One of my favorite bookstores is closing next month. “On or about September 15,” their website claims. My 1st wedding anniversary is 9/17, which makes this news to be even more of a bitter pill.
As you’ll note, the store isn’t exactly local, but in Glens Falls. I remember, right after college, having a pipe dream of opening a local bookstore in my hometown, one that looked a lot like Red Fox Books. There was a great local bookstore in the town of my alma mater, and I had visions of something similar in Glens Falls. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about running a business, or how to even go about starting something like that, so it was the loftiest of pipe dreams. I was overjoyed when someone else decided to open an independent bookshop in my hometown.
I patronized the shop when I had the opportunity, which admittedly was not all too often. I bought a couple of gift cards for friends there. I bought a few books from there. I remember, last year, purchasing my copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, still only engaged at this point, and while reading it I wondered if it was the best choice for a woman preparing to marry. I remember meeting their bookstore kitten last summer, and each time since hoping to see the kitten, who is full grown now, I’m sure, greet me. (Unfortunately, I did not.)
I do remember, too, shopping for a book shortly before Christmas, for myself. I had a list in my head of books I wanted to read next, and not one of them was on the shelf. Yes, I could order the book, however when I was standing in a bookstore looking to purchase a book, it was because, 9 times out of 10, I was looking to start reading a new book immediately. I rarely ordered books online, unless it was something specific I was looking for, and usually for a specific reason. If I’m shopping for a book, I want it now. Not tomorrow, because the shop has already closed for the day. Not next Saturday, the earliest I can make it to the store. Not three days from now, when the shipment will reach my hands. NOW. Because, if I don’t get the book now, what will I read in the meantime?
After combing the shelves, I did end up finding a book to read, a staff recommendation, and I did enjoy it. However, that’s beside the point.
I asked for an eReader for Christmas. Had I known, before settling on the Kindle, that Google Books would be partnering with independent shops so you could “buy” ebooks from local retailers, I might have made a different choice. I had done the research – the Kindle, quite simply, was a better device than the Nook, and both were significantly less money than the Sony. The Kobo I did not want to touch with a ten-foot pole, as one would have to be blind to not see what was happening with Borders. And anything else – the Nook Color, the iPad, [insert e-tablet here] – didn’t have eInk and I knew a backlit/color screen would irritate my eyes.
My reasons for wanting an eReader were not economical. Quite on the contrary, actually. My husband and I live in a one bedroom apartment. While it is a large one bedroom, it is still limited space. He’s a writer and an English PhD, so his books take precedence over mine on the bookshelf – after all, his are for work, mine are for pleasure. We simply did not have the space for me to keep buying physical books. Sure, I could go to the library, and that would save money, however going to the library does not really support living writers. Publishers don’t particularly care how many people are reading the book, just how many people are BUYING the book. They like ebooks – there is less overhead, therefore more profit. Whether or not it is greener it is debateable, as the amount of energy expelled in grand-scale usage of personal computers is far greater than damage done by “killing trees,” however if the technology already exists, one could argue that adding to it has a diminishing – if any – effect. I don’t understand enough about this argument to speak intelligently on it, so I’ll leave it alone.
Perhaps, though, my favorite part is that if I finish a book at 10pm, I can get another one instantly. Sure, I can plan ahead for that most of the time, however I find myself reading more, and reading more vorasciously. I found myself surprised that I not only adjusted to the idea of an eReader so quickly, but I full-on embraced the new lifestyle and recommend it to my friends.
Regardless of all that, and my new personal reading preferences, it doesn’t make me less sad that this bookstore is going out of business. I still buy physical books that are “for keeps”, ones I’ll be sure to read over and over again until they are dog-eared and the bindings are worn. Red Fox filled what seemed to be a great need in the community. However, I can’t help but wonder, if that need had been filled in the 1990s the bookstore, being more established, might have had time to transition into this new environment. Or, maybe, it is less about eReaders and more about people making a point of utilizing libraries and used bookstores more often, in order to save money. The internet makes it easier to buy and sell used merchandise than it was, say, 20 years ago. Or maybe it’s a combination of a number of factors that the store was simply unable to overcome.
The business model of books is changing, but publishers learned from the mistakes of the music industry and have planned accordingly. People don’t visit music stores nearly as often anymore, and many independent music shops have closed. However, what we’ve seen as a result of the mp3 evolution is an increase in availability of independent music. People can access this music more easily, and musicians can promote their brand through non-traditional means. Sure, being signed with a label is obviously the goal, but they can build a solid fan base FIRST, which before was much more difficult. Does this mean, a decade from now, emerging writers will have the same ability?
So, yes, I am sad that Red Fox Books is closing. It is a great loss to the community and was a wonderful little store. However, I cannot be sorry that one of the primary causes of this store’s decline has, on the whole, enhanced my ability to read and enjoy literature. And, I certainly won’t be sorry if this means my husband’s career as a writer has new avenues for success because of the enhanced technology. We’ll see.