“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”
People-watching for a couple of hours in a small-town bookshop, like Wolfville’s The Box of Delights, is always an interesting way to pass the time. My mum owned a mostly-used bookstore for the last 25 years of her life. She was passionate about The Book Nook, aptly named since it’s pretty small. In response to a request, Mum could always put her finger on any book on her crowded shelves. In these days of online shopping, I’m happy to see that people still want that kind of personal service in choosing books. As an author, I sure appreciate booksellers hand-selling my books!
This time of year, bookshop customers come with lists, some taking off their coats and spending an hour or more carefully choosing gifts. Brushing her fingers across an embossed cover, one woman smiled, telling me how books are a tactile experience for her. Reading on an e-reader or laptop just isn’t the same experience as holding a book, looking at its cover each time you open it, carefully placing a bookmark each time you close it. I most often have two or three books on the go at once, scattered around the house. Somehow books on an e-reader seem more disposable to me, and I’m more likely to abandon an e-book part-way through.
When I travel, I do like to have library books downloaded to my laptop, just because it’s easier. A market share analysis shows that sales of e-books published by the big 5 (Random House, etc) have plummeted from close to 40% in early 2014 to close to 20% in early 2016. http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/ The only group showing an increase in e-book sales during that two-year period is indie publishers.
It’s a tough go for independent bookstores today, with the big guys selling the season’s most popular titles for $15, when the usual retail price is $30+. In this increasingly competitive bookselling world, choosing to shop at indies is the only way we can help ensure their survival. The best kind of people work in bookshops, and in a town of 4,000 (plus 4,000 university students), we’re so lucky to have The Box of Delights on Main Street as a community gathering place for booklovers. Thank you Hilary, Mitzi, and all!
Thanks for being with me on my blog this year; happy holidays and a healthy, contented 2017 to all of you!