Closing the book on bookstores

WBB death

I am a troglodyte…a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing dinosaur who will shortly find myself extinct for my inability to evolve with the world in which I live. You see, I like to read books.

So, what’s wrong with that, you may ask, lots of people read books. I have several dozen on my e-reader.

There’s the rub. I did not say novels, plays, short stories, historical or scientific treatises—all of which I do enjoy. Rather I said “books”. Those folded paper constructions across which are scribbled black serif or sans serif typefaces and maybe a few photos or illustrations.

This past week in Toronto, yet another bookstore (brick & morter, not Xena warrior princess type) met its demise. The self-described World’s Biggest Bookstore was a staple in downtown Toronto, a place to visit when you were trying to kill some time or perhaps even to purchase books, magazines, school supplies or those kitschy little items that no one ever thought they wanted but can’t seem to live without.

This past spring, about a dozen blocks away from the WBB, another bookstore met its demise and is in the process of becoming a craft store (because what erudite urbanite doesn’t want more Styrofoam cones and sewing notions?).

The reasons for these closures are many and varied, although the loudest one in downtown Toronto is the cost of renting or owning the space. Why house 10,000 hard and soft copies of books when you can house just as many Torontonians in roughly the same space?

I know there are other bookstores in Toronto. My concern is for how much longer.

They came for the mom’n’pop shops, and I said nothing.

They came for the specialty stores, and I looked the other way.

Then they came for the big box stores, and I was forced to buy an e-reader.

Despite the number of items I have purchased from e-tailers like Amazon and Indigo, there is still nothing better to me than the tangible feel of a book in my hands. There is a vibe in books that I cannot get electronically, unless I wet my fingers first, but that’s more of a shock than a vibe.

London-book-market_4

I am a junkie for second-hand bookstores.

I love that musty smell that I am confident is a mould infection waiting to take root in my olfactory or pulmonary system. The crick of a book spine as you fold it back for the first time (my own spine makes a similar noise in the morning).

And the gentle signs of previous love, whether a notation from giver to receiver, random dog-ears suggesting the previous owner had ADHD or the odd tacky material sticking several pages together that we are all best not to think too much about.

As a side note: I find it ironic that I will pay $20 to $50 for a book in an antiquarian bookstore that I wouldn’t spend more than $3 on in a second-hand store. Apparently, signage works.

Used v rare

I watch people in airports and on buses scrolling through their e-readers and wonder, where is the fun in that?

Don’t you miss the excitement of flipping ahead to determine whether you can stay awake long enough to reach the next chapter break? Or anxiously getting to the bottom of the page only to realize that the sentence finishes on the next page (don’t judge me, I live alone)?

Or knowing that in the coming apocalypse, you’ll be able to keep a fire going for several days? You try cooking squirrel over a burning e-reader and see how far that gets you.

(Note to self: Buy extra reading glasses. Learn the lessons Burgess Meredith did not.)

time-enough-at-last

But alas, I am a vanishing breed and like the thunder lizards that came before me, I will have to make way for those annoying little rodents that scurry around under desks and floors and through the walls…yes, the guys from I.T.

But until that day comes, I shall continue to hunker in my apartment, surrounded by my beloved paper friends and learn a bit more about modern squirrel trapping techniques.

Squirre-BBQ

7 thoughts on “Closing the book on bookstores

  1. I agree, Randy. I am a fan of ‘real’ books, although I do appreciate the ease of an e-reader when travelling, which I do quite a lot of. I still prefer the feel, the sound, sight, smell, even taste on occasion, of a paper book. I also collect first editions which doesn’t really translate that well to e-books.

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