Monday, September 12

The book is dead. Long live the book!

Bookstores are closing.

Even though I knew this was coming it's sad. I love paper books.

When I was a child, I spent most of my spare time at the library. There was an atmosphere there, a love of learning. I wanted to take all the books home with me. I wanted to create my own library. The books weren't just books, they were ... please don't laugh! ... my friends.

When I was a bit older, and able to peer over the counter, I discovered bookstores. They became my new love. My library, wonderful as it was, didn't believe in interlibrary loans. At the bookstore they had a boggling number of books and, if they didn't have it, they could order it. I was in love.

Yesterday, I read Joe Konrath's blog post: Over. I'm a big fan of Joe's writing. I think his books are great, but my favorite are his blog posts. Pick any one at random, give a read, and you'll see what I mean. Before I read Joe's post I knew that bookstores were going to close; with the growth of ebooks it was inevitable. After I read Joe's post, and the comments folks shared, I had an overwhelming sense of loss. It wasn't going to happen one day. It was happening now.

An image popped into my mind: popcorn. I'm old school, I still make my own popcorn over the stove with a big old pot and lots of canola oil. After the oil is brought up to temperature and the popcorn kernels are dumped into the pot one or two or three kernels will pop, but those are outliers, heralds of what is to come. Suddenly, just as I'm wondering if nothing is going to happen, a wave of popping begins. Then, just as suddenly, everything is quiet. The kernels have all popped, except for a few burnt, incredibly thick-skinned ones.

In terms of bookstores closing, we're at the start of the wave. And then, just like that, they'll be gone.

The good news is that books are healthier than ever. Sure, electronic books don't have that deliciously dusty scent that some library books had. Sure, there won't be as many used book stores that look like the last scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. There will be new traditions, new loves. We're at the moment that things are changing, and that, in itself, is kinda exciting.

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