(This was my second post on OS and was in response to an Open Call about your favorite bookstore.)
When I opened a used bookstore five years ago, I discovered some pet peeves I didn't know I had: dog-eared pages, books with writing in them, missing dust jackets, broken spines, scribblings in children's books, and prices written in ink on books that eventually made their way to my store.
Small irks. All things I learned to live with. A little Wite-Out took care of the inked prices. Broken spines and dog-eared pages came to be seen as signs of a well read book. Lines of initials on first pages as proof of a well traveled book. And children's scribblings as a sign of an early appreciation of the arts.
A few of the peeves I even learned to love. Like the personalized inscriptions that so often express a fondness for a specific book as well as for a certain person. All in all, a more than even trade for the pleasure of spending my days surrounded by books.
But lately my pet peeves have gotten bigger. I get irritated not at books but at people. The ones who write letters to editors bemoaning the closure of a local bookstore but buy their books online. The ones who don't browse in a bookstore because their lives are just too busy with all their electronic gadgets. The ones who buy electronic readers so as not to clutter their homes with books, but have four sets of china and two more bedrooms than family members. The ones who consider books clutter.
Admittedly these new irritations are all in direct correlation to what I see as dwindling book sales and the willingness of people to give up the pleasure of holding an actual book, flipping through it's pages, cuddling up in a chair with it, writing a personal inscription in it and, when they're finished, handing it off to a friend who might enjoy it.
I have a favorite bookstore. It's called Say3 Books and it's my own. At least for a little longer. With the coming holiday season and the promise of even more electronic readers making their way under trees and into stockings, I'm not sure how long I'll survive.
A woman came into my store recently looking for paperbacks because she thought her new e-reader was causing her hands to cramp. I almost cheered. It gave me hope.
Surely, amid all the warnings and testings for hazards that we do in this country, someone will verify a causal connection between the new e-readers and some minor health hazard. Maybe they'll even find a slight, but verifiable, harm from second hand exposure to the devices. They might even want to test for any slightly offensive odor that they emit. With luck, some sort of graphic warning will be required.
I'm not hoping for a cancer connection. Just something minor that we booksellers can grab onto. Something that makes people just a little bit afraid or irritated.
And while they're at it, I hope they also do a test to reaffirm that browsing in book stores and holding an actual book in your hands causes pleasure. Because too many people seem to be forgetting that.