Please don’t die, Bookstore!

There is something salvific feeling about every bookstore I’ve ever entered. I feel born again every time I darken its doors on a java-filled Saturday morning.

I don’t use spiritual language here to be blasphemous. The redemptive feeling I get from a bookstore comes from a time when this place served as my church-away-from-church.

There was a span of roughly a couple years in my life where I did some “soul searching,” so to speak, and during this phase I spent many a Sunday morning having “church” in the cafe of my local Barnes & Noble.

It was here I discovered (and rediscovered) authors like Donald Miller, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, and John Piper. It was here that God spoke to me in the sanctuary of Colombian beans and french pressed beverage, where He reminded me of my need for Him and His passion for the Church.

So when I walk in a bookstore these days and see tumble weeds rolling around to the tune of the Gunsmoke soundtrack, I’m not going to lie, I get a little bit sentimental.

The truth is, Bookstore, I’m not ready for you to pass just yet. Yeah, Kindles and Nooks are great, but there’s something about a physical bookstore you can’t replace with the latest tablet. For instance…

Bookstores are an escape. I know I can download a book on a Kindle in under a minute without ever having to disrupt the rhythm of my day… but in a way, that’s the problem. The bookstore is a place where I can get away, turn my attention to new titles and fresh ideas, and get lost in something that my Google task list can’t offer.

Bookstores don’t charge you to sit and read. Sure, they probably don’t base their business model around the guy who buys a cup of coffee and catches up on his reading list on the house while he visits, but they haven’t kicked me out yet.

Bookstores often come equipped with a coffee shop. Obviously, this facet alone makes anything better. Until an e-reader tablet can pour me a large cup of dark roast, it will continue being inferior to the bookstore.

Bookstores enable community. Again, a Kindle is great for simplicity’s sake, but it can’t host a poetry reading, a book-signing, or provide a venue for catching up with old friends. Something about being inside of a bookstore makes conversation come naturally- conversations that can move past the weather and what Beyonce wore to the Grammys.

So next time you pass by one of those “big buildings with all those paper square-things where people used to go before the internet,” stop in and tell them to keep on kicking and hang tough. I’m not letting go yet… just don’t think I’m ready.

What are some reasons you don’t want the bookstore to breathe its last?

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I think I may be part of the problem.  I go in among the books.  I feel them.  I hold them.  Then I go home and order them from Amazon because they’re so much cheaper.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      That’s funny, Larry. Mostly because I’ve been guilty of the same. I think a trip to the bookstore (where I actually buy a book) is in my immediate future…

  • Brooke Haggerty

    Often I go to a bookstore knowing exactly what I want, then I end up “discovering” a book I was never looking for in the first place. And I must admit there’s a bit of thrill and inspiration that goes along with exploring and finding a new paperback treasure. However, when I’m looking to purchase or download a book online I usually do a direct search and within seconds the task is over with.  Convenient, yes… but I’d choose the experience of wandering the bookstore aisles  over  ”Click to download” any day. 

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Love it.
      I did leave out one more reason I’d miss the bookstore… It’s one more place I can sit next to my awesome wife and share our love for books ;) You the bomb dot com.

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    Bookstores are this literature nerd’s haven. They cannot close!

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      I feel you, Jason… I feel you. Bookworms of the world unite.

  • http://thomasemason.net/ Thomas Mason

    I love my Kindle and the ease of purchasing books and the less expensive prices, but whenever I have some free time without any responsibilities I like to spend literally hours in a bookstore just looking and walking around. Oftentimes, a bookstore is my home away from home.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      That’s awesome, Thomas! That’s what I love about it too… I can spend an entire morning or afternoon in there, and feel amazing when I leave. Can’t say that of many places. Worth a couple extra bucks.

  • Chuck Wickens

    I’m thinking the only thing that might make a bookstore better is if you could somehow wrap it in bacon.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      lol… Funny, Chuck. Where there’s a will, there’s a way- we can do this!

    • Steve the guest

      no fair! of course bacon smell is going to beat old book smell any day of the week!

  • Phil

    I’m not much a reader myself, but I do like the feeling I get when walking into a bookstore for many of the reasons you described. I think I instantly feel smarter within its walls. A lot of my friends enjoy reading and I like to watch as they pick out their books with excitement; it makes me wish I had the passion for it too.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Many of them also have games and magazines…? :p
      No, I know what you mean, Phil. I love that feeling of “feeling smarter” in a bookstore, and sometimes I enjoy watching the people as much as I do the books.

  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    I so agree… the coffee shop inside makes anything infinitely better. 

    Years ago, I spent several years traveling with the African Children’s Choir. We bounced from town to town and each week, I had one day off to spend however I liked. My favorite day off consisted of exploring the new place I was in, and ultimately finding a coffee shop I could hole away in. Finding a bookstore to explore was bonus. It was awesome to spend time browsing each aisle and maybe finding the new book that would keep me company on the next bus journey. There is something magical about bookstores. I especially enjoyed finding the little, independently owned, used bookstores.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Yes! I love that taking away a new prize to read on your bus trip was part of your highlight. That “new book” feeling makes a trip to the bookstore so worth it.
      PS- I know what you mean about the mom & pop bookstores. I actually think they’ll outlast the big-box bookstores, as they’ll still be something endearing and mysterious about those shops.

  • http://www.robshep.com Rob Shepherd

    Because to me books are like trophies. I like to show the books that I’ve read off on my bookshelf. Can’t do that with a Nook. 

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      I feel you. I mean, they make those “Bookshelf” widgets where you can post it on your blog or site, but that’s just not the same. “Books are like trophies”- I like that.

  • Steve the guest

    so how come you’ve never used “salvific” during services, cool word and first time ever seeing it, can imagine it in a slow solemn sincere spiritual, ” oh Lord your path comforts your salvific sheep asleep in pastures of grace,”. …. eh not too good, but that word is pretty cool. now got to read the rest of your post!

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      See, I’d agree with the line you’re proposing, as long as we change “sheep” to “pickled sheep” ;)

  • Steve the guest

    reasons: in college we had Jabberwockys in E Lansing and it had so many cool books, you could wander around and there were all these hundreds of thousands of people’s thoughts just waiting to be discovered, some not very interesting, some brilliant and some leading you to new paths of discovery and self discovery. Some of the books were cool, some uncomfortable, examples, can still remember 30 years on flipping through a book of Mark Twain that had small pictures of him on each page, when you flipped through the book, it created a movie of him walking down a path, also from that time, pictures from the eastern front of young men frozen in the snow, snow lying in the crevices of their faces, a bookstore is the whole gamut of human emotion, endeavor, loss, hope, faith and life. It is a place to be a child again and being open to new discoveries. It is an informal place, not a library, which finishes a far second, compared with a good bookstore! It is a place for a second home, a refuge, a wake up and smell the coffee place, a wow look at all those international newspapers place, etc., etc. Used bookstores have their own pillared status, and the smells from those old books, ther is something about that old book smell, Cyndi things I’m crazy when I open a book and start sniffing away. LOL! Bookstores. Wow!

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      I’m right there with you, Steve! Great thoughts. 
      A bookstore is an unparalleled place of sanctuary.
      Side note- I listen to a radio station that airs from Charlottesville, and they advertise a Jabberwockys in their neck of the woods. I’ve never been, but always wanted to go, merely just to be able to say a name like that and mention that I’ve been there.

  • Steve the guest

    still have a book from Jabberwockys a thick paperback on dostoyevskii when flipping through the index 36 years ago, startled by the entry, General Hartung’s suicide. of course had to buy the book, the guy ate a lot and ran up debts and too bad for him, he couldn’t face up to his mistakes. should read those pages again soon. thanks Stephen for a great topic, could just keep writing forever about books and ideas . . . . . . . .. . . . .

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      That is definitely unfortunate about the General.
      Isn’t it great that we have somewhere to turn when our mistakes are too much to bare? So thankful for God’s grace.

  • http://undistractedchristian.com/ Tyler Hess

    there are plenty of free e-books, driving to the store costs gas money and coffee is gross.

    yet…i would miss book stores anyway, sometimes ya just gotta get outta the house and look around at stuff

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Yeah… looking around at stuff in your own house can get old.
      And I will be praying for you and your lack of appreciation for good beverage. I won’t say I’m “mad” about your distaste for coffee, just disappointed.

      • http://undistractedchristian.com/ Tyler Hess

        you’re not my mom!

  • Randal Nelson

    As a kid I remember the excitement of going to Waldenbooks in my local mall,  the thrill of the yearly book fair at school, and the anticipation of the next Scholastic Books handout.  I have a Nook for it’s convenience when traveling.  With very limited exception, every title on the tablet is sitting on my bookshelf among many others that are not in digital form.  With limited exception, every book on my bookshelf was purchased in a bookstore.  My love of books and I could survive without a physical bookstore, but my world would be a little bit more drab for the loss.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Totally. I think you have the right idea, Randal. 
      The key here being to find a way to take advantage of technology, while managing to still hold on to the sacredness of a bookstore. 
      I think it would look something like you’ve described- tapping into e-readers for when it’s convenient, while still utilizing the advantages of paper books and paper book sellers.

  • Randal Nelson

    As a kid I remember the excitement of going to Waldenbooks in my local mall,  the thrill of the yearly book fair at school, and the anticipation of the next Scholastic Books handout.  I have a Nook for it’s convenience when traveling.  With very limited exception, every title on the tablet is sitting on my bookshelf among many others that are not in digital form.  With limited exception, every book on my bookshelf was purchased in a bookstore.  My love of books and I could survive without a physical bookstore, but my world would be a little bit more drab for the loss.

  • Ricky Anderson

    For my own stuff, I prefer digital.

    But there’s just something about reading a book to my son as he sits on my lap.

  • Ricky Anderson

    For my own stuff, I prefer digital.

    But there’s just something about reading a book to my son as he sits on my lap.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Hoping that right there is enough to save the bookstore, Ricky!

  • http://randomlychad.com Chad Jones

    Like most, I love the convenience of instant downloads, but nothing beats browsing, getting lost in the stacks, finding something I didn’t know I was looking for.

    Sometimes for date night my wife and I just go to Barnes & Noble, and just sit there reading. Those are some of our best dates ever.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      “nothing beats browsing, getting lost in the stacks, finding something I didn’t know I was looking for.” Exactly!! Couldn’t have said it better.
      And that’s too funny about B&N dates- Brooke and I do that a lot and both love it. 

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    You described a lot of my early spiritual upbringing. But the difference was for me, I was too ignorant to know what was good theology and what wasn’t. I just figured that it was good if they printed it. So I read a lot of theological trash. So there’s a downside to do-it-yourself religion at a bookstore.
    That being said, bookstores are still nice :) I don’t think they’re going anywhere any time soon though – so don’t worry!

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      Totally. I spent a lot of time saying what a bookstore is, but not what it isn’t… It definitely isn’t a replacement for Biblical community. Though God used some things I read to bring me back to Him, I’m not outlining this as a justifiable alternative to connecting with a local church.
      Good point, my friend.

  • http://dancarman.blogspot.com/ Daniel Carman

    Salvific? I guess a language is defined by its usage. So usage away my bearded friend. Maybe some day soon we can sit down and have a book store conversation over some javalicious. I will tell you what I wore to the Grammys and then we can get into some more interesting stuff.

    • http://thebeardedidealist.com/ Stephen Haggerty

      I’m not not sure there could be a more interesting topic than what you wore to the Grammys, but I would certainly try my best to move past that.
      Javalicious sounds great. Let’s make this happen- maybe once we’re all moved in to town.

  • http://twitter.com/realpats0 pats0

    One day everyone will want to read what is known as a subversive book…mainly because one day all books will be considered subversive except for maybe The Hunger Games or other pieces of Young Adult Fiction that have very little to say…anyhow, those who’ve spent an inordinate amount of time reading from an e-reader will be forced to hold an actual book in their hands, as subversives will either be unavailable on said readers or you will be too embarrassed to download said subversive material…I mean really, What will people think? Those of you who lack the calloused hands that are built up by holding actual books will suffer a severe paper-cut from which you will probably bleed-out because you don’t want to call for help with an incriminating copy of The Communist Manifesto within eye-shot.  When that day comes it will be sad…also, I too enjoy the coffee shops! 

  • http://asihaveloved.blogspot.com/ Olivia Mawhinney

    The texture of paper, the smell of books both old and new, the shiny covers and the frayed edges. If bookstores die, a little of me would go to. There is to much beauty in them. They taught me to value time. To make room in a busy schedule to pick out books, read their covers, savor the feeling of their thickness, then read. All manner of things have come to my eyes and heart. I’ll never be ready for my beloved bookstores to leave!

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    The day Barns and Noble closes it’s doors for the last time will be a sad day for me. It gives me great joy to walk through a book store. To  drink coffee while looking at and touching some great books is what I do to relax. 

  • http://www.ramblingbarba.com Ken Hagerman

    How is the Kindle going to replace those gigantic coffee table photo books? It’s not the same clicking through screen renditions of  1930′s motorcycles. I can’t lie though, the ebook has saved my mind from turning more mushy. Books in English are tough to find here and expensive to ship, so ebooks are a Readers Salvation or sorts. 

    When we moved to Paraguay we didn’t ship a container, we had the customary limits on luggage. Even so, two suitcases of our precious little allotment went to carry books.

Next ArticleB.A.S.C. 2012