In a quirk of fate, my first “real” job when I was a teenager was in the Books, Tapes, & Stationery department at a local department store. It was long enough ago that “tapes” referred to cassette tapes, and “books” were those rectangular things formed out of dead trees.
Along with the job came a store credit card and, as you can probably imagine, most of the purchases on that card were books. Then, as now, I loved the clearance book table. There were books with beautiful pictures of London, Paris, and lots of other places I dreamed of visiting. There were always books from National Geographic Press, and I still have many of the art books I purchased then, like the Treasures of Tutankhamen’s Tomb and the Art of Dresden. When things were slow, my co-workers and I gravitated toward the Hidden Eye picture books – squinting and peering awkwardly, trying to see the images hidden on the pages. For research purposes, of course!
I bought fiction books too, of course, but their pull wasn’t nearly as strong as those bargains from the clearance section. That section is still what draws me to brick & mortar bookstores. I can always find something I need if I browse there long enough. The same books probably exist on Amazon, but browsing “electronic shelves” isn’t nearly as satisfying as meandering down rows of physical books. I’ve tried to limit my meandering recently – an intention helped by the fact that physical bookstores nearby are few and far between.
When I’m looking for a fiction title by a specific author, however, browsing at my local bookstore rarely pays off as there seems to be a disconnect between what they stock and what I’m trying to find. It’s a problem remedied easily enough by logging onto Amazon.com, doing a quick search, and clicking “buy”. Productive and efficient, but I kind of miss the physical interaction with books that way.
Lucky for me, when I ventured out of the house a few weeks ago, I found that there is an actual brick & mortar Amazon store about 10 miles away.
Naturally I had to go in and check it out. It was . . . well . . . different. Continue reading