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Monday, 12 June 2017

Baffled by bookshops

The other day I came across an article in the New Yorker on my Facebook timeline about a photographer of the American subculture named Nan Goldin. It was a great read. There was something so redolent with significance for me in the figure of Goldin and in her history, which takes in what is for me a great but under-observed era: the 1980s. I wanted to know more so when I was out walking today I dropped by Gleebooks and asked if they had any books by Goldin. They didn't and I left empty handed. I thought about browsing and even ventured past the desk into the body of the shop, but the idea of bringing home any more physical books made me feel dizzy with anxiety.

I left the bookshop and decided to buy what I wanted online.

The Kindle was a revelation and although I was late to get one - I bought it only a couple of years ago - it has quickly become second nature to reach out when I get into bed to pick it up from where it sits always on the bedside table. I do think the bookmarks function is poorly designed but apart from that it has been a wonderful addition to my life. I can buy hundreds of books without worrying about storage. I have numerous bookcases in three rooms and the idea of adding to the collection makes me feel slightly ill, as if I were simply burdening myself with something unpleasant, like an unwanted friendship.

Normally I get all my book recommendations, furthermore, from the internet. I have found many unusual books this way, things that would never be stocked in bookshops. I once worked as a publishing company sales rep, so I know how the business works; all bookshops in the metropolitan area get stocked with the same mainstream titles. Unusual and hard-to-locate things are completely overlooked. I know that many people like the heft and feel of the physical product, but such things mean nothing to me. For me it's all in the quality of the writing or the ideas. Books are intellectual property, just like journalism and music, and in that space the rein of electrons has had irreversible effects on businesses. The convenience of buying on the Kindle based on recommendations from social media simply cannot be matched by bricks-and-mortar bookshops.

1 comment:

roger of bangalow said...

A flâneur's work is never done !