Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Monday, October 02, 2006
Death of a Salesman
My buddy Jwer lamented about this exact issue over on his blog the other day. Perhaps if I send him some traffic, he'll post more frequently. The most poignant, and relevant comment on his post is from our Scottish friend, Campbell.

Sad does not begin to describe it. One of my alltime favorite books as a kid is 84 Charing Cross Road. To this day I want to own and read the entire Pepys Diary. I couldn't have been more than 14 years old when I read Charing Cross for the first time, but it totally validated all the thoughts and feelings I had on the importance of literature and the NEED to read the things that were important to you. Not just a desire to read, but a real, and pathological NEED. Like air, food, water = books. It also set forth an example of being able to search out these pieces, sometime obscure, through second hand shops and specialty bookstores, which has become a great hobby.

When I finally got to London, one of my first stops was Charing Cross Road, but I had also taken great pains to highlight all of the major London Booksellers in my travel guide so that I could stop in and have a glance. The predominant ones are still there, Blackwell's, Foyle's, Hathchard's but have all been commercialized to one extent or another (proven by their on line presence). I do sympathize with the fact that far, far, more books are published now than ever before, and maintaining an adequate inventory of them in 19th century space is problematic at best.

I shipped home an entire carton of books from that visit, that I knew I couldn't get here, but I can see the effect that commercialization and corporations are having, and it makes me very sad indeed.

It's the same in the music industry as well. Instead of spending a rainy afternoon combing the back stacks of a used book or record store, it's now all on e-bay or Don't get me wrong - I LOVE them both for doing exactly that, but I still love the ability to sift through stacks for an afternoon looking for new and old friends, and feeling them in my hands.

I did that today, and it was terrific, and I found some gems, but it is also exactly why, after looking for it for nearly a month, I reluctantly ordered a copy of this book from Amazon.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:33 PM  
3 Editorial Opinions:
  • At October 03, 2006, Blogger jwer said…

    a) No! No traffic! There're only 2 (or possibly 3) more days of Content Challenge, after which time I fully intend to slip back beneath the ooze!

    b) Is it wrong that I want to order stuff from the Foyle's site, and also that I want to fly over there to see Dawkins on the 9th?

    c) You can ship books? Wow, I wish I'd thought of that... I used to just bring an empty suitcase over and a full one back. Huh.

    d) My real problem is that the goal of just browsing is gone; Borders and Barnes & Noble just feel like warehouses. No amount of slatwall and comfy waterproof chairs can make an Olsson's.

    e) you could replace all your orders from Amazon with orders from Powell's, you know. Although I don't hate Amazon, Powell's is easily the best bookstore in America (I say confidently, having been to probably 1% of the bookstores in America)...

  • At October 03, 2006, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    I have a little paperback book published about 12 - 15 years ago listing all the bookstores in Washington, DC. I went to most of them and checked them off as I went. I'd be curious to know how many are still there. Politics and Prose is a good one.

    yeah, yeah, I know - can't walk to it...

  • At October 03, 2006, Blogger jwer said…

    You can if you live in Van Ness or Woodley Park... P&P is a great store.

    But then, DC never billed itself as "the City That Reads"...

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