Books are one of the best things about being human — they enlighten, entertain and even, sometimes, provide a hiding place for escape.
Do you, like me, read fiction and non-fiction? I often read fiction quickly, seeking the resolution, the payoff — for me, the fiction is often a mystery. Non-fiction is something I usually take in bite-size chunks — each slice gives me something to chew on for a day or two. (The longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer often worked on thoughts as a daily exercise; I’m neither a longshoreman nor a philosopher.)
The exception to the bite-size rule would be biographies — I often get lost in biographies and treat them more like mysteries to unravel. I’m reading a Truman bio at the moment.
I’ve written about bookstores off and on. Long-time readers know that I studied for various tests at a Tulsa Borders, which was — for 10 or more years — my most frequent hangout. That Borders is now a grocery store called The Fresh Market. When I go to a bookstore now, which is not nearly so often, I go to Barnes and Noble, but I still miss Borders. There are other bookstores, but the café is an important element of the experience. Many independent booksellers don’t offer food and drink.
Libraries and booksellers vs. Amazon
I used to go to the library weekly. However, my other bookstore, a.k.a., the Amazon Kindle, keeps offering books I like on special for $1.99 or so, and it’s so easy. Buying a Kindle offering does not require getting in the car, or even wearing shoes.
My Kindle is cheap and has ads when I turn it on, but the pages look pretty much like book pages and I like that feature. (I’m not big on backlighting; it seems okay for magazines and newspapers on the iPad, but less so for serious reading.)
So, should libraries be shorted — will they go out of business? When I do go these days, libraries seem to have lots of patrons, although most seem to be using the computers, which now take up a fair piece of literary real estate.
Visiting libraries (and Borders stores) are part of habit patterns, of course. Amazon hopes my new habit of ordering and reading books on Kindle will continue forever. Is Amazon likely to be the WalMart of its time? For that matter, could Amazon be a success story similar to Microsoft or Apple, at least in terms of stock appreciation? Ordering books for Kindle takes only a minute, and then the reader owns the book, even though it is not, strictly speaking, a book. It has no tactile feel, and one can’t smell the printer’s ink and paper.