Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"You Can't Sniff a Kindle"

Sorry I'm late. I'm recovering from a depressing night at the bookstore.

We went to Barnes and Noble. While I prefer the dusty old shops of New York and Philly to the crispy-clean rows and coffee corners of the mega stores, it was still always nice to know I could get what I needed when I needed it with a short car trip. Now, not so much...

We needed books for my sons' summer reading projects and I needed a new escape.

Time was, my wife and sons and I would accrue a pile of books and spend way too much money every time we went to the bookstore. Now, not so much...

Karen couldn't find a book she was looking for, even though it was listed as "in stock." They had none of the  Lloyd Alexander books (!?) that I really wanted my older son to consider reading (somewhere along the line I lost or gave away my first volume of the Prydain series...)

In searching for something good, I noticed that the science fiction section had shrunk. It used to be two long sections of shelves, now it is one, the rest of the space taken up by a section called "Teen Paranormal Romance." (Yes, really.)  In the section, there was only one book by Robert Silverberg. The only Heinlein was Stranger in a Strange Land. Half of the classic names I sought were missing... Nothing interested me.

In fiction, there was only one Wallace Stegner book, Angel of Repose, which I snatched up. (Each summer I return to classic American fiction, as if my life depends on it -- or at least my sanity, which it might.) I would have liked to have perused more Stegner...alas...

I have heard, as you have, I'm sure, that Barnes and Noble is killing itself by putting all of its eggs into the Nook basket. I guess this is the result. Why carry books?

Yes, I am one of those who will not read books on a Nook or a Kindle. As one of my friends often says, "you can't sniff a Kindle." Books, to me, are more than just what's in them. I have no malice toward e-readers; it's just that I have no interest in them.

I'll try to be optimistic. Maybe the small bookstore will emerge and flourish again after the last mega-bookstore collapses. I hope so. Some people need stacks in which to get lost.


  1. I have also noticed a disturbing reduction in classic science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction not read in schools. On the other hand, the B & N near me carries a good selection of new books, so I have no lack of new authors to try when I have the desire and the digits in my account. It just means that I no longer loan my classics to others for fear that I'll not find them again (I dislike ordering books online because I love the romance of bumbling along the shelves).

    I also have a place called The Book Thing in Baltimore where I can find books for free. It's quite lovely, and they always have a few classics.

    ~ Matt

    1. Hi Matt.

      It's nice to find the little book stores. I love them, too.

      I'm a little ambivalent about the classics being or not being read in schools, Matt. On one hand, they are things one needs to have read; on the other, I think we cram a lot of classic stuff down the throats of kids before they are ready for them. I'd almost rather see kids read, enjoy and discuss Harry Potter in fifth grade than see them read something above their heads and get very little out of it. Still, in the hands of the right teacher, THE ODYSSEY can be fascinating. I think, as long as we look at the classics in school as introductions for further study, we're okay. But, let's face it: high school kids generally don't "get" Shakespeare... Still -- if we can plant the seeds...