Confession: I love the movie You’ve Got Mail. I own two VHS’s of it and used to put it on while I was cleaning the house. I had the whole thing memorized so I could listen to the soundtrack and watch the movie play in my head while I scrubbed toilets and so-on.
Look, the reason I came into your store is that I was spending the day with Annabel and Matt.
I like to buy them a present when I see them because I'm one of those guys who likes to buy his way
into the hearts of children who are his relatives. There was only one place to buy children's books in
the neighbourhood -- although that will not always be the case, and it was yours, and it is a charming
little bookstore. You probably sell $250,000 worth of books a year --
How do you know that?
I'm in the book business.
I'm in the book business --
Oh, I see, and we're the Price Club. Only instead of a ten-gallon vat of olive oil for $3.99 that won't
even fit under your kitchen cabinet, we sell cheap books. Me, a spy.
Absolutely. And I managed to get my hands on a secret printout of the sales figures of a bookstore so
inconsequential and yet full of its own virtue that I was instantly compelled to rush over and check it
out for fear it would drive me out of business.
Can't you just see it? Kathleen standing there, knife in hand, speechless until Frank comes to her rescue. Maybe it's the fact that it takes place in New York and is about a quaint little children's bookshop or perhaps its the language they use like, bouquets of sharpened pencils. Either way, it pulls at my heart strings until they finally meet in Riverside Park. Elizabeth Benet and her Mr. Darcy.
Remember the opening credits? The sound of dialling, and a modem humming away? It seems decades ago. And yet, we could all see her point as stores like Chapters and Barnes and Nobel started to take over the landscape - small independents slowly fading away without notice. Fast forward 14 years and now even those big box stores are being threatened with the invention of Kindles and e-books.
What is to become of printed books? Will my children even know the euphoric smell of a freshly cracked book, pages crisp with ink that has barely had time to dry? Or books that hold the smell of musty cellars and back corners of attacks - classics like Winnie-the-Pooh with ink-tipped illustrations. I was unable to articulate my feelings towards literature's technological turn until yesterday when I read this article.
Just last week I was saying that I bought an audio book to listen to while I made supper (on a side note: my War And Peace was severely abridged….so disappointing) and while it is not quite an e-book it is worth considering the impact of such a purchase on the quaint little book shops that I love so dearly.
Not only that but I am admittedly an Amazon junky. And why not? For Mother’s day I bought my mother and my mother-in-law A Good and Perfect Gift on Amazon, used, for a penny. Sure I had to pay for shipping but it was still cheaper than buying them in a book store. And I didn’t buy them because they were a penny, it just happened to be the price on the book that I wanted. It’s not the first time I have used Amazon, nor will it be the last, but they definitely drive a hard bargain and the cost of books (printed books and e-books alike) will only go down with time as more competitors come out to play.
So, where do we go from here? Do all bookstores face the same inevitable fate? What do you think?
Great, now I need to go and rent You’ve Got Mail. Seriously. The truths become more profound with time….So Good!
Post-Edit: Ben asked me why I was thinking about You’ve Got Mail. I told him that I got thinking about the fate of books yesterday when I read the above mentioned article and, of course, the movie came to mind. The reason he asked is because Nora Ephron, the director of You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally died yesterday. You can read about some of her achievements here.