Rumors Coffee and Tea House/Townie Books, which is located on the charming main street of the single most beautifully situated town in the known world—Crested Butte, Colorado, fact—, is a perfect example of what I thought was the future of bookstores, back when I got into running a small publishing house….If the independents could just hold on and sail through the economic storm, this was the kind of store I thought was the future, thought so back in the past, and now I here I was in the present, sitting outside in the sun on a store loveseat, surrounded by eager talkers, myself doubtless the eagerest to talk, about stories. Rumors handed me a mug of tea and offered me a podium, undisturbed when I said I wasn’t a podium kind of a gal, doubtless because they’re not a podium kind of a bookstore. Which has always been my point about the independents. They aren’t about a one way transaction of selling something to the buyer. They’re about a community space in which to share ideas, and since the best way to do that is by reading and by talking with others over a cup of something, the ones I always thought of as the future (and now here we are in the present) were those that took that seriously–the bookstore as gathering and feeding space for the mind.
These people, these stores, deserve our support. If you are one of those people, who, heaven forbid, has actually gloated in a bookstore lately about how you can snap a picture of a book on its shelves, and then order it from your phone for cheaper off Amazon (and you wouldn’t believe how many anecdotes of temporarily insane readers wandering into stores and doing just that I’ve heard lately…or maybe you would), then you need to sit down, spend some time alone thinking about yourself and your place in the world and how that place is connected to other people, their families, their hopes, their futures, too…not just yours…and…er...reconsider.
These are not simple marketable commodities. These are BOOKS. They stretch out into eternity with all their innards, one way or another, some not making it as far as others, sure, but so what? Does every kid you know star in the school play? The important thing is they shouldn’t be mistaken for key chains, or room deodorizer, or Garfield bookmarks, or movie tie-in memorabilia. They are alive, books are. All real book lovers know that.
I’m off to Powell’s Bookstore, in Portland, now, the Hawthorne store branch, where the excellent Scott Mahood holds sway, and which is chock full of real book lovers looking at real books, and I’ll get my usual hit off that, the way I do off everything that is well and thoroughly alive. So thanks to all the indie booksellers who keep that part of life…alive.