Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bookworms Unite

According to the media, books are dying. There are a plethora of articles out there bemoaning the fact that the sale of physical books is down significantly in the face of the rising popularity (and lowering prices) of Nooks and Kindles. Book stores are closing every day. Borders is bankrupt. There is a significant portion of the media that has turned all Chicken Little and seems certain that the printed book is set to go the way of the eight-track tape and Betamax.

For a book lover like me, it's hard not to worry. Now, before you ask, no, I've not jumped on board the Kindle train. There are a lot of different reasons for that. The price was prohibitive at first. A great majority of the books I buy are purchased used through Amazon or the local bookstore here in town. And when you get right down to it, for me, nothing beats the feel and smell of a book. I struggle with the notion that I could ever get the same "high" from a little flat panel screen that I get from opening to that first page of what may prove to be an incredible literary journey.

Yes, friends, I am a bookworm. And I am damn proud.

And I also know something else . . . I am not alone.

This morning was one of my favorite days of the year, seriously right up there with the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas morning, and my birthday. It was the annual Friends of the Library book sale. Once a year, our little local library turns the second floor meeting room into a giant used book store, offering books for as cheap as a quarter a piece and antique books for as little as $15. It is a booklover's dream come true.

As I stood in line this morning waiting for the library doors to be unlocked (in my own defense, so as not to sound like a total freak, I thought the sale started an hour earlier and THOUGHT I was arriving almost an hour into the sale...after the initial crowd had already torn through), I felt a certain sort of pride. Note what I said in that last sentence -- I STOOD IN LINE. I pulled up to the back door of the library about 15 minutes before the doors opened and joined a line that was already about 15 people deep. Someone mentioned that an even longer line was at the door in the front of the building. By the time that 15 minutes passed, the line was probably a good 25 or 30 people deep. All of us were there for the same reason -- we loved books. The other thing that made this booklover's heart soar was the fact that I wasn't surrounded by a bunch of old ladies. There were young kids in line, bouncing up and down as they held their bags awaiting their future haul. There were college kids strolling over from campus. There were parents young and old. There was a group of people who just love books.

When we were finally let in, the small meeting room upstairs was soon packed with people loaded down with books. There was a tremendous selection. I walked out with roughly a dozen books, many of which looked like they had never been opened before. For just under $5, I walked away with nearly pristine copies of books by Sherman Alexie, Denis Johnson, Chelsea Handler, Emily Griffin, Ann Packer, Jonathan Safran Foer, and more. Add to it the fact that I hauled in my bounty in under 15 minutes, and you can call it a successful outing. I had decided to exercise a little self-control and did not bring in a bag but decided I would only purchase what I could actually carry myself. (Which also explains the fact that I was only in there for 15 minutes.) Others had shopping bags; some had boxes. Everyone had huge smiles of disbelief on their faces as they moved from table to table and saw the books available.

So I refuse to believe that books are dead. Booklovers are out there. We are passionate. We are devoted. We are willing to stand outside in the cold, pouring rain (yeah, did I mention it was only about 50 degrees and raining this morning?) to get our hands on books. Your Kindles and Nooks are lovely (and I know that eventually I will break down and buy one), but please don't let them rip away our pages. You keep printing; we keep buying.


NICKI said...

I think there was speculation that the invention of the printing press would be the ruin of traditional classroom instruction too...

Danielle Mari said...

I think book sales are irrevocably changed with the advent of e-books. However, I think books, actual books, will always have their place. I love that I have the entire works of Shakespeare in my phone e-reader. But I love that I have copies of the books I cherish (including the Compete Works) at home on a shelf. Where I see e-books coming into real play is with the kind of disposable reading so many of us do. How many mediocre novels sit on my shelf taking up space (and trees' lives?). I can envision a world where we read first electronically and then purchase only the most beautiful books in paper form.