"One of my favorite bookstores burned down last weekend, and while I only got to visit there while I was on vacation, it made me stop and think.
"What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?
"Whether it’s a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop … what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?"
A fire destroyed a bookshop in the city where I lived in the early 1990s. Newspaper coverage documented the grief and mourning of the shop's regular customers.
But that was in the days when newspapers were a societal stronghold, and before the advent of bookshops-cum-public livingrooms. Nowadays, I think most people suddenly bereft of their favorite spots would, by and large, have no trouble switching to any of the online booksellers. The Internet has supplanted Place with twenty-four hour availability and ease, among other things.
I lost my favorite bookshops over the years when I moved to other parts of the country. My last such place provided an experience, not just a place to buy then dash. It had all the things one thinks of when shopping in a small place: personal attention, atmosphere, character and moment. I miss it.
Local options here are the chain bookstores - - offering the chance to sit on chairs only 5,000 other people sat in before you! - - where I would pay full retail prices, and a secondhand-book store that will order new books on request. On a friend's recommendation I visited the latter...once. The dust was thick and the books greasy and grimy. I changed my reading habits to include the occasional visit to the (noisy!) local library for books I request ahead of time by phone.