November 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Jokes aside because I today I want to talk to you about an endangered species. Biodiversity in our city centres is constantly decreasing. Native species such as the Cozy Neighbourhood Bookstore are being displaced by the more powerful Chain Bookstores, and in the end, Starbucks replaces them. The Darwinists among our readers might argue that some kind of evolution is going on here and that only the fittest survive. But what if I told you that this development is our fault? Just like we successfully exterminated awesome animals such as the quagga, we’re now exterminating the common Cozy Neighbourhood Bookstore. Let me tell you a story.
Back in my high school days, I worked in a used books store. The store was awesome, crammed with old books, piled up all the way to the ceiling. The shop keeper would always bring her dog, and although I’m not exactly a dog person, I liked the lil fella a lot. His presence gave the shop a certain cozy living room atmosphere. We didn’t have a lot of customers, mainly the same handful of regulars who would step by every once in a while. All in all, it was a feel good shop for someone like me, someone who loves this very special smell of old books. Shops like this can be found almost everywhere, and I love browsing through their almost collapsing shelves.
However, some days ago I got an e-mail from the shop keeper – she’s giving up the book store and she’s looking for someone who is willing to run it in the future. I knew that business wasn’t going exactly well and I also knew that she had some other issues to deal with, but I was dumbfounded nevertheless. Luckily, the store is not closing for good, but many other stores suffer a worse fate, even big chain bookstores such as Borders. There is a relatively big chain of bookstores in Germany, Mayersche, and they recently closed a big branch in Cologne. The building is now home to a sports equipment store. Do people suddenly read less and do more sports?
I highly doubt that. But we all know that reading habits are changing, and many people either only read e-books or purchase their printed books online because it is so convenient. There’s a general tendency in our society to always look for the most convenient way to do things, and as a lazy person, I can totally relate. Ordering pizza via phone is good, but ordering pizza via a smartphone app is even better. I have to admit that I buy most of the books I need for university online because it’s one way of saving a lot of money on books. However, I recently bought a novel at a regular bookstore and paid about 12 € for it, and the only thing I could think about were the 8 € I would have saved had I bought it online. Let’s admit it, we’re cheapskates. Even people who could afford new, store-bought books always look for the best deal. What we keep forgetting is that there are people who actually make a living selling books. Those people depend on bookworms like us who regularly shop at their stores.
I’m not saying that you should do all of your book shopping at a local neighbourhood book store. The critical reader might now think that Amazon and ReBuy employees have to make a living as well, and you’re completely right about that. But does it really hurt to go to your corner bookstore every once in a while and shop for books there? No, it doesn’t. It can even be a very interesting and rewarding experience. The shopkeeper at the store where I recently got myself a copy of Grass’ Tin Drum knows my name and always engages in some chit-chat because I’ve done a lot of book shopping there ever since I was a small child. Those of you who love the anonymity of shopping online or at large stores might be annoyed by this rather personal atmosphere, but I can only say that I actually like it.
So, next time you want to buy a book, think twice about where you want to do your shopping. Do all independent book stores and used book stores a favour and step by every once in a while. You never know what gems are hiding in the far corners of those crooked shelves.