Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bookshop Crusader

Chad Post has good comments on a good article from the New Yorker regarding the decline of indie bookshops and the fight to keep them alive. I will give credit where credit is due: bookstore owners are not always the smartest of businessmen, and they may have played a part in their demise, but unlike the record industry I think book buyers are more loyal to the printed page and less enamored with flickering gadgets. Or maybe I am speaking for myself. Maybe I am naïve in believing that dedicated cadre of booklovers is out there ready to take on the Kindles and Nooks and preserve our beloved indie shops.

Sigh. I am all too aware that I might be a member of a dying breed or, at best, an ineffectual minority. I like books. I like the physical weight of them and I like the stores that pack their strained shelves with them. I can find a lot of books by browsing Amazon and reading online reviews, blog, and journals, but the thrill of happening upon a book in a store—a book for which I was not searching; a book that appeared before me—is not matched by the expanse of the net. This is how I found Bulgakov, Donoso, Calvino, Loy, and countless other favorites.

Here in the Chi we have a few indie shops left worth fight for. The Seminary Co-op is perhaps my favorite, with Powell’s on 57th being a close 2nd. As for price, there’s no beating Chandler’s (aka: Bookman’s Corner), and it has the additional charm of John, the owner. And then there’s Keith’s great Selected Works which has greatly improved since it moved to the Fine Arts Building. I was a bit skeptical of the decision at first, but I must admit I love this shop more than ever since it relocated out of Lakeview. Plus it has Hodge the cat, a friendly albeit intimidating feline known to pounce on customers from time to time. So I do my part and patronize these bookstores with a sense of purpose, knowing that I may be fighting an unwinnable battle. Oh well, we all need a cause, right?