While wandering around Kitsilano recently, I came across a tragic sight: one of my favorite second-hand bookstores, Canterbury Tales, had closed down.
Only an empty facade remained of what used to be a bustling, adorable store manned by an ancient lady who knew the author, title and location of every book in her store.
It’s strange – the last time I saw a used bookstore close down, it was the one on 10th and Sasamat, and I uttered a vindictive “HA!” in my head because for some reason a few months earlier they had turned me down for a job (which I didn’t really want anyway because the pay sucked).
But it’s really not a laughing matter. Used bookstores and independent bookstores (anyone remember Duthie Books?) are crucial to the preservation of the literary world. How else can people stock their bookshelves with well-read, impressive-looking tomes and unknown authors? How else can people like me peruse dusty book aisles for hours, squealling internally with excitement when we find a yet-unread Vonnegut book or that Beckett play we’ve been after? Where else can I get to talk to someone who really knows books? Who can help me actually find what I’m looking for instead of checking in an online catalog?
I don’t mean to be a preachy The Kindle is the end of the world type of person, but more and more I feel I’m starting to become one. Tablets are great, I’m sure… they’re convenient, they’re easy to travel with, you don’t have to own the physical book to read it etc. But with every bookstore I see close down, I feel the urge to grasp onto my books and wail as I go down with their ship.
Maybe I’m just really protective of my bragging rights. I’ve spent a long time honing my bookshelf to look maximally impressive.