Today I spent an hour walking around a bookstore.
After a while I realized how much I used to do this, and how much I missed it. Discovering books and authors and ideas by simply walking and looking; browsing without pinching or scrolling or flipping. How quiet it was, and the few moments when it wasn’t.
How bright and fun and bold and creative the covers of books still are, up close and analog. Even more fun is recognizing the names of authors I know in person: There they are, almost in person, on that shelf. A hardcover handshake.
Browsing the bookstore, you often catch a glimpse of a smile on someone’s face when they finally find “that book” on the shelf. Then nodding in silent understanding to each other. You, quickly looking at the other books in their hands, to see what gems they have found. Yes, yes, I know Amazon will tell us what others search for; but it’s not the same, ineffably.
And then: the clearance section!
Some of the best books I have ever read came from these tables, for six dollars, or five. How many piles, in corners of my office, on chairs, boxed away, of these cheap-reads have I enjoyed – over and over again – because the clearance tables detoured me on the way to the cashier.
I hope bookstores never completely go away.
I know I can own everything that’s inside of them on my tablet, for far less and much more quickly. Yet I’ve met so many amazing people in the bookstore – detectives and doctors and masterminds of the underworld, masked villains of far away worlds. Rows and columns, tall and deep, not just columns on a screen.
I love how real they become – and I – surrounded by them in person.
Books in print: Sort of like us. For all that we’re readable – in texts and tweets and tubes – we’re always that much better in person.
For all the e-ink we can emit, there’s still something wonderful about analog moments. Meetings in person. Holiday cards by envelope. Reaching over your shoulder for that well-weathered book with the paragraph that applies to the here, now, today, that you underlined and dog-eared decades ago.
It’s a special quality of the real.
Of the analog world.