Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the Land of (almost) No Bookstores

My town has no bookstores. Okay, so there is the one, but it's tiny and has a major focus on science fiction and fantasy which are two genres that I like to enjoy on occasion, but not usually the focus of my reading. I have purchased books there in the interest of keeping a bookstore around since all the others have been steadily dying off. I appreciate its presence even if it's not the bookstore I'd prefer. I also appreciate that it's a store that has a section dedicated exclusively to Vampires. I mean, that's just awesome, but I digress.

I'm sure you don't live under a rock, therefore you might have heard something about Borders and bankruptcy and a third of their stores closing. The two Borders stores that really mean anything to me personally, meaning the one I used to work at in my pre-blogging days and the one that is closest to my town (at a staggering 45 minutes away) survived the closings, and I'm pleased about that, but the whole situation plus that whole "45 minutes away" thing got me to reflecting on and generally being melancholy about the bookstore situation in my town.

I don't live very near a major city, but I also don't live in the backwoods middle of nowhere, either. Okay, relative to the surrounding area, I might, but in the grand scheme of things not so much. I don't live in the center of a barren, frozen tundra nor do I live out on the prairie or in the mountains or somewhere where you can drive for miles and miles without even seeing another town, let alone a bookstore. I live in central/northeastern Pennsylvania sandwiched almost equidistantly between Philadelphia and New York City. My town is host to a medium-sized state university, and they have their bookstore, but the bookstore scenario for the town at large is dismal.

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It's practically a weekly thing for me to bemoan the fact that my immediate surroundings seem to be a bookstore deadzone. It wasn't always like this here, and it saddens me to think that with the upcoming Borders closings, others might join my ranks of the nearly bookstore-less. Now, lest you feel too badly for me, we are are not totally book deprived here. We have several local library branches that serve our small towns well, and their high quality used book sales keep me in far more cost-effective reading than I can probably hope to devour in the decades that might well remain of my life span. Alas, I am of the segment of the population that is not really wildly in love with the whole library thing but for the sales. I like owning books.

I miss bookstores. I miss them so much. I envy all you book bloggers who even have the opportunity to somehow affiliate yourselves with a local bookstore for mutual benefit, who can wile away portions of your days sipping coffee and perusing novels in bookstore cafes, who can attend author readings and signings without driving the better part of an hour (or more!). I actively resent that sometimes I feel like my only option when I need to buy a book is to throw a few more dollars into Amazon's already fairly bursting coffers. I took it for granted when I had it, but now I long for the pleasure of wandering the aisles of a bookstore perusing books that I can hold in my hands. Getting books in the mail might be a total high but it can't replace the potential for actually interacting face to face with people who are looking for or can recommend a good book. It can't replace being able to go to a store where if you say something as vague as, "I'm thinking of a book with a white cover that I read about in the Saturday Review of Books a week and a half ago," and somebody will actually be able to find you that book. I'm already tired of the cold, utilitarian book buying options that the internet has to offer now that my alternatives are so limited.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't be like us, the book lovers in my town. Don't let the continued existence of your local bookstore be a forgone conclusion. Don't always buy your books on the internet when you can just as easily buy them from a store, because if you like bookstores at all, like I do, you'll miss them terribly when they're gone even though you were happily sending off your dollars to Amazon up until the moment the reality of it all caught up with you. I understand now more than ever that bookstores are a treasure, and one that I am loathe to go without.

How about you? What's the bookstore situation in your town? Do you have them? Would you miss them if you didn't or are you satisfied buying your books from online outlets?


  1. "Don't let the continued existence of your local bookstore be a forgone conclusion."

    Such a great point! We have a number of local bookstores close to me here in Madison, but all of them are feeling the pinch. I am trying to buy more of my books from all of them rather than online so I can do my best to help out.

  2. I ditto this post. I'm not quite so far from a bookstore - there is a Barnes & Noble 25 minutes away, and one used book store about the same distance. I buy from both places because like you I like to own books - and many times I have no desire to wait for some online retailer to ship to me. I like to browse through books, physically holding them in my hand and leafing through them. Yep, it's much better to buy in the bookstore. I hope a new one comes your way soon!

  3. We've still got our one bookstore - but it's a Borders, so who knows how long it'll stay? But your point is very well taken - I'm another who prefers to own books, and shopping for them online is NOT the same experience.

  4. Oh, I'm sorry that you have such a hard time finding a good bookstore! I took this way for granted as a kid. We had an adorable and largeish used bookstore in town when I was a kid, and my parents used to take us there after Mass on Sundays. When that closed a Barnes & Noble opened, and that's been my go-to bookstore my whole life. Apart from everything else, I love looking for birthday and Christmas presents at bookstores. I would have a hard time doing without.

  5. I am a little better off than you are for books..
    There is 1 library here
    There is 1 used book store here.
    There is one family owned book store here (prices are sky high, I am amazed they stay open)
    and there is one "Books a Million" in town.. I do miss Barnes and Noble, the closest being 2 towns away.

  6. I have to drive at least 10 mines to get to a bookstore, and that would be a B&N. My favorite Indie store is about 45 minutes away.

    I am guilty of being an internet shopper, just because of convenience...I hope to get better, but lack of free time is a big factor for me.