My Love Affair with Bookstores

The saddest fact of my life is that I live in a county without a bookstore. True, we have a place that specializes in antique books, but particular editions of Gone With the Wind or bejeweled Victorian Jewish prayer books don’t fill the craving I get for the literary arts.

I can drive 45 minutes north, up Blood Mtn and over the Appalachian Trail, to the amazing Book Nook in Blairsville. A small store owned by really amazing people, it carries titles that always tempt me and I generally leave with a small handful of new books. They have an amazing selection and are always willing to order books, even for an unrepentant heretic like me. Not something I can say for Barnes and Noble.

Beyond that, my options are limited. Barnes and Noble, also 45 minutes away in Cumming, GA (beat that, Intercourse, PA!), is a huge warehouse. Though I love visiting, strolling the aisles looking at titles and browsing at random, their selection generally sucks. It is a sea of thoughtless stocking. No care is given to the selection. The Pagan section is a travesty and I generally only visit that aisle to sigh in exasperation. Yet they do carry SageWoman, Witches & Pagans, and sometimes Pentacle magazine. I used to get my beloved PanGaia there, whose loss I still mourn.

Yes, I know Kindle is ecologically, economically and spatially more viable. I don’t care. Call me a troglodyte, a Luddite, a Romantic, nostalgic or just plain stubborn. I am madly, passionately in love with books. They are physical entities that hold their own energy. Even when I have no time to read, just touching a Jane Austen, Bernard Cornwell or Byron Herbert Reece volume stirs my soul. Some of my books, dog-eared with notes in the margins, have been read so may times that I swear they are imprinted with my energy and I have a special relationship to that particular volume that outweighs my connection to any other copy of that particular book.

I have a bible my mother gave me. When I became a young woman, maybe 13 or 14, my mother let me pick out the bible I wanted. As a devout child it was the single most amazing thing my often-disconnected mother ever did for this lifelong bibliophile. I researched the different translations and editions of the bible and picked out the Scofield KJV study bible as my own. Long before I converted and had the experience of crafting a BoS and building an altar, this was the first profound instance of having my very own specialized religious experience. It has a note from her in the front and it contains a sweetness deeply in contrast with it’s contents. It was this bible I poured over, filled with bookmarks and eventually set aside as both irrelevant and insulting to my religious life.

The power of a book as a physical object cannot be underestimated. A book can change the course of your life. It is an unchanging bulwark. In the past 12 years the Internet Sacred Text Archive has changed, as has Witchvox and BeliefNet. Books on e-readers are at the whim of those who control the technology, but a physical book changes you while remaining unchanged itself. How many physical objects can you think of that contain such power?

There were days when I was poor enough to consider ground beef a luxury, but I felt rich because I lived near a great bookstore. I will admit to more than once spending more on books than on groceries. I can remember days where I lived on coffee so I could make sure I had cash to buy the latest Bernard Cornwell novel. I miss having time to read, but even more I miss having a local bookstore. I spent more on books precisely because I had access to physical books for sale.

M’Colleague’s insightful, well-researched look at how the demise of Borders affects Pagan publishers hits me pretty hard this morning. My first love is the written word. I feel as if my love is wounded and I know not how to staunch the blood.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

    I used to feel exactly the way you do, Star, until I got a Nook.  Now….I would be LOST without my Nook.  I don’t just have a book at my fingertips, I have my entire library in my hand. 

    Everything I felt for my individual books, I feel 100X more for my Nook.  Can’t describe it.

    Best thing ever is reading a book in a series and you finish it at 3am DYING to read the next book.  So you click a button and the next one is loaded and you are back to reading by 3:02am.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      See, I have a lot of pdf’s and a lot of free public domain books downloaded from Amazon, and I never touch them. The convenience isn’t tempting to me. For me, it’s a treat to visit a bookstore. The buying experience means as much as the book itself. Every visit to a bookstore reminds me despite my hermity habits, I’m not agoraphobic yet.

      • fffh_moderator

        That’s interesting because it’s the buying experience that sends me to the online stores.  If I got to a brick-and-mortar store, regardless of what they sell, I tend to spend about 400% what I should.  I don’t do that online and I think it’s because I can remove items from the cart before I checkout after seeing the total.  At the checkout counter, you hold up the line, anger the cashier, etc. if you start quibbling about what’s in your cart.  Online, no one is bothered; you just remove those two extra books and put them in your wish list.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          I’m notorious for carrying around items in a store and then putting them back just before I go to check out.

          • fffh_moderator

            Yeah, but it’s usually not until I’ve been in line after going to check-out that I realize the excess to which I’ve been a part.

    • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com Laura M. LaVoie

      I feel very much the same about my handheld computing device and its library.  Since I use Kindle Reader on my iPod touch, it makes it convenient to read even when I shouldn’t (ahem…at work…ahem).  I wasn’t sure how I would like reading digitally and now I couldn’t go back.

      On top of that, and I know this is sacrilege for many, since I am downsizing my life into 120 square feet, it is MUCH more reasonable for me to have a digital library and not a physical one. 

    • http://www.myownashram.wordpress.com Niki Whiting

      I am considering trying out one of the various Kindle/Nook platforms. But I want both: bookstores and physical books, and the ease of the e-readers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

    I used to feel exactly the way you do, Star, until I got a Nook.  Now….I would be LOST without my Nook.  I don’t just have a book at my fingertips, I have my entire library in my hand. 

    Everything I felt for my individual books, I feel 100X more for my Nook.  Can’t describe it.

    Best thing ever is reading a book in a series and you finish it at 3am DYING to read the next book.  So you click a button and the next one is loaded and you are back to reading by 3:02am.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      See, I have a lot of pdf’s and a lot of free public domain books downloaded from Amazon, and I never touch them. The convenience isn’t tempting to me. For me, it’s a treat to visit a bookstore. The buying experience means as much as the book itself. Every visit to a bookstore reminds me despite my hermity habits, I’m not agoraphobic yet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

        That’s interesting because it’s the buying experience that sends me to the online stores.  If I got to a brick-and-mortar store, regardless of what they sell, I tend to spend about 400% what I should.  I don’t do that online and I think it’s because I can remove items from the cart before I checkout after seeing the total.  At the checkout counter, you hold up the line, anger the cashier, etc. if you start quibbling about what’s in your cart.  Online, no one is bothered; you just remove those two extra books and put them in your wish list.

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          I’m notorious for carrying around items in a store and then putting them back just before I go to check out.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

            Yeah, but it’s usually not until I’ve been in line after going to check-out that I realize the excess to which I’ve been a part.

    • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com Laura M. LaVoie

      I feel very much the same about my handheld computing device and its library.  Since I use Kindle Reader on my iPod touch, it makes it convenient to read even when I shouldn’t (ahem…at work…ahem).  I wasn’t sure how I would like reading digitally and now I couldn’t go back.

      On top of that, and I know this is sacrilege for many, since I am downsizing my life into 120 square feet, it is MUCH more reasonable for me to have a digital library and not a physical one. 

    • http://www.myownashram.wordpress.com Niki Whiting

      I am considering trying out one of the various Kindle/Nook platforms. But I want both: bookstores and physical books, and the ease of the e-readers.

  • http://about.me/CosettePaneque Cosette Paneque

    I echo Cara’s experience. I used to feel the same way until I got a Kindle. I will miss the bookstore experience — going to the shop alone or with friends, browsing, having a cup of coffee, seeing an author speak — but I can barely remember the last time I bought a paper book. E-readers have only contributed partly to the change in my buying habits though. I have to agree that the selection at B&N and other big box stores isn’t great and while I spent time there, I didn’t often buy there. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    I echo Cara’s experience. I used to feel the same way until I got a Kindle. I will miss the bookstore experience — going to the shop alone or with friends, browsing, having a cup of coffee, seeing an author speak — but I can barely remember the last time I bought a paper book. E-readers have only contributed partly to the change in my buying habits though. I have to agree that the selection at B&N and other big box stores isn’t great and while I spent time there, I didn’t often buy there. 

  • http://twitter.com/atheris415 Atheris

    Books are indeed magical. The words from people long dead still speak to us. I like the way Jen from “The Dark Crystal” described writing: “Words that stay.”  Carl Sagan waxed eloquently about his love for books in”Cosmos”.

    Growing up, book were my best friends. These days I use a Kindle due to declining eyesight and simply running out of room for more books. Sheesh, I hope I never have to move again!

  • http://twitter.com/atheris415 Atheris

    Books are indeed magical. The words from people long dead still speak to us. I like the way Jen from “The Dark Crystal” described writing: “Words that stay.”  Carl Sagan waxed eloquently about his love for books in”Cosmos”.

    Growing up, book were my best friends. These days I use a Kindle due to declining eyesight and simply running out of room for more books. Sheesh, I hope I never have to move again!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FCM62LRWJYSJZAWCXGUA62L7B4 nothing

    Call me old fashion but I can’t imagine feeling the same for one of the new electronic books as for a physical book…to be able to hold it in your hand and smell the newness or the old book smells. To be able to have a relationship with the physical book to me is part of the magic of reading the written word. Just my opinion. :) Blessings to all.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FCM62LRWJYSJZAWCXGUA62L7B4 nothing

    Call me old fashion but I can’t imagine feeling the same for one of the new electronic books as for a physical book…to be able to hold it in your hand and smell the newness or the old book smells. To be able to have a relationship with the physical book to me is part of the magic of reading the written word. Just my opinion. :) Blessings to all.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    I always loved the bookstore experience, but it’s faded over the last 13 years since I moved to an area of town with no bookstores. The funny thing is, I live in the Unviersity area of my city and there isn’t a single bookstore in the area (aside from the campus bookstore, of course). There is a Books-a-million at the mall up the interstate a ways, but they don’t have a good selection and I’m uncomfortable with the Christian focus their company has. So, I’d have to drive all the way across the city to find a decent bookstore, and I rarely leave my area. Consequently, I’m an Amazon.com addict. I also used to share the luddite perspective on eBooks, but then I got a Kindle and I love it and don’t regret getting it.

    • Anna

      I’m an Amazon.com addict also,but no Kindle.
      I like books. I have tons of them. You can get almost any book that was ever printed on Amazon. And you can read excerpts, table of contents,
      intro.,and parts of chapters so you know what you’re getting.
      I usually buy them used if I can and so can buy a lot more books than
      I could in a bookstore. I ordred one cookbook that was listed as condition “good” for 35 cents plus shipping,harcover. When I received
      it I had to go check my order online. It looked brand new,even the dust
      jacket was in perfect condition and inside dust jacket where the publishers price is,it was marked $29.95.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    I always loved the bookstore experience, but it’s faded over the last 13 years since I moved to an area of town with no bookstores. The funny thing is, I live in the Unviersity area of my city and there isn’t a single bookstore in the area (aside from the campus bookstore, of course). There is a Books-a-million at the mall up the interstate a ways, but they don’t have a good selection and I’m uncomfortable with the Christian focus their company has. So, I’d have to drive all the way across the city to find a decent bookstore, and I rarely leave my area. Consequently, I’m an Amazon.com addict. I also used to share the luddite perspective on eBooks, but then I got a Kindle and I love it and don’t regret getting it.

    • Anna

      I’m an Amazon.com addict also,but no Kindle.
      I like books. I have tons of them. You can get almost any book that was ever printed on Amazon. And you can read excerpts, table of contents,
      intro.,and parts of chapters so you know what you’re getting.
      I usually buy them used if I can and so can buy a lot more books than
      I could in a bookstore. I ordred one cookbook that was listed as condition “good” for 35 cents plus shipping,harcover. When I received
      it I had to go check my order online. It looked brand new,even the dust
      jacket was in perfect condition and inside dust jacket where the publishers price is,it was marked $29.95.

  • http://www.myownashram.wordpress.com Niki Whiting

    I loved this post. I feel the same way. Where I am in Wales has one bookstore and it is a sad, dire mess. I have worked at several independent bookstores, in Seattle, Alaska and Berkeley. My dream job is to own a bookstore. Alas, that dream my have to die. If I can think of a way to make it work I’ll let you know!

  • http://www.myownashram.wordpress.com Niki Whiting

    I loved this post. I feel the same way. Where I am in Wales has one bookstore and it is a sad, dire mess. I have worked at several independent bookstores, in Seattle, Alaska and Berkeley. My dream job is to own a bookstore. Alas, that dream my have to die. If I can think of a way to make it work I’ll let you know!

  • http://twitter.com/HeathenStudent Lynn

    Although I very much want a kindle of my own. I hope that people never go completely to digital media for books. I too love book stores, and I don’t ever want them to go away. I want to always be able to browse book and touch them and smell them. It is truly wonderful. Great post. 

  • http://twitter.com/HeathenStudent Lynn

    Although I very much want a kindle of my own. I hope that people never go completely to digital media for books. I too love book stores, and I don’t ever want them to go away. I want to always be able to browse book and touch them and smell them. It is truly wonderful. Great post. 

  • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com/ WarriorPrincessDanu

    I’ve been considering getting a Nook Color.   It seems to be more of a tablet that’s specialized for reading.  While I could never make the complete switch, it would be nice to buy a digital copy of some of my text books.  $100+ for a used paperback always seemed a little ridiculous to me.

  • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com/ WarriorPrincessDanu

    I’ve been considering getting a Nook Color.   It seems to be more of a tablet that’s specialized for reading.  While I could never make the complete switch, it would be nice to buy a digital copy of some of my text books.  $100+ for a used paperback always seemed a little ridiculous to me.

  • http://www.cheapsally.com/barnes-noble-com/ Ryan

    “I’m notorious for carrying around items in a store and then putting them back just before I go to check out.” Haha yes! Me too! I spend a lot of time at Barnes and Noble but I rarely buy things.  I’ve never had a small, independent bookstore to call my own, so I don’t think I’ve gravitated to buying at a store because I’ve just never developed that kind of relationship.  Instead I focus on the relationship with others through sharing books.  I love reading a book that has been passed around, has already been dogeared, already written in.
    That being said, the efficiency and sleekness of the nook is appealing, and I’m thinking about ordering one online, but I think I’d only use it for informational texts.  Sometimes when I’m trying to learn something and I’m simultaneously using a computer or notebook I don’t like how much space an open book takes up on my tiny desk and some of them are hard to keep open.  I still want to curl up on the couch and have a traditional book in my hands when reading strictly for pleasure though.

  • http://www.cheapsally.com/barnes-noble-com/ Ryan

    “I’m notorious for carrying around items in a store and then putting them back just before I go to check out.” Haha yes! Me too! I spend a lot of time at Barnes and Noble but I rarely buy things.  I’ve never had a small, independent bookstore to call my own, so I don’t think I’ve gravitated to buying at a store because I’ve just never developed that kind of relationship.  Instead I focus on the relationship with others through sharing books.  I love reading a book that has been passed around, has already been dogeared, already written in.
    That being said, the efficiency and sleekness of the nook is appealing, and I’m thinking about ordering one online, but I think I’d only use it for informational texts.  Sometimes when I’m trying to learn something and I’m simultaneously using a computer or notebook I don’t like how much space an open book takes up on my tiny desk and some of them are hard to keep open.  I still want to curl up on the couch and have a traditional book in my hands when reading strictly for pleasure though.

  • Melia / Aj

    I have both a color Nook and a book library.  I save my Nook for traveling and for books that I want to read but not necessarily take up space in my library.  I enjoy Amazon and I also like perusing the sale section of B&N.  A foot in both worlds I guess.

  • Melia / Aj

    I have both a color Nook and a book library.  I save my Nook for traveling and for books that I want to read but not necessarily take up space in my library.  I enjoy Amazon and I also like perusing the sale section of B&N.  A foot in both worlds I guess.


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