I know. I know. It was inevitable; it was forthcoming. With the advent of e-readers and Amazon, high property values, and a failing economy, bookstores were destined to die. Local bookstore, Book and Bean, recently took down its sign and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the big box bookstore, Borders, began closing ‘the 399 stores left over after its Chapter 11 filing in February.’ So, it’s not only the little shop around the corner that’s calling it quits. Technology has made its point; no bookstore is immune to these changing times. Bigger independent bookstores, such as Powell’s in Portland, the Tattered Cover in Denver, and City Lights in San Francisco have managed to carry on. But, will they eventually lose the book battle too? And our own Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks in Truckee, Tahoe City, and Quincy? What must it do to survive?

I’ve been mourning the imminent death of books for quite some time now, but only recently have I realized the consequence in losing the places that house them. Time and time again I’ve heard the argument against Kindles and other e-readers: ‘I just like the feel of a book in my hands.’ But what about the ‘feel’ of bookstores? Entering brightly lit stores, filled with artfully displayed stacks of books, we are aroused by both classics and new bestsellers. We walk briskly toward the sections labeled cooking, gardening, politics, poetry, and mysteries, and end up buying one on our list and another we discovered along the way. Whether old or new, antique or modern, bookstores have provided a special niche, a place to squander time, a refuge to lose ourselves in other worlds, sometimes even our own.

Will bookstores (and libraries) become the new fairytale? I imagine a scenario between grandparent and grandchild: Grandchild, once upon a time there were pieces of paper bound together on one side. On top of the front piece and on the back of the last piece were heavier pieces of paper called covers. Book covers were pieces of art: striking, beautiful, disturbing, or puzzling. This one unit was called a book and these prized items were sold in stores called bookstores. They were glorious, these bookstores, all the way to the ceiling — rows and rows of books. You could find a quiet corner and get lost in a book, or meet a friend with steaming cups of coffee between you. Oh, grandchild, to hold a collectable like the 1894 edition of John Muir’s ‘The Mountains of California.’ Or the bright yellow ‘Curious George’ hardback my mother read to me, over and over again. Mary Shelley’s brilliant ‘Frankenstein,’ the tome of ‘Moby Dick.’ Yes, books were really something special. Bookstores were too. How I wish I could take you to one. We’d walk between the rows and I’d show you some of my favorites. You’d point to a book you wanted me to read to you. Then we’d sit together, you on my lap in a corner of the store, my hands holding your book. We’d talk about the cover awhile and then I’d flip the cover as a key to opening our treasure. I would read to you, all those carefully crafted words written on pages and pages of paper. And you would slowly drift away, your thoughts filled with new, exciting adventures. Yes, if only I could. If only I could.

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