I recently got the news that the bookstore I work in, a really great independent one, thirty-some years old, is probably going to close in the next couple of months. Even though I knew that this was always a possibility, and that it was probably an inevitability, I'm still shocked. I thought that if any town could support an independent bookstore, Ithaca -- town of 50,000 students and their professors -- could. But as it turns out: no. Selling a carefully chosen selection of books in a non-warehouse-sized store is thing of the past. The expense is too great; the profit too small.
But it stinks. It REALLY stinks. Ithaca has shops that sell bongs and incense and Bob Marley tee-shirts; it has a shop that offers only high-end kitchen ware; it has about fourteen RiteAids. But not one teeny little independent bookstore? Not any more.
What's the point in even living in town if it's exactly like every other town? You might as well be a brain in a jar hooked up to the internet.
It makes me angry that the citizens of Ithaca have decided that buying books from the big boxes on the strip or from the internet Gargantua is preferable to buying them from a locally owned store. Or maybe they're not buying books at all. Maybe they're just reading blogs.
I do try to stay positive. I'm for books and literature, not against anything else. I love the internet. But I don't want to live all my life here; I want to be able to walk into a store and see the people I like and say Hello and what have you read lately? I love buying a book and carrying it to the little grocery next door and getting a cup of soup and walking across the street to the park and sitting there with my book and soup and feeling a kind of bliss. You can't feel bliss in the Barnes and Noble parking lot, even if you have air conditioning in your frigging car and you shell out for a Flappacheeno.
I've met so many great people at the store. Customers know us, know our schedules, know who to ask if they want a cookbook (not me) or a kids' picture book (not me either).
Oh, well, this is not an original rant. You can argue till the end of time over Convenience and Wide Selection and Discounts versus Knowledgeable Clerks and Interesting Selection and Local Dollars. But I guess this latest development has undermined my basic optimism. Ithaca without Bookery II is a lesser town. There's no good side to it.
(Undermined, but not destroyed: I secretly believe that the B&Ns and Borderses will self-destruct a few years down the line and commercial rents will plummet and more great books will be published in paperback by small presses, and we'll be living through another Renaissance...)
Meanwhile, I have other business to attend to. Just got a batch of new chicks:
And there are seedlings to transplant:
Oh, yeah, and books to read.....