Bookstores as the new Top 40 radio station?

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It seems that each day brings another industry bulletin about how a bookstore has closed or how a chain will be reducing the number of titles it will carry. Brick and mortar stores are having to make hard choices; limiting their selection.

High retail rents, gasoline for delivery trucks, the economy, and unemployment can all be blamed, but not for long. Yes, it is time for consumers to tighten their budgets, but that is not the driving force behind the reduction in titles on bookstore shelves.

As a culture, we have become used to “shortcuts” and “hot-keys” in our work and home life. Our radios offer the same 100 songs each day with only a smirking nod to “independent” music. Technology does more than entertain and assist us; it often makes our choices for us. As we sink more deeply into our dependence upon technology, we lose our willingness to work for our pleasure.

Gone are the days when we slowly browsed a library or bookstore shelf looking for the perfect book to fit our mood. Those of us who find the time to read a book no longer have the time to search for one. We reach for the review section, listen to the latest NPR praise and ask our friends what their bookclubs are reading.

Armed with a vetted list, we can log on line or run into a bookshop and make a beeline for the front table. Chances are, the 11 books we have heard good things about are stacked there.

It is not that America does not have time for books, we don’t have time for bookstores. That is bad news for both parties. We want a quick hit, a guaranteed success, a sure thing. There is nothing wrong with that, but it will forever rob us of that one amazing “find” that could have altered our thinking; the hidden gem that could touch us so personally and deeply.

I understand the America is asking for fewer choices and that the bookstores have to do what is best for their business… I guess I was just hoping for more time before the book industry became what radio degenerated into 30 years ago…. a place for the masses to be told what to enjoy.

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