They say that technology comes at a cost. Unfortunately, one of the most tragic casualties of the digital surge has been used bookstores. Why get a beat-up paper copy that will take up space, cost me more money, and require me to get out of my house when I can just click download on my phone?
To answer that question, here are five reasons we need to keep bookstores alive.
1. There’s something for everyone
Collectors, connoisseurs, and amateur readers alike can wander into these beautiful stores and get lost in the piles of books that stretch haphazardly from the floor to the ceiling.
They have children’s books, reference books, histories, biographies, textbooks, classics, mysteries, overrated YA fiction, etc. Anything you are looking for, you’ll probably be able to find it there.
2. They’re frozen in time
Modern book stores are so worried about competing with the digital age that they are desperate for you to come in, buy the book, and be on your merry way. They don’t want you to sit and read a chapter or two because they’re worried you won’t end up buying the book after all! They’re a business, not a library.
Well, the used bookstores of New Zealand see things differently. There are all sorts of chairs, benches, cushions, seats, pillows, and stools in various corners of the stores, hiding between the overstocked shelves. There is no rush. You can climb a latter to the top shelf, grab a book, and then settle in for an hour or so reading to your heart’s content!
There’s something a little magical about opening a book to find little notes in the margins or dogeared pages where the previous owner marked their place. Sometimes, you’ll find a heartfelt note written on the inside cover, telling you that this book was once a gift to someone.
The owners of bookstores are as unique as the stories they sell! Usually, they have read more books in their lifetime than anyone else in the world, so they know exactly what to recommend. Just as a master chef knows his palette, the bookkeeper knows his words.
To them, this wasn’t just a job to pay the bills. These books matter to them. The customers matter to them. They are guides in their readers’ lives, almost like matchmakers setting up readers with the book they’ve been searching for.
5. Technology is temporary, but books are permanent
Sure, accidents happen with water damage, hungry pets, or loans that are never brought back, but for the most part, the books on your shelves will long outlive you.
Your phone, however, definitely will not. (Unless you’re holding on to a Motorola.)
Ebooks are amazing, PDF files of textbooks have saved my life, but nothing can replace the bound paper books we love so much. The books that we fall in love with will be passed down to our children someday, and maybe they’ll send it off with their own children. The books we read as a child are waiting for the next wave of babies to come through and read them, too.
Maybe they’ll notice that little tear in the page of the Dr. Seuss book where you and your sibling fought over the right to turn the page.
Maybe they’ll laugh at the pen marks on the picture book where you contributed to the artwork.
That’s something we can’t really offer online.
What Do We Do?
In the States, bookstores are rapidly disappearing. Used bookstores are almost nowhere to be found! They are a dying breed.
In New Zealand, however, you can still find them tucked away in street corners or resting peacefully beside shopping centers in every city! If they can make it work, surely we can too.
Even though they’re not the most convenient, used bookstores are a rare and precious gift to the world. They hold something intangible and marvelous in their shelves.
Let’s fight to protect that.
Turn down the Ebook offer.
Switch off the Kindle.
Go find a bookstore and buy the used copy of the book you’ve read over and over and start leaving your own marks on it.
It’s worth it.