“You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.” – Ann Patchett
I now have both a Kindle and an iPad. The latter was a gift from my younger brother, formerly of Harvard Business School and currently employed by Apple at their corporate headquarters in California. Now I just googled Apple to be sure that the address is Cupertino rather than Mountain View. (When you do not live there, the now famous names of the towns of Silicon Valley tend to run together.) To be exact, the current address of the corporate offices is ‘1 Infinity Loop, Cupertino.’ Nearby is the Junipero Serra Freeway, named for the Franciscan Friar and famed missionary.
Thus we have the kind if random juxtaposition of past and present – happy, carefree, and jumbled – that to me seems typically American and inspiring of a sort of head shaking but nonetheless deep affection.
Well, I’ve wandered way off topic….
Anyway, I’ve not been using the Kindle much lately, as I’ve been overawed by the iPad’s mighty capabilities. (You were right, Richard!) But lately, where reading is concerned, I’ve found myself desiring less and less to read e-books, preferring instead to have the old fashioned print volumes nestled securely in my hands. More than one person has recently commented to me that they’ve gone over to e-books exclusively. I find such confidences dismaying, especially as they’ve been emanating from persons of my own generation.
I’ve been feeling very differently of late, possibly because I haven’t been traveling in recent weeks (a respite that’s about to end). I’ve been desirous of reading in the old way- and only in the old way, with books, magazines, and newspapers in my hands, positioned to receive the light. So you can imagine how delighted I was by “Don’t Burn Your Books–Print Is Here To Stay,” an article that appeared in the January 5 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Among other encouraging words, Nicholas Carr says this:
Half a decade into the e-book revolution,… the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency.
Now, there are times when I think that resiliency is entirely down to me! But no – it seems that others are making a similar discovery. After charting the recent decline in e-book sales, Carr observes: “The fact that an e-book can’t be sold or given away after it’s read also reduces the perceived value of the product.” You may disagree with a few of Carr’s other assertions – I myself would quibble with the allegedly disposable nature of genre fiction – but still be heartened by his analysis of the current state of the world of books.
And then there’s “The Bookstore Strikes Back,” Ann Patchett’s rousing piece in the December 2012 Atlantic. Patchett and her business partner have singlehandedly demonstrated the durability of this beloved retailing tradition. They couldn’t stand the idea that their city, Nashville, was facing a future without a bookstore, and so they did something about it. Despite the odds in the current climate, Parnassus Books has succeeded brilliantly, and not just in financial terms.
In February of last year, during an appearance on The Colbert Report, Ann promised viewers signed copies of State of Wonder if they purchased it through her bookstore’s website. The result; a gratifying spike in sales of this terrific novel.
You may have heard the news that the independent bookstore is dead, that books are dead, that maybe even reading is dead—to which I say: Pull up a chair, friend. I have a story to tell.
Ann Patchett, writer and co-owner of Parnassus Books