from a brick-and-mortar store. It just seemed easier. And now my own lazy behavior is helping to hasten the demise of printed books and bookstores.
But there is good news for Nashville book lovers: Author Ann Patchett is opening an independent bookstore in the Green Hills area of our fair city. Set to open in early November, Parnassus Books is named for Mount Parnassus, known in Greek mythology as the seat of literature, learning and music. A worthy title, I think.
And now it's up to me — us, book lovers all — to get out and support our local bookstores. I'm not suggesting that e-books are evil and will bring on the downfall of civilization. And I won't promise to never buy an e-reader or purchase an e-book. But if I do make that leap, it will not be the primary way that I consume the written word. At least, not as long as I have a choice. For now, I guess, the choice is up to me.
Support your local bookseller!
3900 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37215
Parnassus Books on Facebook
1713 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
2115 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN 37203
What do you think about the loss of local bookstores and our society's increasing reliance on digital books? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas. While you are required to give a name in order to leave a comment, you may leave your first name only or a moniker of your choosing . To leave a response, click Comment(s) and enter information in the Leave A Reply form.
UPDATE: I finally purchased a Kindle in April of 2012, but I haven't used it that much. I still prefer a "real" book; reading on a screen just isn't the same. I'm sure I will use the Kindle occasionally, but I can't see it ever replacing books in my life. At least I hope it doesn't. And I hope I will continue to have the choice between paper and plastic for a long time to come.