There have been times in recent months where I almost feel like a kid again; and not in a good way. I am an avid book reader and always have been. Yet, if I want to go out and pick up a new book to read my options continue to dwindle. Which rhymes with Kindle. And therein lies the rub.
When a friend of mine recently learned that another Barnes and Noble had closed near her house, she was crestfallen. Until I reminded her that she and I were part of the problem. She hadn’t bought a book in years, opting to always visit the public library. I, on the other hand, was choosing the downloading route more and more.
Growing up pre-Internet and before the advent of the big box bookstores, I did have access to books via smaller bookstore chains. Yet, when Borders debuted some twenty or more years ago, the tome-buying experience was taken to another level. With amazing, seemingly endless selections of new and classic offerings. As importantly and akin to the Starbucks recipe for coffee enjoyment, there was the experience. Browsing over scones and hot chocolate. Discovering new authors and topics amid a sea of wooden bookshelves with nearly unimaginable magazine and newspaper offerings. Storytellers reading picture books to wide-eyed children.
Today, my bookstore options, and perhaps yours as well, are a good 10 miles away in either direction. The Kindle, meanwhile (or the Nook is you are so inclined – and at least that benefits Barnes & Noble) is always inches from my fingertips with a selection, available 24-7, that would rival fifty bookstores combined. It’s how we consume more and more. Like our movement from CDs to MP3, we want what we want, when we want it. Yet, there’s no denying that something is missing: The sense of community.
It is a dynamic lacking all too often in our society today. It is why we are still drawn to city centers and old-fashioned downtowns like those in Rochester, Ferndale and Plymouth while developers and DDAs continue to work to emulate them – in Wixom, Novi and Dearborn – quite often with mixed results. People still need people and shared experiences; or at least have the option. Let’s hope that never changes.