As I write this, another bookstore is about to die. This, on its own, would be a tragedy in itself. For a booklover, the bookstore is almost as much a part of the experience as the book. From the rainbow of spines peppering the worn wooden shelves to the intoxicating odor of old paper, a bookstore is a special place.
But this isn’t just any bookstore, it is my bookstore, and that makes a world of difference. When I say it is my bookstore, I don’t mean I own it. Not in any literal sense, though I’ve probably spent a month’s rent inside. The store is owned by Half-Price Books, but for me and the regular customers, it was ours.
I know where to find everything, from the Clearance rack that is always my first stop and has been the location of assorted treasures, to the somewhat misplaced genre authors (Caitlin Kiernan and Richard Matheson can be found in Science Fiction and Fantasy, rather than horror). This place is the reason I could go six years without purchasing another book and probably not make it through my collection. They have fueled a sort of addiction, but have also given me the comfort that only a good bookstore can provide.
This story is nothing special. It happens all over the United States, probably every day. Amazon has proven to be the femme fatale mistress of the bookstore. While I love Amazon and my Kindle, it saddens me that physical bookstores are unable to compete.
Yesterday, all the regulars received a letter from Half-Price Bookstore thanking us for our patronage and reminding us of other locations: Olathe, Kansas City, and a new store in Independence, MO. The Lawrence location, they say, didn’t get enough traffic. Of course there are other bookstores. Others in town, others of the same chain in other cities. Unfortunately, 15% off coupons and other options can’t ease my melancholy mind. They aren’t my bookstore.
I’m sure I and the other customers will move on. It’s human nature. But in the meantime, I will miss the little treasures I have found, and the staff that was never anything but nice. Books are very personal things. I’ve found postcards from a trip to Yellowstone in a copy of Bird by Bird, an essay on Faulkner inside a copy of As I Lay Dying, and numerous inscriptions from anonymous loved ones within numerous books that were loved and then passed on.
Books are like people, in that they contain more than their outward appearance. Similarly, while the closing of a bookstore is sad on the surface, it is tragic for the staff who gave so much, but will now be looking for new jobs. I wish the best for all of them, and for all of the customers who will now go on a search for a new bookstore to call their own.