by Ariel Kusby
When the Kindle was released eight years ago, news outlets prophesized that by 2016, eBook sales would overtake print, and bookstores would become obsolete. Online book sales had increased dramatically, and because of the recent release of eBook reading devices, publishing companies assumed that the Internet would soon eradicate physical spaces where book buyers go to find new reading material. In 2016, eBooks are indeed popular, but many people still patronize physical bookstores.
If I were to enter an independent bookstore and ask every customer why he or she was there, I’m sure I’d get a wide range of answers, and convenience probably wouldn’t be one of them. While it is easier to find a book online, enter your credit card number, and find a package sitting on your doorstep a week later, this isn’t always what book lovers actually want. Sure, they may want a specific book, but they also want an experience.
When most people think about Los Angeles, the city where I live, they don’t usually associate it with the literary world. L.A. has a reputation for being superficial because it is based around the film industry. What many people don’t realize, though, is that some of the most amazing bookstores call Los Angeles their home. The Last Bookstore, for example, takes up almost an entire block of downtown.
Based in a converted loft, it houses multiple levels of books, magazines, and records. Upstairs, visitors wind their way through a book labyrinth, which also includes art galleries and shops where craftspeople sell their work. Every time I’m there, the space is full of people. It appears that when tourists come to LA, they crave a unique bookstore experience.
Skylight Books, another one of my favorites, is located in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, and is everything that a neighborhood bookstore should be. Friendly conversations abound. Books by local authors are featured. A cat, Franny, rambles around the store. Readings and book signings bring members of the community together. No matter how convenient Amazon is, I would never want to lose this kind of experience!
I’m glad that bookstores like these still exist, especially small independent ones, because these places allow me to find books I’ve never heard of, check out the staff recommendation bookshelf, see and talk to other book lovers, and notice what they’re reading. Bookstores are perfect places to go on a date, buy gifts for loved ones, or simply pass a lazy afternoon.
It’s important to have physical spaces where likeminded people can meet. While I’m an introvert and often prefer to stay at home with a book rather than go out, I believe it is important not to allow the Internet to isolate us. Books can be the best medicine for loneliness. When we feel misunderstood, isolated, or melancholy, they can make us feel less alone.
Literature should not, however, be the cause of our isolation. It should continue to bring us together, and unite us under the shared human experiences that books best touch upon, the essential experiences we often struggle to articulate in everyday life until we have read about them. What could be more powerful?
Ultimately, I care that books are still being read at all, regardless of the form they come in. As long as we care enough to pick up a novel or a memoir, it doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s from a bookshelf or an eBook store. Internet reading has definitely created some strong communities that unite people from all over the world in a way that would not have been possible before the digital age. I’m glad that this has been able to happen, while still allowing physical bookstores to flourish alongside the Internet.
Guest post contributed by Ariel Kusby at the Blooming Twig. The Blooming Twig is an independent, boutique publishing house that supports the adventurous tastes of its readership.