Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Odds Are Not Great Either Way

Recently my friend Thomas, a fellow librarian, posted this comic on Face book. I usually laugh heartily at Thomas’s postings, but this one is too true to be funny.

Given the ease and speed of e publishing, more “books" are being published than ever. A recent article by Mike Shatzkin points out, ”half of the bookstore shelves that were available in the US in 2007 are gone by now.”

Handwritten letters are gifts; someone cared enough to sit down and share words of comfort, congratulations, birthday wishes, family news, or mail a postcard from Europe.  Who does that anymore?

Is print media dead?

I'm as guilty as the rest of you. I download books on my Kindle, and use Kindle and Nook apps on my phone and PC. But the nearest physical bookstore is an hour‘s drive from my house and sometimes I don’t want to wait two or three days to get a book in the mail from amazon, Powells or Barnes and Noble.

It's easy and fast to send e mail and catch up through social networking, yet it saddens me how the art of letter writing, handwritten cards and stamped paper envelopes may someday disappear.

Biographers often use old letters to carve out written portraits of their subjects. Through letters, authors are able to reproduce a subject’s voice, and recreate possible dialogue accurately. Imagine trying to track down electronic messages. For the past twenty years I have had numerous email accounts through my university days and several service providers. In the early days of the internet, service providers cropped up and disappeared with the seasons, so thousands of my communications are somewhere in cyberspace under addresses I no longer recall. Not that I will someday be worthy of a biography, but given the magnitude of social media, what will be worthy of existing in posterity?

Interesting how brick and mortar bookstores and libraries stores have only recently changed how they operate. While libraries still boast books as a major source of information, the shift toward multi media has not only oncreased circulation statistics, patrons expect to be able to find moivies, magazines, and music at the library. Similarly, patrons use library spaces for computer space.

For decades, books were the thrust of book stores. In the past few years I have noticed a trend toward games and gifts at the forefront and books displayed almost as an afterthought.

Books are my passion, one of the considerations for where to retire in three years is how many extant bookstores are nearby, yet

According yo Shatzkin, “One thing that will be different but similar in the rest of the world will be the decline of bookstores.”

Linda, another library colleague, suggested that maybe bookstores and/or libraries should have post offices and coffee shops in their lobbies. I love the idea of entities struggling to survive forge a symbiotic relationship. It happens in the natural worls all the time.

Meanwhile, the you can find world’s most interesting bookstores this site. They also sell hand crafted metal bookmarks and have links to lot of bookstore and library related stuff:

Your writing assignment this time is to write someone a letter or a card and mail it using snail mail. Then go visit the library.
Feel free to weigh in on this issue. Of course, you'll have to do it electronically, but there is room for multiple versions of comunication. When TV came out, people predicted it was the death of radio....
Happy Writing


  1. Janee Gill and I still write snail mail to each other.

    1. Bless you for that. How is life as a mommy?