Death of the Bookstores
I’d heard about it from a friend: a couple of months back one of my favourite bookstores shut down. I remember arguing with her that it’s not possible — it was such a good store — and I shelved the news in my mind under “I won’t believe it until I see it.”
Last night, I did.
The bookstore was nicely tucked away at the back of the mall, right opposite my favourite pen shop. It no longer existed there. Even the pen shop had shifted to another, smaller location.
As a kid, and even now, when asked to “go shopping” with my family to that specific mall, I’d agree; because I knew I’d find a safe refuge there. And almost always I’d discover something new and odd to add to my growing little hoard. Between the bookstore and pen shop was my little paradise.
But now the store had shut. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s been turned into a smartphone gallery, as if the population has spoken that they don’t want to be smart, they want their things to be smarter.
There is an old quote:
A home without books is like a body without a soul.
I mistrust malls without bookstores. There is no place in it for a person like me, a place to escape the crowds and find the voices on paper that calm you. Be around people who are happier left in their own bubble and would happily leave you in yours.
I remember towering over two kids in that very bookstore (I tower becuase I’m tall, and kids are generally shorter) near the young adult section. I was listening to them argue about which book to buy. Though their parents had taught them not to talk to strangers, here in the corridors lined by books, we knew each other as part of the fratenity of readers. I had, of course, read both the books they were arguing over and recommended one of them, explaining what I really liked about that one and what I didn’t enjoy in the other. They looked at me with big eyes and nodded. Finally, they picked up the book I’d recommended and the other one as well. They left with a smile saying, “Thank you, uncle.”
That uncle stung, but I was proud to see the next generation of readers were capable of making their own decisions.
It’s sad to know that the places in which the next generations will learn to make their own decisions are getting fewer and scarcer. On a smartphone screen, the alogorithm will recommend you books, not the helpful “uncle” who’s read both.
Akshay G. is a book hoarder. He had played with the idea of owning a bookstore but he can’t stand other people touching his books, let alone taking it off his shelves and leaving.