The loss of another brick-and-mortar store, the Borders chain, has given me pause this week. I went to the location at which I once worked, spoke with some of my former coworkers, and was astonished at how many people were actually in the store.
Often when I worked on Sunday mornings, I did not have a first customer for almost three hours. And, our store was a top performer. So, what does this all mean? I love the feel of books, but the trend is going electronic. And, I must admit, I too want a Kindle or Nook.
For me, the benefits are immeasurable. I possess a personal library of over 3000 books. How wonderful it would be for me, when travelling, if I had at my disposal, at the very touch of a button, my library with me. I could access the information I need, my research material would be constantly at my disposal.
But, what I do fear is that we have become enamoured by our electronics. We want information, but in 500-word bites. Distillation has become the norm, rather than curling up with a lovely book, in front of the fireplace or on a patio on a Sunday morning.
My fellow author and friend, Rabbi David J. Wolpe, recently posted these same frustrations on a blog post for the Huffington Post:
I used to write books. Now, I write Facebooks. Somehow it is not the same.
There was a time when being sequestered in a room was not that difficult. When I wrote my first book there was nothing really on TV at 3 am. Netflix was not. There were no emails waiting, no tweets tweeting, no IPODS purring, no seductive flashing updates that remind you if your news is more than 15 minutes old. I could write relatively undisturbed except for the manic bouncing of my own thoughts.
Now wireless follows me like a stalker. Café, library, streetcorner, no place is free from the lurking server. Yes, I know I can turn it off. I also know that I can remove my fillings and have my fingernails extracted, but I am not about to do it any more than I will cut the ethereal lifeline to the world. After all, if I sit in a room to write something with a greater half-life than last nights dessert, I may miss the urgent news item that has a half life, well, of last night's dessert. You see - it is a conundrum.
As writers, we grieve the loss of brick-and-mortar stores, like the loss of a friend. We are so wired into the digital age, we sometimes find it difficult to unplug, even to write, which is our stock and trade. So, I shall continue to support Borders, to the bitter end, and will shop at other local booksellers, to find that one jewel to add to my ever burgeoning library.
But, someday in the near future, my library shall consist of only a Nook or Kindle, loaded to the max with my treasured books. Will it be traumatic? Yes, for there is nothing that can ever replace the seductive smell and feel of a book in one's hands. Which is why Rabbi Wolpe and countless other writers, myself included, continue to write books, electronic time permitting of cours.