I spotted this blog post on the Washington Post today; the subject was a familiar lament to many book readers as writer Joel Achenbach was pondering both the Nook and the rapid loss of many bookstores. Like many of us, he has noticed that the speed of ebook readers provides anyone with a way to find and read a book within a matter of minutes. Also, like many of us here in Seattle, he is worried that he will miss stepping foot in brick and mortar bookstores.
Achenbach’s reflections mark the way many book lovers feel about ebook devices and bookstores: guilty. When we buy a book on the Kindle, the Nook, or on some other device, we feel guilty because we aren’t supporting our local (and national) bookstores. I belong to a book club in my neighborhood; once a month, we hold our book club discussions at a local bookstore. Some of us buy the books at the bookstore itself while others of us embarrassedly try to reference page numbers in terms of the percentage of the book finished given by Amazon’s Kindle. Most of us then hide our Kindles in our laps and hope that the bookseller doesn’t see them, but a few of us are unabashed.
We try not to feel as guilty because the bookstore has a coffee shop and we try to buy coffee or tea as we discuss whatever book happens to be on our agenda. But it doesn’t work. We live in Seattle, and as Seattlites, we have a truthful penchant for feeling guilty--first, for being white or asian; and second, for not being poverty-stricken; and now, third, for downloading our books and thus making us partially responsible for the ultimate collapse of all of the bookstores in our town.
No one I know here feels that the death of print journalism and bookstores is a positive thing. No one I know is like the blogger referenced by Achenbach who said that “Journalism, particularly newspapers, have been fleecing America for decades and the bill has come due.”
But Seattle is not only one of the most literate cities in the United States, it is a techie city as well. We love our iPads, Nooks, and Kindles and the lure of combining a love of technology with a love for books has so far seemed to outweigh the guilt we feel for not supporting our local bookstores.