Monday, February 18, 2013

Indie Bookstores

When you think of your favorite bookstore, what comes to mind? Is it the physical space? Books stacked in rows and piled high, labeled with staff recommendations? Do you think of the owner who knows each of her customers by name and can always press into your hands the perfect book that you're sure to love? Or is it the intangible thing that draws you there: the anticipation of a new discovery, or the feeling of community or of being at home? (from the blurb on the inside cover)

For those who love and vow to read the printed word, I highly recommend My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. It's a beautiful and thought-provoking book about indie bookstores who passionately work to not only thrive but to survive in an eBook and Amazon world.

Laurent Dubois writes about The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina:

There's a spot in the back of The Regulator, at the crossroads between the children and young-adult books and the "Society" section of recent nonfiction, that always has the feel of a twenty-first century salon. There's a small area with a comfortable couch, a chair, and a long pillowed bench, where you'll usually find a group of people sitting and reading together. They might chat occasionally about what they're reading. Anton and I can spend hours there, slouched and paging through different books, chatting with others doing the same. Sometimes a writer happens by, and we buy a book and have him or her sign it. Sometimes there's a reading downstairs, and it might include a short concert of blues music, a heated political argument, or cascades of delirious laughter. There are political meetings, book-group meetings, and the more informal meetings that make up the texture of daily life in a place worth living in. The work of the bookstore, is ultimately, to create that kind of space. At The Regulator, they do it through their books, of course, through the events that, week after week, bring a remarkable group of writers and thinkers to the store. But they do it as much through the cultivation of a space that says to anyone and everyone: Come in, take your time, stay for two minutes or two hours. And because of the time spent inside, you'll walk out into a world that's a little bit different from when you came in.

One more passage by Dave Eggers who writes about Green Apple Books in San Francisco, California:

Green Apple's floors, most of which are over a hundred years old, creak wherever you go, and when you walk upstairs, there will be small clouds of dust. The place is old, and smells old, in the best sense; it smells like paperbacks and sun and paperbacks faded in the sun. It smells of 1904, when the building was erected, and it smells of every decade and era in between. It smells of ink and leather shoes. The shelves occasionally bend in the middle. The hallways are narrow and the upstairs rooms are often small. It is a warren. It is a labyrinth. It has the feeling of the Winchester Mystery House, a building that seems to go on forever and into impossible directions and illogical spaces. But it never feels cramped. Instead, there is the feeling you get when walking into a house of worship with fifty-foot ceilings and stories told in stained glass, a feeling of grandeur and possibility.

To those of us who love and vow to read the printed word, we understand these words and feelings, they are an important part of the ambience of what it means to buy and read the printed word. When you read about these indie bookstores you can easily slip into the pages and imagine what it might be like to visit them and wished you lived closer or even next door.

While I readily admit I own a Kindle, which spends more time in a drawer than in my hands, and have bought books from Amazon, My Bookstore is a treasure to read and sends a message to those naysayers who tout the imminent demise or, God forbid, the end of the printed word! It has also opened my eyes wide to indie bookstores and all the good they engender, the sense of community they believe in and foster on a daily basis.

They are my heroes.

If you're wondering if I have a favorite indie bookstore, I do. Actually, I have three, Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA, Farley's Bookshop in New Hope, PA and The Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, PA. But Baldwin's will always be my favorite as it's housed in an 1822 barn with five stories of rare and used books, maps and fine prints! What's not to love about that?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I plan to keep this book in my car after I finish it. Then I'll be able to look for indie book stores if I travel. I'm looking forward to visiting some of the ones written about in the book very soon.