The bookshops are closing down, the Mom & Pop bookshops can’t compete with the online retailers, Borders closed in Singapore and elsewhere, and everyone is talking eBooks – Kindle, Nook, iPad…. Things are changing slowly, quickly, imperceptibly and my panic is starting to rise. Please don’t take our bookshops away from us?
I love technology. I’ve been involved in the industry since the mid-90s. It’s exciting. We can do things we never dreamed of five years ago, let alone 20 years ago. I’ve rarely resisted technological advancements, with only one exception – I took ages to switch to a digital camera. That was a change I just couldn’t come to terms with, but I got there in the end and I’m glad I did – although digital cameras do not last as long as the old cameras.
But changing to ebooks? That is something I really don’t want to do, although if things keep going the way they are, I may have no choice. I love books. I love the way they feel. I love the way they smell. I love mashing them up, folding the pages and sharing a great read with someone else who loves reading the same stuff. I love writing on the pages, circling the great stuff that touches me deeply so I can remember and savour it. I love reading and I want my boys to love it too.
While many women enjoy a massage or a facial for relaxation, true bliss for me is spending a few uninterrupted hours in a bookshop – going through all of the sections, reading the back covers, and usually walking out with five books to devour. I don’t want to read a book review online. I don’t want to read a book synopsis online. I want to pick up the book, turn it over, read the back cover, read about the author inside the front cover, read the comments of the critics and then decide if this is one for me. Choosing my books is random. A front cover may grab my attention, the title, or the picture. It may be in the Best Reads section, or a book might fall off the shelf as I walk past. How I choose books is part of the experience of being in a book shop.
I also love the people in bookshops. There is every demographic – young, old, male, female, black, white, yellow, red or brown – we’re all there. Some elegant, some shabby, some stressed and some calm. We don’t talk to each other, but our combined love of books is communication enough – it is part of the experience. I am also intrigued by the sorts of people – especially in the Fantasy section. I’ve loved Fantasy for more than 30 years, and I’m always curious about who shares this passion as I watch them peripherally. Sometimes we actually even speak.
I can’t do this online. I can’t find random books to pick up. Sure the technology can recommend things to me based on what I’ve read, but I don’t want to read the same types of books – I want to read every type of book, across every genre and I can’t do this in a virtual world. It also hurts my eyes looking at a computer screen all day – I don’t want to have to do it at night as well, or whenever I get enough “downtime” to read.
If you’re with me, head down to your local bookshop and spend money. Don’t do it online unless you have to. We need to help keep these businesses alive.
I’m worried, I really am. Please don’t take our books away?
Yours, without the bollocks