Archive for Musings

Nashville: A Community Without a Bookstore?

The title of the article is Why it’s important for communities to have bookstores. And I was doing the metaphorical fist pump and going, “YES!” and all the other stuff in support of the idea. Of course¬†all communities should have a bookstore. It enriches the intellectual life of the community, and helps broaden people’s world view. And just plain provides enjoyment. And so on, and so on.

Ann Patchett - State Of Wonder

Ann Pratchet, reading from her book, "State of Wonder" -- in a small bookstore!

And then I started reading the article and realized, Tess Vigeland the interviewer and Ann Pratchett the author aren’t just talking about a “community” — like your local neighbourhood. They’re talking about the entire city of Nashville. Seriously?? In the whole city, there are no bookstores??

I think that has to be an exaggeration. But this does point up the worrisome trend of closing bookstores. Not all people have e-readers, nor will all people get them. (My mom never will, I know that. Most of my relatives never will. They simply can’t afford them.) So what happens to those people, without the chance to nip in and buy a $10 book on the rare occasions they can afford one?

Ann Pratchett wants to improve the situation in Nashville and is actually opening a new independent bookstore with a partner. Bless her for that, and what a fortunate community!

She also has an interesting idea that turns things on their head. So far, the accepted wisdom has been that the big box bookstores or chains were gradually killing smaller, independent stores. And now the big chains are threatened, because of e-books. But Pratchett thinks that the smaller independent bookstores — the actual, physical, bricks-and-mortar bookstores with actual paper books — will in fact be the ones that do¬†survive, after the big chains are gone and ebooks are the big thing with Amazon and big publishers.

The more I think about it, the more I think she could turn out to be right. And I like that idea very much. The smaller stores might just have the wherewithal to go on and thrive, while the bloated chains do not.

What do you think?


Beloved, battered books

Book - Robert the Bruce: The Steps to the Empty Throne

Used, but beloved

I just saw this article on the Guardian’s site: The charm of battered books, and it made me smile. Not that I don’t take care of my books, being sure not to break their spines or fold over their pages. But there’s just something about the way a well-loved book eventually starts to look, that demonstrates just how loved it is. The author of the article, David Barnett sums things up this way:

Books shouldn’t be wilfully mistreated, but we shouldn’t handle them with kid gloves. If they pick up imperfections and blemishes, then so what? A less than pristine book is a book with character…our books come to share with us the scars and scratches of life.

I like that description: “a book with character.” And I realize that some of the books I’ve had almost since I was a kid can be described exactly that way. Not wrecked, but just rough enough around the edges to show that they’re been treasured possessions for a long, long time.

What about you? Do you have some well-loved books that have been with you so long that they, too, are showing a few of the effects of long age?

A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

This is one I've read a LOT over the years


Home Library Mission Statement – Great Idea!

Have a look at the Home Library Mission Statement of Boston Bibliophile. It’s where she states what she believes the purpose of her personal library to be, and the ways she intends to treat it, to accomplish that purpose.

Now, I think sometimes we pigeon hole things a bit too much, and if we’re not careful we could control and codify to death something like our personal libraries. To some extent, I think they need to be organic and grow naturally.

And yet! You know how you sometimes go to your library and discover a whole bunch of books that make you wonder how they even got there — and of course, those are the easiest to purge if you feel you need to get rid of a few tomes. Having some kind of general idea of what you really want in your library, and how you’ll maintain it, can really help to keep you from ending up in such a situation.

I’ve got 2000+ books. Maybe I should mull over a mission statement of my own, or at least think about ways to approach and use my own library to greater personal advantage. Hm…

Why e-Readers will always be my Second Choice

Sony ereader

Sony ereader

I feel like just pointing at this blog post (Why We Need Books) from Heidi Turner, over at The Happy Freelancer blog, and saying, “What she said!” She makes some great arguments for why the real paper book should always stay in existence, no matter how electronic everything goes. They can exist alongside each other, but buying the paper version should always, always remain an option for any book.

Her #1 point (Just about everyone can afford books) is very pertinent to me. I got a survey from Random House Canada a couple of days ago, asking my opinion about ebooks. At the end of the survey when they asked for “Other” opinions, I asked if they would always at least make paper books available to libraries or something, because poor people simply couldn’t afford Kindles, the Kobo reader, or other readers. Or was reading going to be denied to the poor from now on?

Do you think that point is unimportant? I don’t. I don’t make a lot of money, and I can’t even afford to replace my aging computer, let alone blow cash on a Kindle.

Heidi’s #2 point rivals #1 in importance. She talks about upgrading. How many of us repurchased all our favourite music as CDs, when vinyl records went out of vogue and CDs came in? And how many have since repurchased all that music again, to put on their iPods? And what will be the next repurchase necessity?

I can tell you, as a Records Management person who worked in the industry for years that it only takes three generations of technology improvements before everything that was made four generations ago is absolutely unreadable in any way. Every time there’s a technology change, even supposedly in the same medium (say, reading magnetic tapes), the newer operating systems are less and less able to read files created with older systems.

How easy is it for files created with Windows 95 to be read by programs using Windows 7? How about Windows 3.1?

How much money do you have? Do you want to have to upgrade/repurchase every single digital book over and over again, say, once every five years or so, for the rest of your life? Funny — I’ve had some books for twenty years, and I’ve never had to “upgrade” them once because they had become unreadable.

Penguin books

A small fraction of my Penguin books

Heidi’s points #4 and 5 deal with the fact that the readers are electronic devices. They need insurance, or have to be bought again if something goes wrong. And books don’t need batteries or electricity.

This issue was brought home to me just this morning, when one of my Twitter contacts tweeted about a client who had dashed into a store looking for a book because her Kindle had died in the middle of her reading the book. Funny – I’ve never had a paper book’s pages suddenly go blank on me.

And of course, after the debacle where they pulled Orwell’s 1984 off people’s Kindles, after the people had bought the book meaning it was supposedly their property – we saw another thing that can happen if we get digital books. They are NOT OURS. Someone else can tamper with them at any time, or that company could go out of business and we’d lose our book because their supporting servers were turned off.

And we can’t loan the book or resell it to a second-hand store. That will all be gone.

No, thanks. I may eventually get an e-reader for convenience if, say, I want to take 40 books with me on a vacation or something. But for durable, long-lasting reading pleasure, I will always prefer to own my books once I buy them, and have the freedom to read them for decades and do what I please with them for the rest of my life.

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