Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Say It Ain't So!

(Photo Source, Painting Source)
So the other day I was running through the blogroll and the Good Captain of HMS Defiant had a post up which I found rather painful. Now if you went over there and read that post, then the opening graphic might make sense*. What I found most galling is that I had just returned from that purveyor of fine written material not 30 minutes before reading that post.

Every now and then The Missus Herself et moi travel to our nearest Barnes & Noble for to peruse what they have on the shelves. We usually make an afternoon of it by hitting the book store then going out to eat. Which we did Saturday last. I purchased five books, all history related, two by an author I had never heard of before but which upon reading the first page of one of his books, I was hooked, you could not have pried that book from my fingers with a battalion of Marines backed by a squadron of F/A-18s, but I digress. (Alright, it may have only taken an enraged second lieutenant, but he or she would have to be a BIG second lieutenant. I may be old but I'm shifty and I fight dirty.)

Anyhoo.

Here's the thing, when I go to a bookstore I'm usually there to browse, to look around, see what's new in the history section, check the discount racks (you would not believe some of the great deals I've found there, but then again, if you read as much as I do, you've probably been there yourself), and I will always hit the fiction section to see if any of my favorite authors have anything new out. I go in not knowing what I want.

The online thing is "okay" if you know exactly what you want. I fear though that that would limit me to the authors I already know, not really willing to take a chance on an interesting title amongst the others I see on the shelf.

I also don't like the idea of some software wienie deciding what my search means. It's not that the online world is rife with bad software, though there are days I think it is, it's more about how I know the way software gets to "market."

Someone has a great idea, someone agrees to undertake said great idea, then "management" wades in to screw it up. Do I think we'll ever have cars that "drive themselves"? Probably.

Will I buy one? Absolutely not.

I am by no means a Luddite, but there are certain things which should have a presence in the real world (meatspace as I've heard it called, a term I don't care for, and FWIW, Blogger marked "meatspace" as a misspelled word, stupid software). Bookstores should have a presence in the real world, so we browsers can just walk on in and see what we can see. (And I normally buy what I see. Much to the chagrin of the love of my life who bemoans my already overcrowded bookshelves.)

But I fear that the physical book store may be doomed to extinction. I hope I'm wrong. (Don't get me started on electronic books. Damn it! I want to hold it in my hand, feel the pages, smell the ink, etc., etc. Hhmm, maybe I am a bit of a Luddite...)

Perhaps my battle cry should be "Remember Borders!"**




* If not, let me 'splain it to you - I superimposed a painting of the Alamo over a photo of a Barnes & Noble in Tennessee. Yes, I am comparing B&N to the defiant, but futile, stand of the Texians down in San Antone back in 1836. Hoping of course that I'm wrong and that B&N will come roaring back like Sam Houston at San Jacinto.
** Not to be confused with the nautical "Repel Borders!" Also, "Remember B. Dalton!" which just sounds weird. Then there's "Remember Waldenbooks!" Which some might confuse with Thoreau's "On Walden Pond." All places from which I have purchased many a beloved book...

46 comments:

  1. I actually preferred the Madison Boarder's to the Barnes & Noble. The Madison B&N is the second largest in the chain, and there are just too many people there.

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    1. Crowds, I try to avoid them. There used to be this Border's up near Worcester, it sat atop a hill and you could see for miles. It was almost like a castle, a castle full of books!

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  2. Used to spend hours at the local library and B&N, then being caregiver for the parents for seven years meant I wasn't able to do that anymore. Stopped visiting B&N until last month when I needed new eyeglasses. Donate a childrens' book and get money off the new prescription so off to B&N I went. Rediscovered the joy of seeing so many BOOKS in one spot. Gonna get back in the habit of visiting once again. Hope they can last for awhile...it is hard to discover new authors online since I like to handle a book...that physical presence.... besides dropping any e-book device would probably be more costly that it's paper equivalent.

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    1. I've gotten used to reading novels on my Kindle (or as often as not, the Kindle app on my phone while waiting at Drs, or on wife's shopping). Not so bad, really. History books, however, have to be physical. Too much flipping back and forth, examining maps, and so forth, for an ebook to cut it.

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    2. Exactly! Novels work on an e-reader, history books no, not even close.

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  3. A friend just lost her job at our B+N; they are seriously cutting back, me thinks retail stores are failing in many areas, progress always has its price. I was just saying how I like the electronic thing as I am not a prolific reader, but that browsers will really miss the box stores. Perhaps in the future some smart person will develop a book browsing app to fill the void.

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    1. I don't think everything moving to online sales is progress. Sure, it demonstrates that the technology is there to do a thing, whether or not the thing is worth doing.

      Maybe people aren't reading as much as they used to, after all, getting a Twitter user (who is limited to reading/writing only 280 characters at a time) to actually read a book might be an issue here. I don't know.

      I do know that I am not happy with the situation.

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    2. Perhaps progress was not a good word choice...inevitable change? I know I would hate to buy a new driver on-line without trying a few at the sports store, so I understand your preference to box store retail, or oh how I would miss roaming through Lowes looking at new stuff without any idea of wanting or needing something.

      Hopefully there are still enough reader addicted people around to keep these stores in business.

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    3. Ummm, Lowe's and Home Depot enjoy wandering through them I do.

      Sometimes you don't know what you want/need until you see it.

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  4. I think there will always be a niche for second-hand bookstores...that's my hope, anyway.

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  5. I am old fashioned enough that I like holding a real book in my hand when I read. Yes, I have some e-books on my phone for when Kendy has her long days at the cancer center, but there's just nothing like the feel and the smell of a real book.

    I hope you're wrong about the extinction of book stores but my gut feeling is that you're correct. The only book stores I know of that are left in the Kansas City area are Barnes & Noble and Half Price books.

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  6. Prey tell, OAFS, what are these marvelous books of which you speak? I shall put down my current tome on Thomas Jefferson and hie me to the local Barnes&Noble forthwith. I join you in mourning the coarsening of our society in so many ways, not least of which is the lack is appreciation for the written word. There is nothing that compares with the enjoyment of the feel and smell of a new book. And, while I admit to being a fairly regular Amazon customer, for the ease that's in it, I do regularly seek out and patronize local bookstores because I think they are an essential part of the America I love.

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    1. For starters - Igniting the American Revolution: 1773-1775 and The War Before Independence: 1775-1776 both by Derek W. Beck. I started the former on Sunday and am having trouble putting it down. Losing sleep and all that for wanting to read "just a few more pages" before lights out. Fascinating stuff, interesting information and Mr. Beck writes well!

      I too use Amazon but prefer to get my books at B&N, there's something about the feel of a real bookstore.

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  7. You kids and your newfangled Gutenberg books, why back in my day the only way to read a book was to have your local monk copy it and then illuminate the pages!

    I had waited until the technology seemed to have settled down, and bought a Kindle. I think it's awesome, use it all the time, and rarely read a "real" book. Hold on there, before you start to burn me at the stake, look down at the fire starter you have in your hand, I am pretty sure it isn't a flint and steel, I will bet that it is something modern.

    I have a reverence for the old ways, I have a basic small lathe and small milling machine in the basement, as well as the usual assortment of wood working machinery. None of these tools are run by computers, and yet as the prices of CNC machinery and 3D printers creep ever downward, I am going to buy one because I find it interesting.

    I look at the Kindle in the same way as my sewing hobby, I am going to avoid hand sewing as much as possible, and I am not going to get a treadle powered Singer.

    The difficult part is choosing which of the newfangled stuff is a benefit, and which is shiny but useless.

    Good thought provoking post.
    (and I didn't have to carve a woodcut to make this comment!)



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    1. Yep, I’m read this on my iPad and all I have to do is click a couple of times and there’s the Kindle reader.
      How convenient, the Amazon app is here, too.

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    2. I am not anti-technology, really. But I won't drink wine from a box either.

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    3. Truth be told though, I do NOT like the iPad, not even a little. The Missus Herself has one but I won't touch it. Not a big Apple fan.

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    4. Since you are using a computer of some type for the post, I can see that you are selectively anti-technology.

      Box wines.
      Inferior wines are inferior whether they are in glass, or a mylar bag.
      Decent wines are decent no matter what the container.

      https://www.southernliving.com/entertaining/best-boxed-wine-brands

      We have tried the Black Box reds and they were better than the average table wine. (and when I looked at their website I found they now have a red blend, and we are going to give that a try)
      The bad thing is that once opened, you have a large supply of decent wine that can be tapped with the turn of a lever, or the push of a button!
      On the other hand, if you are referring to the five dollars for five gallons box wines, then I am totally in your corner.

      When my school teacher wife retires in a couple of months and gives back the school's Apple laptop it will be the end of any Apple products in our house. I never found them as easy to use as the PC platform.

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    5. I am selective in my anti-technological stances. Full-auto beats muzzle loaders any day of the week. Though that depends on the task at hand. I am snooty about the types of wine I like. Chianti for red, for white is has to be from the Moselle and it must be sweet.

      But if someone offers me a free glass of wine, I won't look askance if it came from a box.

      But you're right John, an inferior wine will be inferior no matter the container it comes in.

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    6. Muzzle loaders are fun, though. I actually shoot better with muzzle loaders, probably because the loading cycle makes me slow down, calm down, and I don't want waste such a time-expensive shot! Relaxation aside, give me a scoped MG-42 on one of those super-slick German tripods and 5-6 spare barrels, and a month's worth of belted ammo, plus a monkey to haul and handle it, and I'll be ready for business any time, day or night.

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    7. Muzzle loaders are fun! But for business, yup, MG-42 plus all those accessories you mention.

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  8. Powell’s in Portland, OR is like the Smithsonian in that you can’t get through it in one visit.
    Then there’s Kepler’s In my old home town, Menlo Park, CA.
    If you’re there, and can find a place to park, you gotta stop.
    I find that I am automatically attracted to a book rack in a store or a book shelf in a home.
    That goes back as far as I can remember.
    Some of my first memories are of the long hikes (long for a toddler) to and from the library on Irving St. In SF.
    Occasionally, we would stop at a bookseller’s on the way.

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    1. Oh!
      I almost forgot the Brattle Book Shop on West St. in Boston.

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    2. As long as the wee local book shops stay alive there is hope.

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    3. I see that the Brattle Book Shop is not far from Boston Common.

      I wonder what the traffic is like in that area on any given day?

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  9. I like both paperbacks and e-books. Hardcovers? Meh. Too damn heavy to read in bed, which I do mostly. The e-book is excellent for that- one handed, lightweight, don't need the night light, stores a ton o'books, easier to travel with, etc. You avoid the cost of printing, shipping, and store fronts (sorry B&N), but they still cost as much or far more than a paperback.

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    1. I'll buy hardcover from an author I really, really like and it's a new book for which I can't wait for it to come out in paperback. But other than that, I am a paperback guy.

      I had a Nook (battery died, needs a new one) which I used extensively when I was traveling for work. But I prefer paper, doesn't need to be charged, bigger format (think history books and maps, I need to see that map, not always workable on a small tablet).

      But to each his/her own. As I've said before, it's all a matter of taste...

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  10. Too many Barns. Not enough Noble! (I'm bitter. Most of the brick and mortar bookstores around here have gone the way of the dodo bird.)

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    1. I feel your bitterness. There used to be a number of bookstores around here. We're down to just a few now.

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    2. I used to haunt used book stores whenever I would pass one by. They're scarcer than hen's teeth these days, too.

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    3. Up in Wells, Maine there used to be a used book barn. It was literally a renovated barn. First time I walked in there I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. I don't know if it's still there, I hope so.

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  11. I have to admit I am one of those not helping the local brick and mortar bookstores and I have a close B&N that is pretty nice. I moved to using a Kindle since the Kindle keyboard came out, December 2010 and have really started to minimize my belongings and that includes books (and movies). Since then for the most part have gone full digital and the kindle paperwhite is really nice. Its been very convenient, but its been much harder to find new books - it really is not the same as browsing the shelves, nothing like discovering a new author while enjoying a cup of coffee and roaming the store. When the Borders I frequented closed, I pretty well stopped going to any bookstore after that, and I LOVED Borders and spent hours there, not so much at B&N.

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    1. I still have my Borders Rewards card on my key chain, I won't remove it ever. 'Tis the memories it brings back. I started doing Barnes & Noble after Borders went dark. Borders had an awesome selection.

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  12. Hi my name is Suz and I am addicted to books.

    Yes, I like to hold them in my hands, however, my hands are getting older, and turn numb after holding just about anything slightly heavy for more than a few minutes. And I truly enjoy reading in bed before I put out the lights...after I have taken off my glasses...so yes, I have a Nook, 2 actually, and a Kindle Fire. Having an e-reader means when my eyes are tired, or the glasses are off, I can enlarge the font and still read for a while.

    I have also learned that electronic books store in a much more compact space, and are very easy to pack when going on a trip, or when I had to move.
    Having said all that, I do know, and fondly remember both B. Dalton, and Waldenbooks, and I have been to Barnes and Nobel's for my birthday. Hubby got me a gift card, which I spent and then some. Some silly sales clerk was wondering around, and asked me if I was finding everything all right...I told him "It's a book store, of course I can find everything all right!" Silly boy.
    I do have 2 very large, very full bookcases in the front hallway, and have asked the woodworker in the family to build me another 1-2 bookcases so I can unpack the rest of my boxes of books, but I'm not holding my breath. The sawmill shed or the deer shack will come first I'm sure. People who are not book lovers just don't get it, at least in my experience.

    And. yes, I need to show my face more often at the local B&N so it stays there. But Amazon, as well as recommendations from other folks do supply me with plenty of reading opportunities. The local library has a program where with an e-reader you can down-load books from the library site. Which I should explore further. It would be easier on my wallet for sure.

    But one of the top five best scents in the universe is to walk into a bookstore or library and just inhale...

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    1. Well put Suz.

      You make an excellent argument for me resurrecting my old Nook, or getting a newer e-reader. I am out of shelf space and there's really no room for more. Hasn't stopped me from getting new books though, which, as a fellow addict, you understand fully.

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    2. What Suz said about the numb hands, and the font size, also applies to me. And I can read my Kindle Paperwhite in both bright sunlight and in the dark.
      My wife and I both had the same version of Kindle bookreader, (not the Fire) and when my Kindle broke Amazon offered me a refurbished Kindle Paperwhite at a great price.
      I have just returned from the testing lab, (kitchen) and my Kindle Paperwhite weighs 11.5 ounces including the protective jacket, and the size of the jacket is 6.75" x 4.75". My Kindle has survived several drops without problems.

      I think that using a tablet, or a phone as a book reader is less than the perfect choice because of what I have dubbed as "The Swiss Army Knife Effect." For example a Swiss Army knife does a lot of things well, but if you have a lot of screws to remove, you are going to use a screwdriver. A book reader is a single purpose electronic tool that does its one job very, very well.
      My Kindle won't play music, nor search the internet, it just holds books, and the size and weight are perfect for my older and smaller hands.
      For late night reading, the lighted screen doesn't project light like a tablet, and it is stated that that type of illumination used by the lighting system won't effect my ability to go to sleep. I believe that to be true. (why yes I have carefully qualified that statement)

      I will still buy and read books, especially when the seller thinks I am going to pay fifteen dollars for electrons and I can find a used book for much less. But my physical book buying is becoming less and less often.

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    3. You guys almost have me sold on going e-reader. My old Nook was great when I first got it, eight years ago, but the battery is long dead and it didn't "self-illuminate." But it was awfully convenient for traveling.

      I need to think about this some more. (Especially as I'd almost need to build an addition onto the house if I buy any more books!)

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  13. I make a point of buying magazines and some hardcover books from the local B&N, but I fear they're going the way of Border's, who around least, were always the better bookstore. I fear my hardcover purchases now will only be going to make sure the executives' golden parachutes are well-packed before they pull the plug. In which case, it's a pity electronic dollars can't have tiny time bombs in them that blow up accounts when certain conditions are met. Ahh, that would only work in Hollywood. It's probably getting time to look at anti-trust actions against Amazon, Google, and others, as much as I detest that patchwork of laws the way they are currently written. Long past time to do so for the big Big banks, too.

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    1. I'd like to punch holes in those parachutes, with a 20mm Flakvierling while they're still in the air. They are screwing the employees, screwing the customers, and, in the long run, screwing the taxpayers.

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  14. Man, Waldenbooks went away a long time ago in the local mall. Which was thriving when we moved here. It's a ghost town now, with only Penney's and Sears as anchors (Dillards and Macy's gone). Soon to be torn down and replaced with a mixed development of high-end shops and apartment/condo towers, the word is. Well, better than becoming a hangout of zombies, I suppose. Which more or less means the Section 8 people HUD has been moving in here willy-nilly. Locals weren't informed about that until it had been underway for a while (and people were complaining about rising property crimes and wondering why that was happening now). I wouldn't want 4th-generation-on-the-dole white English chavs moving next door, either, mind you. Criminals are criminals.

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    1. I remember when we first got here to Little Rhody, nigh on 19 years ago. A little mall in neighboring Massachusetts had a borders, a computer games store, and a lot else. Now it's mostly gone, it would have gone under completely but they put a new Walmart in. Which is both good and bad.

      And you're right, criminals are criminals.

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  15. I live about 2 miles from where the first tower records started. And then they branched out to books. It was a wonderful place to shop for a book or a record.

    Sometimes I would stop and just browse for an hour or even longer and nobody cared

    Tom Hanks son made a great documentary on the rise and fall of Tower Records, and I was surprised that online sales was only part of their problem.

    The thing about Amazon is you can buy used books to third parties for virtually nothing. And a simple look up.

    I’m with you though on electronic books. although my niece gave me a Kindle reader I have never really used it.

    Something about holding a book in your hand.

    Just finished reading Albert Speer’s rise and fall of the third Reich

    Since paper was not allowed at Spandau to think that he wrote the entire manuscript on pieces of toilet paper over 20 years with his family smuggling it out.

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    1. Tower Records? Now there's some history.

      What did you think of Speer's book?

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)