How many of you remember your first visit to a bookstore?
When I was very young, one of my favorite things in the world was to have my parents read to me. I remember vividly, laying in my parent’s bed, head nestled in the crook of my mother’s arm as she read to me the stories of Rudyard Kipling and Thornton W. Burgess. Even when I could read some simpler books by myself, I preferred the deeper stories, such as The Wind in the Willows, The Phantom Tollbooth, and A Wrinkle in Time. I still have such a strong image of It on the dais and the weird heartbeat sensation Meg felt in that room while trying to rescue Charles Wallace. Because of this, my lifelong passion for reading was born.
As I grew older, I discovered the joys of bookstores. I had my own bicycle, one of those kid-sized ones with a “banana seat” and reflectors in the wheel spokes. I would ride that thing to the small neighborhood bookstore, making sure to lock it up in the bike rack outside with the combination padlock because I never knew how long I would be spending inside. At that time the store wasn’t called “indie”. It was just “the bookstore”. And I loved it. The stacks were tall and narrow, like exploring some kind of cave, and it had that book smell. If you’re a reader, you know what I’m talking about. The owner was always kind, and knew that while I might spend a lot of time browsing, I would eventually use my allowance to buy a novel that captured my attention with its beautiful cover art. There was something about finding just the right book that would “click” with what I wanted, that felt magical.
The bookstore gets bigger!
When I was a teenager, larger bookstores began popping up. Waldenbooks was the biggest in my town. In my eyes, it was a wonderland. And best of all, you had to walk through the bookstore to get into the mall. I had graduated to a 10-speed bike by then and could travel farther throughout the city, which I did, especially on weekends! When my friends wanted to go hang out at the shopping center, grabbing an Orange Julius and wandering around aimlessly, just happy to be spending time away from our houses, I would always spend the most time in the bookstore. My impatient friends would yell and complain and eventually wander off, leaving me to look at the new releases, followed by the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi sections, which were my favorite genres.
Waldenbooks eventually disappeared and Barnes & Noble took its place. I still continued to spend time there, now an adult and enjoying coffee while searching through two stories of goodness. Books that I never knew existed, I could find there. I discovered new authors that I had never heard of, and if I liked the first book by them, I would go on to consume everything they had written. It is a wonderful thing to discover a new book series after the entire series has already been written! I didn’t have to worry about friends bugging me to leave, I could spend the whole afternoon there. It was marvelous.
A beast awakens.
With the rise of the internet, a new player entered the booksellers’ market. Nobody ever anticipated the impact it would have, but Amazon became a powerhouse. Ease of shopping and huge discounts were catalysts that not only put many bookstores out of business, but several other types of retail stores that could not compete. I confess that I occasionally use them myself, and in many ways they gave a voice to a very large group of independent authors who would otherwise not be heard, so I have to give them credit for that. But I do miss the smell of those good old bookstores.
Barnes & Noble stores are still around. I have also seen a resurgence in small boutique bookstores, which makes me incredibly happy. As an author, I love to see my book available online at sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I would love even more to see a physical copy sitting there on the shelf in the YA section of my local stores. I believe my artist has done a wonderful job of capturing the feel of my story, and I would hope that a young, passionate reader wandering the rows of their local store would “click” with the cover art, the same way I did, all those years ago. Pulling the book from the shelf, they would flip through the pages, seeing the artwork inside. Reading a paragraph or two, their imaginations would be captured and they would go home with a treasure to be savored.
The priceless gift of reading.
Inspire your children to read. Take them to bookstores, big and small. Allow them time to explore and discover. Give them the gift of reading. And though it is easy to purchase through Amazon, try to shop local or from an author’s own website. If you don’t see a book on the shelf, ask for it. The support this gives to authors is so much greater than the royalties received from a mega site like Amazon. It allows us to continue to write the stories you and your children will love.
As always, I appreciate the time you took to read this. Any comments or questions you have are welcomed.