It seems like every time I read a news story about bookstores, it’s about them closing. Doesn’t matter if they’re selling used books or new books – they are going out of business. The picture above shows the owner of St. Croix Antiquarian Books in the used bookstore he started in 2001. The doors will close at the end of July of this year, since he is retiring and none of his kids want to take over the business. Little Willow Books in Massachusetts is already closed. Barnes and Noble have been steadily closing bookstores in their chain for over 15 years. Today I read that Family Christian Bookstores, which has over 240 stores in dozens of states will be closing all of their stores.
In the days before the internet, I would go into a bookstore and browse a bit to see what was new. Occasionally I would buy a book, but at an average cost of $25 a pop for a new hardcover, the price was just too high for our family budget. But times have changed. I go online to look for ideas of what to read next. When I find a book worthy of owning and re-reading, I look on Amazon for a used copy. Most of the time, however, I simply go to my local library and borrow the books instead of buying them.
I feel a great sadness for the many used bookstores out there, as they are generally one-of-a-kind, family endeavors. They each have a unique smell and feel, and reflect the person that owns them. At my favorite used bookstore (about an hour away), I love to walk across the old squeaky wooden floorboards, run my fingers over the dusty wooden shelves, pick up old paperbacks that are yellow along the edges, and sit on the plain benches sprinkled about the store. I feel amazement at all the book series that I never heard of – science fiction, cowboy tales, and more. Time stands still as I wander the overstuffed aisles. It’s not just a store, it’s an experience. When I go there, I always buy a couple books because I want this place to survive and keep their doors open. New bookstores are nice, but used bookstores are infinitely better.