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I know I'm not about to write something that hasn't been said before, but I just have to say it- I love book stores. Now I'm going to say something that maybe not as many people say these days- I hate my Kindle. But look, I said it. And I'm not taking it back.
Today I finished another really great book that I found at the library. An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer was a beautifully quiet yet intricate book that reminded my of Prep and even The Marriage Plot, if you've read those. I highly recommend it. So I finished my book, and being the kind of person that I am (some would say bookish) about an hour later, I was trying to decide what I was going to read next.
I remembered that The Glass Castle was a book I heard was really good. So I went onto the NYPL website and saw that the reserve list was long. And while I'm a fan of putting a book on reserve (getting that email that it's in weeks later always feels like a present) I was seeking instant gratification in that moment. And that instant gratification feeling reminded me, oh yeah, I have a Kindle (it was given to me for work). So I looked up The Glass Castle on Amazon, and while it was only $9.99, I just didn't want to spend ten bucks on something that didn't have pages or a cover or would be easy to lend to my mom when I was finished with it. I had just finished reading a nice 340 page hardcover with really pretty cover art and that great library plastic wrapping over it (I have fantasized about stealing some plastic covers from work and covering all of my own hardcovers in it, but I digress).
I just couldn't do it. So I looked up The Glass Castle on The Strand website and saw that not only did they have it in stock, but because they are a used bookstore it was only $7.95 (take that amazon and your expensive virtual-ness).
Due to summer time laziness, and living in Brooklyn though, I just didn't feel like taking the train into the city. But hold on, my story doesn't end here! Alex came home from work. I made dinner and then we decided to go for an evening stroll to our local bookstore Word. We spent, I don't know, a half hour there, and although we need more books in our tiny apartment like a hole in our heads, we each bought ourselves a present. And it felt good. Really good! Smooth pretty covers, paper that makes that crinkly sound. Browsing the shelves and reading recommendations from staff members. Seeing books that I didn't even know existed and being reminded of ones that I had heard were good. Which is what lead me to my purchase. I didn't end up buying The Glass Castle but instead I went with Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I had heard Cheryl Strayed on the Leonard Lopate show not that long ago and really enjoyed the interview. The sweet handwritten recommendation from a Word staff member sealed the deal. And I ask you, is that the same thing as buying an eBook on Amazon? No. No, it is not.
I know the eBook is doing really good things for writers in this weird publishing world that we are currently living in. I've even thought about publishing an eBook myself. And I still might do it. But I can't deny the fact that when I think about having my novel published, I think about what books it might sit next to on a library or bookstore shelf. I think about signing a copy and giving it to my mom and dad, and I wonder what the cover art will be like.
Can we have eBooks but keep bookstores too? I really hope we can, because going on amazon.com does not feel like a mini date. It doesn't take you down tree lined streets where you can hold hands with your husband as the sun goes down. You can't walk to Amazon, buy each other a present and then sit side by side in bed together reading it until you fall asleep. I'm sorry Kindle, but you just can't. So I'm going to go put The Glass Castle on hold at the public library right now, and then go read my new book. And I have a pretty strong feeling I'll be lending it to my mom when I'm done.
Thanks for staying open till 9 on a Tuesday night, Word, you really made it a special one.