June 16 was annual Save the Bookstores Day. The event was started by the literary agent of a professor of mine from undergrad, and the concept is simple: On that day, go out to a real, live, brick and mortar bookstore and buy a book. Since this is something I do all the time, I happily obliged.
I don’t buy books online and I haven’t made the switch over to ebooks. I highly doubt I ever will, at least not completely. I understand their appeal– it would be nice to have one slender reading device to throw into my bag when I’m traveling instead of several bulky books, especially. From a publishing standpoint, I think ebooks are a great way for authors to get their work out there. But I’m pretty attached to the real thing and continue to stubbornly add to my paper library. Here are just a few reasons why:
1) I don’t just read books; I use them.
This is probably a proclivity of my personal and professional interests more than anything. I’m a lifelong nerd who actually enjoys school and have turned that into a career somehow. I rarely just read for entertainment. It happens, but not often. When I read most things, I have a pen in my hand, and I underline things, star things, block off large passages, make notes in the margins as I go. I have very few books that I haven’t written in. This includes fiction. As a writer, I pay attention to language and dialogue, and I mark off sentences or passages that I think are particularly beautiful and well-written, partly just to remember them for my own personal nerdery and also to use as inspiration when I write– I often go back and look at books to see how certain authors did something. As a teacher, I am constantly going back to books to find resources for my classes, and I’ve been teaching different classes each semester, so the materials I use change. I spend a lot of time pulling piles of books from my shelves and arranging them around me while I sit on the floor and leaf through them. I go back and re-read passages all the time; there are books that I’ve probably re-read ten or fifteen time, either for writer-use or teacher-use. I do not keep a daintily arranged library of pristine books that I read once and put back on the shelf. I manhandle the ever-loving crap out of them.
2) DRM makes me squirmy/angry.
I have issues with DRM (Digital Rights Management). In fact, it’s the one thing that makes me uncertain about buying digital music. I don’t pirate music, I pay for it, and I’ve had issues about losing files when I switch computers/players/etc and the DRM won’t let me transfer stuff, or won’t let me burn a CD of music I paid for. Apple products are especially bad at this. My feeling is that once I pay for something, it’s mine. Dealing with DRM bullshit in music files is irritating, especially on a philosophical level, but I get over it. However, if I lost my library? HEADS WOULD ROLL. As #1 on this list shows, I put a lot of work into my reading, and if something happened and I lost the files, which I feel is inevitable as products change over the years (are people still going to be using the same e-readers thirty years from now?)… I would be the crazy lady on the news outside of Amazon’s headquarters with my Kindle on a stake and waving a torch with my other hand while screaming death threats. It wouldn’t be pretty. I’ll keep my nice, tangible books, thanks. Short of my apartment burning down, these suckers ain’t going anywhere.
3) I buy local whenever I can.
For whatever I can. I use a CSA, I shop in the independent stores in my city, I go to the theater downtown rather than the Regal 14. I like to support my community. I rarely shop at Barnes and Noble or Books A Million; each place I live, I find the local independent bookshop, and use that as my base. In Boston, I used Porter Square Books, Harvard Book Store (privately owned, not affiliated with the college), and Schoenhof’s (foreign language bookstore). In Raleigh, it was Quail Ridge Books. In Durham, I use The Regulator, which I especially love because it has a very good mix of new and used. I also absolutely love used bookstores. And I’m happy to give my money to these establishments, because I would be very sad if they disappeared, leading me to the next point…
4) Bookstores make me very, very happy.
Whenever I walk into a bookstore, I immediately Zen out. I’m not exaggerating. They are my happy place. They’re usually quiet and softly lit, they smell like paper and no one bothers you if you want to spend hours in there. I can easily waste a good bit of time wandering around and looking at books on the shelves, glancing over their spines and pulling out the ones that look interesting. I’m not above taking a stack and sitting on the floor between the shelves and looking through them to figure out which ones I want to buy. When I visit other places, I seek out their bookstores– Venice and Chicago have some really nice ones, and I remember wasting an entire afternoon in Seattle in some fantastically large bookstore my friend took me to. It’s a sure-fire way to put me in a good mood if I’m in a bad one, or clam me down if I’m stressed out. It’s just me, my thoughts, and the authors. This is something scrolling through ebooks on a Nook or Kindle can’t give me.
5) You can’t do this with ebooks:
I mean, come on– who didn’t watch Beauty and the Beast as a kid and salivate over Belle’s library? I’ve been daydreaming ever since about having a large room with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves and a window seat and big, arched windows and dammit, I’m not giving up now.
And you, Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble can’t make me.