28 July 2010

Laughing at Fate

Spend just a few precious moments with the daily newspaper and suddenly it becomes clear. We’re doomed.

Page One starts out OK: It’s opening day at the fair. But then we have Growing fears US may face deflation, Study sees mass migration to the US. No wonder people skip the morning paper in favor of Facebook.

British Petroleum has exiled their CEO to Siberia. McCartney plays the White House. The Austrian Governor of Cally-Fornia issues a budget warning. San Diego bans offshore boozing on personal flotation devices. No more Floatopias.

This morning I received an emotional letter from Lafayette Books in the East Bay. Owner Dave Simpson wrote, “Dear Friends, It's Monday and I'm in the bookstore, it being the last Monday we'll exist in the traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ sense. We're very excited about our new life on BIG BLUE, but for many of us – staff, friends, family, and customers alike – it's a time of extraordinary poignancy.”

Rent was raised, sales fell past break-even and Simpson was forced to shrink his excellent store to fit inside a renovated bookmobile. A sadly familiar story in recent years, except for the bookmobile.

Simpson writes “Since 1963, the Lafayette Book Store has been a center of literary activity and a community center where people come to browse books, ask for recommendations, meet their neighbors, and cultivate relationships with our charming, intelligent staff... with the closing of the brick-and-mortar I worry that the talisman will be lost and the community that's gathered around the bookstore will dissolve.”

Simpson adds, “Together we can prevent this from happening! ... the VERY best way to keep this sense of community is to join us on Facebook.  We have a Lafayette Book Store page and also The Bay Area Bookmobile page.”

Really? When your local bookstore goes down, you save the situation by friending it on FaceBook?

“We'll be active there with our schedule of appearances, announcements of author signings and events, and as always, our book recommendations (and you can offer your own!). Come join the conversation!”

Dave, I feel for you and for the community you’ve served so well. I’m happy I can still find you online and in your new bus. That’s all good, but tell me how is Facebook any kind of substitute for what we’re losing here?

Pretty much every US bookstore is already on Facebook, whether they are “real” or just an address. Those real life readers, the brick and mortar ones who supported you with their time, dollars, and love. Now... well, maybe they’ll friend you on Facebook.

I have trouble imagining that as any kind of good news.

In June the small town of Willits in Mendocino County lost its favorite bookstore, Leaves of Grass. Their web site forlornly announces they’re open Monday through Saturday 10-6, Sundays 12 - 5. But the phone is disconnected, the books are gone, and owner Rani Saijo has moved on.

Back in May she wrote, “Changing times have made it impossible for us to keep going. Thank you to all our friends & supporters for these wonderful years!”

However, we do have a birth to celebrate. This summer KZYX’s own Loretta and WDan Houck opened a bookstore in Boonville, named Laughing Dog Books. “Come! Sit! Read!” Congratulations!

I’m sick of bookstore obituaries. Let’s cut it out, people. Support your local independent bookstore today, and tomorrow, and again next month, too. I still prefer to find my bad news in the daily newspaper, where most of it isn’t so personally painful.


Lafayette Book Store, 3569 Mt Diablo Blvd Ste E (next to Postino Restaurant)
925-284-1233   mail@lafayettebookstore.com  

Laughing Dog Books

LDB on Facebook

1 comment:

paul in davis said...

Tony wrote: "...but tell me how is Facebook any kind substitute for what we’re losing here?" Obviously, it is not the perfect substitute, nor is it even close. But it IS a substitute - a replacement - nonetheless. Is it better than nothing at all? Hmm...I can't answer that one.

There is lament everywhere for the old, nostalgic way of doing things. Before Facebook we used to talk to each other....on the phone. Before the phone, we talked face to face (whenever we could manage to physically bridge the distance between our friends and family). Before TV, we used to sit around together and listen to the radio. Before radio, we sat around together and talked. Before refrigeration, we ate together at the same time and at the same table. I think you know where I'm going with this.

With each technological advance, we lost something - something that seemed more tangible and less ephemeral than what we gained with the advance in technology. Good thing, bad thing, or is it just the way the world works?

I bet there were people who swore they would never give up riding their horse for driving some smelly, noisy contraption that kept on breaking down and required high maintenance. Somehow, we managed to survive and adapt, and even thrive. I lament the loss of things that I cherish, but I cannot hope to stem the tide of time and human ingenuity. I just try to survive, adapt, and thrive within my means and my sphere of influence. I'm not suggesting that you follow my lead. It's just another way of looking at the world.

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