Buying books is easier than ever in this age of e-books. The Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and the other devices make it simple to order, download, and consume books without ever setting foot in a bricks-and-mortar store. Indeed, it can be hard to find that bricks-and-mortar store when you want one. Yes, it's easy to buy a book; unfortunately, at least for me, it's often not so easy to choose a book.
I was reminded, Saturday night in Sunriver, Oregon, of the delights of shopping for books by browsing shelves. I was due to read at 5:30 in Sunriver Books & Music, but a rainstorm drove me away from the Arts Faire going on in the village, and into the store a half hour early. This store is exceptional, not least because the people who own it and who work there are all real, bona fide booksellers. They read the books they stock, they know what's on the shelves and how to find it, and they boast a magnificent choice of fiction and nonfiction. I knew, the moment I stepped inside, that I would like Sunriver Books.
For that half hour I was free to wander the aisles of this small, packed store. The titles and covers and author names leaped out at me. Here was a P.D. James I had missed! There was a new Elizabeth Strout I didn't know about! I saw a 1920s-themed book cover I hadn't seen before which looked perfect for my current 20s obsession. I picked up several novels by authors new to me, and was tempted by their cover copy. I wanted to pack a bag full of books and run away somewhere to read.
This is an experience that's hard to achieve when shopping for a book online. Recommended lists are helpful. Searching for genres is a start, but it's simply not the same. Browsing is a chore online, in my view; in a store--especially a fine store like Sunriver Books--it's a joy. In the half hour I spent in the stacks, I could have found a dozen books I'd like to read. It takes me far longer online.
I wish I had an answer to this problem. Beyond doing all I can to support independent booksellers, I don't. I live in a town of 60,000 that has no bricks-and-mortar bookstore. For browsing, I can go to the library--and I do--but I miss experiences like the one I had on Saturday.
Oh--and the reading was a success, well-attended by readers who actively participated in a Q & A, and then actually bought books. Another reason to long for the days when independent bookstores abounded! Don't forget, if you want to help support the ones we do have, to use IndieBound to find the store closest to you.