Image: eflon via flickr

Image: eflon via flickr

I can’t imagine a world without bookstores. Of course, 5 years ago I would have said I couldn’t imagine a world without record stores. Always a record store junkie, I was slow to embrace online music sales, one, because I appreciate the actual CD, & two, just because I love the atmosphere inherent in a good record store. But for the most part, I’ve accepted browsing and shopping for my music online.

There are definitely advantages: I can listen to samples & I can buy only what I want. Admittedly, online music sales have likely increased my music buying given the fact that I can try before I buy. Still, I always make a point to stop by my favorite record store in LA–Amoeba–when I’m in the neighborhood or when I really do want the hard copy of a favorite CD. I’m thankful Amoeba, and all the other independent stalwarts, have held-out. But, I guess if they too disappeared I would survive.

However, I can’t say the same for my favorite bookstores.

Just like online music sales, online book sales have become the future of the book-selling. Yes, there are advantages here as well: it’s easy to find those books your local bookstore doesn’t carry, & thanks to Amazon, books are often cheaper. I’ll confess, I frequently buy books on Amazon & I’m more likely to buy in bulk to take advantage of free-shipping offers. But, the fact remains, Amazon can never replace the pleasure of browsing in a good bookstore. Just as Charles Rosen points out in his blog post, The Lost Pleasure of Browsing, on Tuesday’s New York Review of Books blog, there is a certain pleasure in holding a book in your hands, and turning & reading a few pages before you buy.

Weekly, I can be found in one of my local bookstores. It doesn’t matter if it’s the local independents like Book Soup or Vroman’s, or one of the major chains like Borders or Barnes & Noble. I just like bookstores. I like wandering through the aisles, along the tables, pulling down & picking up books just because something about the title, the author’s name, or the cover or spine art caught my attention. For the most part, this is how I discover new books & new writers. I’m horrible at accepting someone else’s recommendations, and I’m reluctant to follow the crowd & read what’s on the New York Times best-seller list. I need to hold a book in my hands, flip through the pages, and stop at random somewhere in the middle & read a line or two & see if my interest is piqued.

I sincerely hope bookstores survive. Without book browsing in my favorite bookstores, I’m not sure what I would do with my Saturday afternoons.