A Prediction

Running an errand down on Hawthorne yesterday, we walked by a bookstore (Murder by the Book) that we’d never been in. It had a cart full of $1 mystery novels set by the door to lure in passers-by, and it worked.

“I just want to run in here and see if they have any Minette Walters,” I said. Ken, well-accustomed to this form of self-deception, merely waved me in the door. The shop was bigger than I expected from the street, and specialized in mystery novels. There were cute sub-genre signs all around, “Wild Women”, “Nancy Drew for All Ages”, “The Great Detective”–signs that hint what you might find, and invite you to explore further.

I found a whole run of Walters’ books up right up front and excitedly started pulling out titles. The woman at the counter, who I took to be the owner, commented on how much she enjoys Walters and gave recommendations. Then Ken reminded me he’d just heard a story about a Swedish married couple who wrote a classic detective series in the 1960s-70s. What were their names, again? “Maj…something. And her husband was Per…somebody,” I was dredging through my memory banks. “Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo? Right over here!” Barbara exclaimed, leading the way past a Steig Larsson display. (Looking up pictures of the store, I found Barbara’s name and confirmation she is the owner.) Sure enough, they were stocking the entire run starring Martin Beck. I asked for the first in the series and said if I liked it, I’d be back for more. All told, we left the store with a short stack of 4 novels, leaving $27 in the hands of an independent book dealer. And we will be back to explore those intriguing genres, to expand collections, to locate rare items, and most importantly, to talk books with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic bookseller (remember those?)

All of which leads me to my prediction. As you know, I’ve been doing a lot of my reading in eBook format since I got the iPad, and I really do love the convenience of it. However, printed books aren’t going to go away–not for me, and not for the world at large. The technology of the printed book is too good, too useful, too lasting to ever be abandoned. You can’t set a cart full of eBooks on a sidewalk to lure people into your shop, and the thing is: people WANT to be lured. People want a compact handful of story they can toss in a bag or take into the bath. People love to walk away from a shop or a library or a garage sale with a sack full of cheap paperbacks to indulge in. Don’t fear the eReader: it’s here to supplement and enhance the book experience, not replace it.

And if I’m wrong, booklovers, there’s a silver lining to the twilight of the tomes: just imagine the fantastic sales everywhere as libraries and bookstores clear out their stock. You’ll be able to buy a lifetime’s supply of books at a penny a pound. But you’ll have to get in line behind me.

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4 Responses to A Prediction

  1. Ramona the Reader says:

    I have learned to not say “never”, but I’m really doubtful I will ever buy an e-reader. I love REAL books too much – as well as book stores.
    But then I am the woman who said many years ago: “I’ll NEVER use a computer!”

  2. CAS says:

    You are a case in point, you know. Through the years you have shared your passion to turn me on to authors/genres I would have never have tried. I fear that there are two mega-trends that are concurrently having an impact here. The up and coming “digital native” who has lived and breathed digital consumption will drive the market for a while- especially now that e-readers are ubiqutous. Then, the counter-trend is the largest over 65 population in human history is also upon us who are not as swayed by the technology. Then there are those of us with a foot in both worlds (defined to me as did you have a “Pong” console or a Comodore/Sinclair, remember “Dukes of Hazard”, and lugged text books from lockers to class). In talking with this w other futurists, it is a common beleif that music and media content will kill off the CD/DVD/Blu-Ray well before the book. I sincerely hope this is true.

    I adore the process of deciding which book to take on a long flight or what to read on The Tube. Going to the little London bookshops in search of the next chance encounter with a book that Amazon would have never have shown me; and the sheer pleasure of being surrounded by bursting bookshelves.

    Your blog made me think that what we are also in danger of losing more than the book. The loss of interacting IRL w/ a shared passion- or worse- losing the happy moments of random synchronicity.

  3. kaizerin says:

    Well, I guess anything that happens after our lifetimes isn’t going to trouble us much, and I’m confident we’ll have books as long as we want them. Good point about the personal interactions, though–they are increasingly rare. I love the automation of our public library–request a book online, get an email when it’s available, pull it right off the hold shelf and run it through the U-Scanner. In and out of the library in two minutes, assuming no line for the checkouts–but on the downside, I’ve barely spoken to any of the librarians, let alone getting to know them. It’s not a great trade-off.

  4. CAS says:

    We have the same technology at our Bourough Library as well. There are 3-4 librarians and I have never spoke to one either. We are considering closing the physical library and congromerating the 4 Bourough locations and doing a LoveFilm/Netflix sort of queue and postal send. Saves on overheads, but we lost the book clubs, research circles, etc. I don’t attend them, but as Sir Humphrey says “…in a civilised society you don’t need to use [it]. It is enough to simply know that it is there.”

    I do go to a Japanese-centred book club set up by the Japan Society.

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