Bookstores, savor the last chapter

By Barbara Kessler Green Right Now I am saddened when I visit most bookstores these days, and that goes even for the big chain stores that I know have made...

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

I am saddened when I visit most bookstores these days, and that goes even for the big chain stores that I know have made it difficult for local booksellers. I feel for all of them, because no matter what time of day I visit, it seems a little quieter at that time than it used to be.

Book Carriage

The Book Carriage in Roanoke, TX, everything a bookstore should be, and a bit more. (Photo: GRN)

Not always, but usually.

I’m pained because bookstores have served as community gathering spots in the suburbs and towns that have been dispossessed of other community structures. As traditional downtowns gave way to outlying malls, and then malls fell to strip centers, there was usually a bookstore, vintage or otherwise, where you could jabber with folks, drink a cup of coffee and hang out for what would be a socially unacceptable amount of time in any other venue. Thankfully, this is still the case near many college campuses.

In bookstores, no one tells you to move along. It’s understood that you’re going to browse, chat quietly, play chess and possibly become a human fixture.

Of course I’m an easy touch. I still feel a little sentimental even about the loss of Blockbuster, another one of those places that substituted, in a small way, for the town square that most modern  suburbs either fumbled or failed to install.

Book Carriage II

Coffee and books and music and art. Is there anything left?

Our local Blockbuster is now an Urgent Care. (And so is our onetime Borders Bookstore.) Netflix and Pay-Per-View are convenient. But trawling for titles isn’t the same. Finding a movie is no longer an adventure; a weekend ritual to be relished. It’s unmoored from its Friday or Saturday night time slot. But now I’m starting on another topic, the decoupling of time and media.

Let’s get back to books. Another trend that’s delivered a body blow to bookstores is the Nook/Kindle phenomenon. Electronic books are rescuing trees. I’m elated. Now, can I also say that I appreciate this wonderful technological advancement and simultaneously hate it. I don’t like that we’re losing our paper books.

What are we to do with our bookshelves, stickies, imprints and autographs? Where do we file that new book smell? I’m sure others have written eloquently about this. I really only mean to add that I’m conflicted too.

For now, I’m buying most of my reads on my Nook. It’s the responsible way to go, ecologically. However, when I cannot get a title on my “device,” I will go looking for it in the time-honored way. I scrounge in a bookstore. Sometimes I try online. But often as not I take the opportunity to support my local bookseller.

And finally she comes to the point: You can too! Independent booksellers are easy to find, just look them up on your computer at the Indie Bound website.

A search in my area, turned up more than a dozen locally owned book stores, including the locally iconic Reycled Books near the University of North Texas (UNT) and The Book Carriage in Roanoke, Texas. (Also listed was at least one bookstore that closed a couple years ago, so watch out on that front.)

I still order reference books in paper format, because I like to scribble in them and while I can do that electronically, I can’t seem to relocate notes as easily as I can in the paper book. Call me a visual learner, or just an old dog.

So the other day I set out for The Book Carriage House in out-of-the-way Roanoke. What a find! Here in the middle of a recovering Main Street was a nifty bookstore with brick walls, polished wood floors, neat stacks of prize-winning fiction and an in-house coffee shop.

Owners Larry and Angie Granados are retired accountants, though they don’t seem old enough to be retired. They built The Book Carriage five years ago, intending it to blend in with the traditional Main Street look of this historic pony stop. They’ve been busy ever since hosting children’s storytimes, community events, local musicians on Saturdays and book lovers from near and far. They work hard to be a community anchor, selling locally made crafts, hanging the work of regional artists and hosting musicians on Saturday nights who play in a loft above the coffee bar.

The place is welcoming and spotless. I bought the book I’d ordered (The Energy Reader, an apocalytic but vital collection of essays I’ll post about later). Then I browsing. Ymmm. A warm mental bath. I found several more book and bought what my budget could withstand, including a debut novel about horses and snobby horse people in the American West and a naturalist’s observations of animals for my wildlife-loving daughter.

Angie Granados lamented that bookstores are losing out to technology. But she said they’ve still got a lot of life left, with school book events and many people still wanting to collect books on paper.

“We wanted to have a  cozy little place,” she continued, explaining that she benchmarked against her own interests.  ”I like books. I like kids. I like music and I like art. We have tried to provide events for kids, local music on Saturday evenings and we work with the schools.”

The Book Carriage also discovered it appealed to passersby in the growing business corridor north of   Fort Worth. Tourists from all over the world began dropping in.

“Yes, it’s about keeping a small town together,” she said. “But a lot of tourists come through; people from all over the world.

“People say, ‘Oh my I’m glad I found this little book store,’.”

Copyright © 2013 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

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