|Rumors Greatly Exaggerated|
Spotted—the rare and elusive, though conspicuous in size, novus liberum bookstore. Its neon plumes of red and green gleamed through the spattered raindrops on my windshield. It can’t be, I thought. A new independent bookstore is as uncommon as the last Dodo Bird—the remains of which were kept at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until nearly destroyed when thrown on a fiery garbage pile. And like this damaged and neglected bird and its taxidermy counterpart, the death of bookstores have been ushered in with flaming rapidity. But someone, sanity and business prowess notwithstanding, has decided that gloom and doom statistics will not discourage their bibliomania. So when I saw this creature, stone and mortar bookstore with her paper wings aching to be spread, her glittery coffee mugs crying to be filled, and the pheromones of newly printed paper beckoning, I couldn’t help but think, in the voice of my most sarcastic teen narrator, “Aw, you’re a dying breed.” I went inside anyway.
I met the lovely owners, who were arguing as I entered. I began asking questions about the YA section. I found titles and authors I hadn’t known about or had forgotten that I’d wanted to read. And writing YA and reading a lot of YA, and examining many YA websites, this was particularly astonishing to me. Truth is there’s no substitute for eyeballing a bookcase. There was something amazing about standing back and seeing spines and covers. It was intoxicating. I wanted them all. I quickly became the noisiest patron in the store, but hey there was only three of us. I asked so many questions, I ended up with a stack of books and not one, but two store clerks helping me. Real flesh and blood people who knew and loved books! And we chatted! It was so rare and lovely a moment that I was seriously taken aback when one of the women said, with the suspicion of an independent bookstore owner evident, “Where do you usually buy your books?”
Dread seized me. I have a first edition Kindle at my home, sitting on my nightstand, plugged in. I couldn’t let them know that. I’d sooner tell them I shopped at Barnes and Nobles! Or burned books along with Dodos! I sputtered a moment, backed up, caught sight of another title, and changed the subject. Phew, crisis and awkward moment averted. Though I doubt my distracting tactics went unnoticed. Hey, if no one else has bothered to tell new bookstore owner we’re all online buying books, why should I be the one to break it to her? Besides, I’m going back.
Bookstores may be a dying breed, but I love them. I’ve been fooled into thinking I’ve gotten a wide range of options by going online. You can’t see what’s out there, until you see it. And yes, I will still use my kindle. I paid over a hundred bucks for it! But, I will also buy traditional books. I honestly feel a greater connection to printed books. I know it’s silly, and I’m not sure how to explain my primitive, non-digitalized mindset. Except to say, when I went into that store and that dull void in my chest, something I hadn’t even recognized was there, suddenly filled, my soul sighed, “Ah, yes. This is what I’ve been missing.”